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Pruning Palm Trees

Knock, knock, knock. Hurricane season is coming, it’s time to prune your palm trees. Or is it?

The guys who go door-to-door in your neighborhood selling the “hurricane cut” sure want you to think you need to prune your palms to keep them healthy and safe in a windstorm.

So what should a properly pruned palm look like? It should have a full 360 degree canopy like the photo shown below (Fig. 1), not a feather duster of a canopy.

Fig 1: A healthy palm should have a 360 degree canopy.

Excessive pruning can negatively affect palms in a number of ways. The reduction in canopy size decreases the ability of the palm to feed itself through photosynthesis, the conversion of sunlight into energy. Repeatedly removing large amounts of the canopy can result in a thinner trunk, which ultimately weakens the palm (Fig. 2).

If you have palms and you do not like the look of a full canopy, you should never prune any fronds off the palm above an imaginary line drawn from 9-3 o’clock (Fig. 3).

So when the knock on the door comes, say no thanks to the hurricane cut. If you decide you do want your palms pruned, insist that they not remove anything above that imaginary line from 9 – 3 o’clock.







Fig. 2: Thinning of the trunk is a long term effect of overpruning.



Palm Pruning Diagram

Fig 3: Acceptable pruning of palms never removes leaves above an imaginary line drawn between 9 – 3 o’clock.



Broschat, Tim K. Pruning Palms. ENH1182. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2011. Accessed March 14, 2014.