How to Prune a Palm Tree

Before you get started with the task of pruning your beautiful palm trees to achieve the perfect tropical look, it’s important that you remember that pruning will not help your palm tree grow faster, better, or healthier. In fact, pruning your palm tree too much could actually hurt its health more than it could ever help. There is some pruning that can be done to improve the health and appearance of your palm trees, however great care should be taken with the process.

When To Prune Your Palm Tree

If you shouldn’t prune your palm trees too much, when is it ever a good time to prune them? The purpose of pruning a palm tree is to remove any dead fronds or fronds that look like they may be in the process of dying. These dead and dying fronds may do damage to the tree when they fall and are also prime nesting grounds for various pests while still attached to the tree.

You may also choose to prune your palm tree if it has become a sort of hazard in your yard. If it’s growing too close to your house or is blocking the view from your sidewalk or driveway, it’s time to prune back your palm trees. This should be done with care, but, ultimately, your safety should come first before the health of the tree.

With that said, you shouldn’t necessarily jump to prune your palm trees the second you spot dead or dying fronds. It may be best, instead, to wait until the spring season to prune the fronds. During the heat of summer and freezing temperatures of winter, those dead fronds will actually help protect the tree from the harsh elements. By pruning them too soon, you risk damaging the tree even more when you were only trying to help.

how to prune a phoenix canariensis canary island date palm tree

How To Prune Your Palm Tree

When it does come time to prune your palm trees, you should be very careful when doing so. Leave as many healthy, green fronds on the tree as possible, unless the extra pruning is absolutely necessary. Many palm tree owners are tempted to trim their palms into pineapple shapes or to skin their trunks for aesthetic reasons. Doing this, however, could severely harm the tree. You won’t have a living palm tree at all over time if you trim the fronds too much, too often.

When it comes down to it, there aren’t many steps to follow when you get ready to prune your palm trees. This is because the process should always be kept as minimal as possible to promote the health of the tree. There are, however, a few simple things you should keep in mind while getting ready to prune your palm tree.

The first step you should take when preparing to prune your palms is to examine the tree to identify any dead or dying fronds. You can tell these apart from the healthy fronds because they will be yellow or brown on the outside instead of the vibrant green color everybody loves. You should also check the tree for any flowers or fruits, as these things may also provide homes for pests that could hurt the overall health of your tree.

pruning phoenix canariensis
By Donkey shot [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
Once you have identified the fronds that need to be pruned, make note of them and plan the prune carefully. Do not prune more than you have to, as palms need to have a large circle of fronds surrounding the tree to promote more healthy fronds to grow. If you are working with a small palm tree, make sure to leave at least two inches of green around the trunk to keep it healthy. For any palm tree, you can also gently pull loose blades from the trunk, unless they feel too difficult to remove.

Some varieties, like the phoenix canariensis, or canary island date palm, have large spikes at the base of the fronds. These spikes cause severe injuries all the time to experienced landscapers, so be very careful. It is a good idea to carefully cut off these spikes with your secateurs or pruning shears, before you cut off the large fronds.

Depending on how large your palm tree is, you won’t need any special tools to complete the pruning process. In fact, a simple pair of pruning shears or even a chainsaw could do the trick. With that said, you should call in a professional arborist if your tree is tall enough to require the use of a ladder. Working with tools while on a ladder is dangerous and should not be attempted unless you have been specifically trained to do so.


1 thought on “How to Prune a Palm Tree”

  1. I just moved into a home that has palm trees on the property and I’m not really sure what sort of maintenance they need. Getting some of the dead fronds trimmed is something I’ve definitely considered, and it’s good to know that it can be done, though I’ll make sure to wait until spring to have it done, as you suggest. It’s good to know that too-frequent trimming will kill the palm tree, and I’ll be sure to discuss maintenance options with the arborist that I call in the spring.

Comments are closed.