Top 10 Palm Tree Care Mistakes

palm care mistakes Top 10 Palm Tree Care Mistakes

Palm Trees are very easy to grow but even easier to kill if you don’t know what you are doing. Here are the most common palm tree care mistakes that owners make:

1. OVER-WATERING a new planted palm. You will notice the palm tree leaves turning brown or yellow and falling off quickly without drying first. To avoid this mistake, you need to make sure the palm soil has good drainage. You can do it by adding 30%-50% sand to the soil mix when you plant your palm. A new planted palm tree should be watered every day for the first week.

2. NOT ENOUGH WATER. If you don’t provide your palm tree with enough water, the tips of the leaves will start turning brown. Most of the palm trees like MOIST and WELL DRAINED soil. To find out if your palm tree is getting enough water, check the moist level of the soil the next day after watering. The soil should be moist down to the root of the palm tree. If you are not sure how to check the moisture level, go here Watering Palm Trees.

3. ROOT DAMAGE. Adding fertilizer to the soil when planting a palm is a common mistake. This is almost guaranteed to kill your palm. Palm tree roots are very fragile, and adding fertilizer so close to the root ball could damage it. A palm tree with damaged roots is more likely to get diseases and die. New planted palms should not be fertilized for the first 3-4 months. Give them some time to establish.

4. FERTILIZER BURN. Burning palm tree with a fertilizer by putting it too close to the trunk. It’s very easy to burn the palm tree trunk. Once the trunk is damaged it is harder for the palm tree to battle diseases. Keep a 2 feet distance from the trunk when fertilizing.

5. NOT FERTILIZING your palm tree. Your palm tree needs nutrients for a healthy growth. We take vitamins every day to be healthy. Palm trees are like us. They need their vitamins to get stronger, grow faster and fight with pests and diseases. You need to fertilize your palm trees during the warm months 4 – 5 times a year. More info about Fertilizing Palm Trees.

6. BAD SOIL. Not providing a palm tree with good soil. Good soil will allow the palm tree root to develop properly, keep the moist so your palm gets enough water and provide good drainage. I always get asked – what is the best soil? Canadian peat moss. Cheap soil = poor results. No one asks me what is the absolutely worst soil you can buy, but I’ll tell you anyway – It is soil mixed with fertilizer.

Every gardener I know said it killed everything in their garden. These days it’s hard to find good soil, because every soil has fertilizer added. I personally use Premier Pro-Mix Top 10 Palm Tree Care Mistakes because it provides a superior growing environment for palms by increasing drainage and oxygen.

7. WRONG CLIMATE. Planting a palm tree in the climate that is too cold, too hot or too dry. Many gardeners buy palms without checking if they can grow in their climate zone. Tropical palm trees that like warm and humid weather don’t do well in the desert, with dry winds in the summer and cold temperatures in the winter.

Just get a different palm tree. There are so many cold hardy palms that can tolerate drought and cold weather. All you need to do, is to check which palms grow in your weather conditions. You can check it by going to Hardiness Zone Map.

BD05214  Top 10 Palm Tree Care Mistakes8. SUNBURN. Planting a very young palm tree in the full sun without providing a cover. The palm leaves will start turning yellow and might look colorless in some areas. If you don’t cover your palm, the leaves will begin to dry and turn brown. If your palm tree is from a greenhouse or shade-grown environment, it is NOT USED to full sun. You need to acclimatize it first. For acclimatizing instructions check this article Planting Palm Trees.

9. OVER-PRUNING. I keep seeing articles online that tell people to cut brown part of the leaf because it will save the palm tree from wasting nutrients on the dying leaf. Makes sense right? Wrong. Palm trees need dying leaves for nutrients, and when you cut them off, your palm tree doesn’t like it. Palms move nutrients from the older fronds to the new growth. Palm fronds should be cut when they are as close as possible to the trunk. Do NOT remove any fronds that grow at 45 degree angle or greater. If your palm tree looks like a rooster tail, you over-pruned it.

10. HURRICANE PRUNING. It is not unusual during hurricane season in Florida to get a knock on the door by a team of palm tree professionals, offering to prune your palms. They might say that removing extra weight from your palm tree will save it during hurricane. Makes sense, right? Wrong. Your palm trees need all the leaves they can get to protect the new growing fronds from wind.

I think this covers the most common mistakes. I hope you find this article useful. Let me know if you would like to share your experience or have good tips to add to Palm Care Mistakes. Have a great day!

~Susan Brian

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65 Responses to “Top 10 Palm Tree Care Mistakes”

  1. I put two pony tail palm in a clients home. They were beautiful. They matched. Not long afterward a few of the fronds turned brown. I read your article after I cut them off. I hope I didn’t make it worse. They seem happy enough other than the brown and trust me, they looked really bad in her posh living room. I really had no choice. Please let me know what you think. thanks, jill

  2. I am not certain of the exact palm I have but seem to believe it is a Queen yet have never noticed any fruit development. I am aware of how to deal with the fronds yet have no information as to dealing with the trunk once surface grwoth pieces seem to separate. How do I deal with maintaining the trunk in a smooth appearance.

    Thank you

  3. Hey there Tom – I believe you’re speaking of the “boots” that are left on the trunk after the palm fronds have been removed. You shouldn’t force these away from the trunk. Eventually they will separate from the tree and you can remove them very easily. These are part of the crown of your palm, and help protect the existing fronds that emerge from within the trunk.

  4. I got a Christmas Palm and this winter was really cold, it got down in the 20′s here in Florida. I cover my palm and uncovered it and theres 3 trunks are soft about a foot from the base and it has white stuff on it. Have you got any ideals how I can save it. It was so beauitful in the summer. I’m so sick over it. I’ll be waiting for your response.
    Thank You

  5. I have 6 Date Palms in my yard (New Orleans). I think they are Date Palms, they have the spiney extrusions at the base of the fronds. All the leaflets and most of the fronds are brown. The new growth top the crown starts out very green then turns brown. We did have a considerably cold winter and it did freeze. Or maybe a little lack of watering. Do I need to prune the brown fronds off. Also, do the spiney extrusions turn into the leaflets. Thanks for your comments in advance.

  6. we have christmas palms, they have completely broken in half. will they grow back?

  7. I have a couple of pigmy date palms that a gardener I called took out for me just below ground level but did not get all the roots out. Is there something safe that I can use to kill the roots so I can get them out easier to plant over where they were? He told me that the roots would loosen in a couple weeksand be easy to remove, its been 5 weeks and they are still are hard.
    I’m trying to avoid using a pick and digging them out myself because of back issues.

  8. I have a question, I just had two Washingtonian palms (14 and 7 feet) trimmed. The gentleman was a professional and he called it a 11 and 1 (o’clock) trim. Now I understand they may have been over trimmed. The trees are 5 and 6 years old. Will they now die because of this mistake on my part?

    Thank you.

  9. Thanks for visiting my site. As long as this professional trimmed only dead leaves, your palm should be fine. If he trimmed too much of the green leaves than your palms are definitely in shock. It is important to keep green and half dead leaves because palms move nutrients from the older fronds to the new growth. Your palms shouldn’t die but they need some time to recover. Don’t fertilize it, just keep watering. They will come back after few months. I hope this helps. Susan.

  10. We have two bottle palms, one is getting brown tips on the fronds and I belileve it has to do with wateing. The other one has a collection of clear sticky substance that appears on the fronds then eventually runs and gathers near the stems in puddles and hardens. Can you explain what causes this?

  11. Can anyone help me with this problem. We have two bottle palms (Hyophorbe Lagenicaulis), both potted the same in large deep pots. They are both located on the south wall in our atrium, both seem to be growning about the same. However, one develops a sticky substance on the fronds that eventually runs to the stems and puddles then sets into a harder jelly substance. The palms have been potted and in the same location for about 3 years now. We would like to know if we need to treat it with anything or if it is a natural process that the palm is going through.

  12. I have a beautiful 20′ or so tall bismarkia and the seedlings are coming out. I cut out some of then (as close to the trunk without injuring the trunk) but mor are coming further up. Will it hurt the tree to remove them as long as I don’t cut any of the trunk?

  13. what can i do if my male palm only have a cone after the brown leafs was remove will the leafs grow back soon

  14. We have two beautiful Sylvester palms that are about 17ft tall.we have had them for 7 years and for the past 6 months or so. One of them has all of the knew palm fronds coming out looking deformed and crinkled and the ends are breaking off. My husband thinks that maybe it was hit by lightening ! anyone have any other idea what this can be from? Thank you.

  15. I’m sure one of my royal palms was struck by lightning last night…just a few hours after several frongs are hanging downward. Otherwise I seen no damage to the trunk itself.

    Is there anything I can do to save the tree and/or those adjacent to it?

    Thank you.

  16. I bought my florida palm from the airport and it said to use soiless potting. so i bought soiless potting for cactai and palm. my palm is dying!!! im soo sad and dont know what to do. ive been watering it, making sure the soil is moist and good draining. the leaves are turning yellow, to white, and with a blackish brown around the dyind spots on the leaves. any help before its too late? i live in mass and its hot out here. i have it sitting in the window too. not too much sun at all.

  17. I live outside Tampa and have a 3 stalk palm about 5 ft. in front and in back of my home. My neighbor has 2 about 30 ft. from mine. Keep them trimmed and lots of rain this summer. The palm in front of the house has leaves turning yellow. The medium height one is dieing. The tall one not far behind. The short one is doing fine and very healthy looking. My other and the neighbors doing fine. What can you tell me?????

  18. I recently planted a Canary Palm in Sacramento that I bought from Home Depot. It was a 25gallon and has 10 – 12′ fronds. I didn’t find your website until now and have mistakenly fertilized when it was planted. I used an organic fertilized and palm fertilizer spikes. I applied the organic as a soil soak. Now I noticed that some of the fronds have split near the truck or nut. Otherwise the leaves still look green, a little brown at some of the tips. Will the palm survive this? I didn’t realize how sensitive they were. Thank you for any help.

  19. Having exhausted all other options, I must kill and remove a mature Mexican Fan Palm from next to my home. What is the best way to kill this palm?

  20. Thanks for providing this list on typical tree care mistakes. Waiting for a period up to 4 months before adding fertilizer would protect the root ball from getting damaged.

  21. I have two cardboard palms. One is turning a light green almost white. I don’t over water them, and they get both sunlight and shade. Help, hate to lose them.
    I have fertilized them with Palm stakes.

  22. I make mistake with palm Wasingtonia. Washingtonia filifera need plenty of space for the roots. After 8/9 years potted this palm houseplant, i see root damage, roots fill up with empty holes between the roots and soil. There is no soil more between more the roots of palm!

  23. during the bad weather in ireland , our palm tree has started to die , as the snow gathered up on the palm trees we now see that our palm trees are dying i dont know how to try save them and would wish if you could offer advice . All of my neighbours palm trees have died and all of the leafs or fronds they are bare and i would really appericate your advice

  24. Hi Dale. Before cold weather arrives always spray your palm trees with Freeze Pruf, which is a cold protecting spray. Now that your palm tree has cold damage there is not much you can do. Keep watering it. Don’t fertilize it. Spray it with liquid copper fungicide to avoid fungal or bacterial infections. ~Susan Brian

  25. When is the best time of year to plant foxtail, christmas palm or pygmy date palms in the Naples area?

  26. Hi Terry. The best time would probably spring. Susan Brian

  27. All the leaves of my Soga palm tree turned yellow, so I cut all leaves because I think new leaves will grow later. One week after cutting there were clear jelly running from the ends of all the cuts. Is there anything wrong with my Soga palm plant?

  28. Tom, I have a number of Mexican fan palms around our pool. Some are 12-15 ft tall. This winter I double wrapped them in burlap. We had one of the coldest winters on record with 4 consecutive days in the teens and sometimes whindchills at -15 degrees. I have trimmed the palms but have not seen any new growth as of yet. I have 3 large palms in the ground for 8 years. I have 3 smaller ones in the ground for 1-3 yrs. Two of the smaller ones the centers have just pulled completely out. Looks like a well…are these dead? The larger palms, center’s are nice and tight. Thanks, Jim

  29. Hi Jim. If the bud of the palm is severely damaged, the palm is not going to survive. Give your other palms few months to recover. It might take a full year for the palm to start producing normal growth. Susan Brian

  30. Hi everyone. I hope someone on this site can help with the problem i have on two out of my three palm trees. For the past almost two months, the palm trees have been dropping every day constantly, a clear liquid. It sticks to the cars, to the driveway. The driveway is turning brown due to the constant secretion of this liquid. Does anyone know what this is? Someone told me it was a “disease”. Any thoughts?

  31. by the way, sorry, they are coconut palm trees.

  32. Susan, The subdivision I live in (Rivendell in Osprey, FL) has a monthly newsletter. May I reprint your “Top 10 Palm Tree Mistakes” article in our neighborhood newsletter, noting you as the author and your website?
    Thank you – Marilyn

  33. I live in northern ireland and have had two palm trees growing in my front garden for about 6 years maybe longer, one is around 7 foot and the other 4 foot. We had a very cold and very windy winter and autum. The worst in a long time and my gorgeous trees took a battering from the wind and frost. Not knowing better i trimmed all the brown fonds off. There were alot. I am certain that my trees are dead. They are completely brown and dried up looking. No green leaves and the trunk looks so dry and dead, should i just cut them down and start again with new trees? I have noticed tiny little shoots of trees at the bottom of my trees, could i transfer these to a pot for growing>? whats the best way to do this? thank you

  34. Hi, I have 2 tall palm trees ( not sure what kind) the one looks great but the other has a funny top. It only has a few fronts coming up in the middle but it still looks like it is “in” the tree. It looks like it is not coming completly out, just a few sticking up in the middle. It was like this last year as well…I don’t know about before then. Does anyone know what this is and if there is anyway to fix this? Thanks..I can really use some advice!

  35. Hi Marilyn. Absolutely. I am happy to share my knowledge with others. ~Susan Brian

  36. About 8-10 years ago we had 3 very tall palm trees – not sure what kind they were develop a fungus and die. We were told we could not replant palms in the same spot or surrounding area as there would still be fungus in the soil. With this many years in between, do you think it would be safe to plant palms there again? Are there any palms that would be resistant to this disease?

  37. We have 3 tall date palms that are about 40+ feet tall. We have them pruned 1-2 X’s a year and look good. The tree trimmer climbs up the palms and said that birds are burrowing seeds in the trunk of the palms making it weak and could possibly break. Any suggestions, I love these palms. Do they need to be removed? Are they dangerous?

  38. i have recently moved into a new home that has a palm tree and there are lots of new shoots growing from the trunk should I leave these or remove them?

  39. Hi Laura. Any damage to the trunk can weaken the palm and lead to bacterial and fungal infections. Spray it with Bonide Products Copper Fungicide to protect from infection. ~Susan Brian

  40. I recently planted some mexican palms. The man who planted them damaged the bark on the trunks severly trying to stand them up to put them in the whole. Will this hurt the trees?

  41. Hi Lois. Damaged bark can weaken the palm and lead to fungus and diseases. To prevent that spray the bark with Copper Fungicide. The worker should really reimburse you for the tree. Also, palms usually experience transplant shock, so it will be a little hard to tell if the tree is in shock or it is suffering because of the bark damage. Susan Brian

  42. Hi I have a triangle Plam that has what looks like rust on the base (not the trunk)of the leaves, and the underside of the leaves. There is some browning of the leaves, and it continues to produce new shoots.
    Is there something that is causing this? I don’t water it much as we are on the coast and get fairly frequent showers in So Fla.

  43. I am just doing a follow-up to my question on May 7, 2010. My Washingtonian palm trees recovered completely from our professional trim of 11 and 1 trim.

    However, that was in the late spring. I came home today (January 18, 2012) and found that my tree man trimmed my same two palms – one 11 and 1 trim the other 10 and 2 trim.

    My question is will they still be okay now that it is wintertime? It was 59 degrees today and a low of 45 tonight….will the cold affect these trees and their wintertime trim?

    Thank you.

  44. I was trying to find the post on how to kill a palm tree. I have a huge Mexican palm growing in the back yard of my rental. it’s breaking up the cinderblock fence. I have to kill it as soon as possible. What can I do?

  45. Hi Mark. Killing a palm tree is very easy, you just need to cut the bud (where the fronds are emerging from) of the palm and it will die. You still will need to remove the trunk, but the roots are soft and thin and don’t extend very far. It should be hard. ~Susan Brian

  46. Does removing the bark from a coconut tree damage or weaken it?

  47. I have two palm with fronds that initially come out nice and green but seem to wilt and die very quickly. I am constantly watering and have used palm stakes according to directions in an effort to mitigate but it doesn’t seem to change anything. Suggestions appreciated!

  48. I have silver saw palm tree nuts or seeds, i would ike to grow the treesfrom these, can you tell is there something special i need to do. I am aware they will grow in a clay pot in good drainage soil and will need lots of water, however is there a certain wnd I should putthese nutsin the ground or do I open them? I would truly appreciate your help here.

  49. I have a queen palm that the last 4 or 5 feet of the fronds will not release like my other palms. What might I have done to cause this? Is it beyond help, we had a very cold winter 3 or 4 years ago. It has looked better each year, but, it just won’t open up.

  50. Is there a reason to remove the brown “skirt” made from dead fronds if they are high above the ground ?
    I hear they can even be protective for the tree.
    Do you have any references that could support the preservation of the brown
    dead leaves?
    My homeowners association is trying to get me to trim my trees, but I like the more mature, natural look.
    Thanks for any help.

  51. Hello there, Happy Hollidays to all.
    Our association requested for us to replace our three palm trees, which we did we have three young foxtail palms, about 17th ft. tall, I have noticed that on the top the new leaves are coming out dry and curly, and a little below there are signs of pigmentation sort of like rust.
    Please help me out and advise what to do to save my trees, these were expensive to replace and would like to do anything possible to help them survive.

    Appreciate your kind help and advise.

    Kindest regards,


  52. My Mexican Fan palms were planted in 2007. One is about 10′ at the crown, the other had eucalyptus leaves falling on it from the other side of the wall until we “took care of it” It is half the size. The smaller one did fine during over serveral nights under 20 degrees this winter as it was protected on 2 sides by a block wall. The tall one is turning yellow then brown. I do see some green growth. The dead brown leaves are drooping. Do we cut them off once there is no more green? It was a magnificent tree! So sad. I have 4 Med palms that are fine too.

  53. I have some lovely alexander palms that are 5 metres high one seems to be leaning a little and about 3/4 metre from bottom the trunk appears to be wasting away nearly one third of the trunk across in an area of say 20cm up the trunk. Does anyone have any ideas of what i can do to make it get better. These trees are very sentimental to me as I planted them from when they were very small by myself and my Mum, who is no longer with me now.

  54. Hi Jenny. From your comment I am not sure what is happening to them. Can you give me more details? Is there something wrong with the trunk? What do you mean when you say ‘wasting away’? ~Susan Brian

  55. Washingtonian Palms do not need to be trimmed ever, but if you did, they may not die. If they don’t die — don’t trim them again. The fronds fall off on their own. The “skirt” that the brown fronds make will protect the palm tree. It is a natural part of the Washingtonian growth… at least this is what I was told by a Florida Forester/Arborist. Hope this helps.

  56. Denise Swetman, on July 4th, 2011 at 8:38 am Said:

    i have recently moved into a new home that has a palm tree and there are lots of new shoots growing from the trunk should I leave these or remove them?

    This sounds like a Sago Palm. If it is… you can remove them and plant them elsewhere and they will grow. People like different looks. Some people don’t like the “puppies” so they remove them. Some people leave it all to look more natural they can look like a clump of sagos. I personally like the pups removed so the trunk is clean. Give the pups to neighbors and friends who would like to have one for themselves. They should pull out fairly easily. You can dig them from around the tree at the bottom, but be careful not to nick the trunk with any tools. If you can pull them out by tugging with your hand, this is the best way. They should have a small bulb on the bottom of them and that is planted in the ground to make a new one! Without a picture, it is difficult to say if it is a sago or not… but it sounds like it. :) Hope this helps.

  57. Jonathan Braslow, on December 20th, 2012 at 5:29 am Said:

    Is there a reason to remove the brown “skirt” made from dead fronds if they are high above the ground ?
    I hear they can even be protective for the tree.
    Do you have any references that could support the preservation of the brown
    dead leaves?
    My homeowners association is trying to get me to trim my trees, but I like the more mature, natural look.
    Thanks for any help.

    Hi Jonathan — once again, I had an Arborist tell me to leave them on the tree if the palm is a Washingtonian Palm Tree. The “skirt” does protect the tree. You can go online and search for Florida Arborists and they may even send you a letter so your pesky home owners association will leave you alone about it. Hope this helps.

  58. I have two mature date palm trees approxiamtly 10 metres high. I need to higher the ground area where they are located by 2 metres. However I cannot move them because of the location. I understand that 2 metres of soil at the base will kill them, so can I build a 2 metre round cavity wall around the base of the tree.
    I plan to leave a 40″ gap between the tree and the wall.
    Thank you for your help.

  59. I have a mexican palm about 8 yrs that has some rot in certain sections of the trunk. After pulling the bark away there seems to be white clusters that look like mold. The new growth has also slowed. Is my palm doomed?

  60. I have a king palm tree with 3 trunks seems like to have disease. because the new baby leave from 2 trunks are all died. I don’t know why. it is good two weeks ago. who can help me to solve the problem? Appreciate.

  61. Susan,
    I have 3 Sylvester palms planted by my pool. They were planted in 2010 to replace the Queen palms that died. All 3 have been doing well but I noticed this summer one was looking odd. Seems the crown is growing at approximately 45 degrees. I had my tree service use a lift to see what could be the problem. The crown is green & healthy but growing crooked. I know about a year ago the new growth was brown after a cold snap (only this palm, which is the most exposed). We thought that maybe something was blocking the new growth from growing straight but is not the case.
    If I do nothing, do you think this may eventually correct itself? We are at a lost (myself, Bob’s Tree Service & the company I bought the palms from) and not sure how to proceed hoping Not to have to replace this palm.

  62. Rachel
    So glad to read your responses to the readers who complained about having to remove the brown frons that form regularly on the Washingtonia palms. When I moved to florida not knowing anything about southern trees, I let the lanscaper talk me into planting three Washingtonias on my front lawn. Every few months the brown frons would form & hang & I would cut them off. After 4 years the tree got too tall for me to reach even with my pole saw. I paid $80 every six months to have the trees trimmed because I thought it was required. The trees are 7 years old & about 30 ft high. I never seen a fron fall on its own. Do the trees ever reach a point where they stop producing brown frons?

  63. I have what I thought was a Dwarf Palmetto. I guess I have been making the mistake of cutting off the limbs when they turn yellow as I read on your forum. I do have a question. My Palm tree/bush/ has lots of green berries on it that turn black later and appear to do nothing but grow and fall off. I don’t know if they are for reseeding or what however I’ve been cutting most of these off because I think they are taking useful nutrients from the plant, am I wrong? Any information would be helpful. Thanks!

  64. I have a Pindo that was planted by a landscaper about 3 weeks ago. Rich soil was added to the hole. I recently found out that we have clay in our yard and that we need to add Gypsum to break up the clay. I just noticed that some branch tips are turning yellow. What do I do? I’m afraid of overwatering it because of the clay. Does it need to be dug up or can I just sprinkle Gypsum at the base? Jacksonville Florida

  65. I have a pony tail that is almost 70 yrs old. I just moved 3 months ago, it is in a pot(always has been) I noticed ALL the leaves fall off and now there is a hold in the trunk. What should I do., It was a wedding present, my children want it so bad. Seems to be part of my life since I was only 16 yrs. old when I got it. I live near beach in San Diego. Can you please help me>??!?!?!?
    There are only one cluster of palm leaves near bottom of plant. I didn’t transplant it when I moved it was fine. Now I’m on 3rd floor it’s on balcony. Thank you so much!!

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