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 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.

8. 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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