Top 10 Palm Tree Transplanting Mistakes

In this article I wanted to list top 10 most common mistakes gardeners make when transplanting a palm. Of course there are much more things that can go wrong but this should help.

Mistake 1: Planting too deep. The palm should always be planted so that the top of the root-shoot interface is about one inch below the surface of the soil. Planting too deep might result in water stress, nutrient deficiency and eventually death of the palm.

Mistake 2: Planting too high. If the roots are exposed, then the palm was planted to high. Such palms are said to be “on their tiptoes”. Palms with exposed roots are unstable and can topple over from a high wind.

Mistake 3: Fertilizing. Do not put fertilizer into the hole before putting the palm in. It will burn palms roots. A lot of people do that and then are very surprised when their palm is dying. After transplanting, palm tree should not be fertilized until it produces new growth. Also, I recommend using slow release fertilizer.

Mistake 4: Planting too late. Depending on the climate in your area, planting too close to winter might be a bad idea. It takes some time for the palm after being transplanted to develop new root system. Without new roots it might not survive the cold weather.

Mistake 5: Soil air pockets. When backfiling the hole, make sure there is no air pockets. Otherwise, the root ball will sink in after some time leaving the palm too deep in the ground.

Mistake 6: Supporting blocks. When installing supporting blocks, don’t nail them directly into the trunk of the palm. Wounds to a palm trunk are permanent and can lead to palm diseases.

Mistake 7: Root pruning. Unlike broadleaf trees, palm trees roots don’t need to be pruned. A lot of palms depend on the old roots until the new root system is developed. Pruning the roots, will leave the palm without any mechanism to get water.

Mistake 8: Leaf Removal. Nurseries remove some of the old palm fronds to help the palm with water stress after transplanting. Don’t remove all of the palm fronds as this will get the palm into a shock. You should remove no more than ¾ of fronds. Removal of the middle leaves might even kill the palm.

Mistake 9: Keeping the leaves tied up. Most nurseries tie up the leaves before transporting a palm. You should untie them after the palm is in the ground. Leaving them tied up will not improve the growth, but might provide a favorable environment for palm diseases.

Mistake 10: Not planting the palm right away. Leaving the palm just laying there with the exposed roots is the worst thing you can do. If you can’t plant the palm right away, wrap the root ball in a damp tarp and spray it with a hose as often as necessary to keep the rootball moist.

~Susan Brian

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5 thoughts on “Top 10 Palm Tree Transplanting Mistakes”

  1. I do believe i have caused my spindle palm some harm after reading your information. Because most of the leaves were burned from displacement and the rest had begun to show orange like bruises, I cut them off. Have i killed my palm? Please help!

  2. My landscaper in Lake Havasu City AZ wants to encase my palm trees in planters, raising the soil level 2 feet! He says that he will put lava rock around the tree trunks and wire in place so that the palms do not suffocate. I love my Queen Palms and do not want to do anything to stress or kill them. He is a well respected landscaper in town and doesn’t appreciate my concerns. Will the precautions of rocks around the trees prevent suffocating the roots? Thank you for your reply.

  3. I was told by a reputable nursery that planted my palms, to keep my Sylvester palm fonds tied up for 45 days. That is your mistake 9. Any advice?

  4. I was told by a reputable nursery that planted my palms, to keep my Sylvester palm fonds tied up for 45 days. That is your mistake 9. Any advice? I’m worried now.

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