Pruning Palms

Bad pruning
Severely overpruned palms

If you have palm trees, you may be wondering about the proper way to prune them.

Some palm trees don’t need to be pruned, like our native cabbage palm—it automatically sheds its dead leaves.

If you have palms that aren’t self-cleaning, you may choose to prune them periodically. Just use a pole saw to remove any brown fronds. Leave the green fronds alone, since they’re the energy factory for the tree.

If you hire a tree service, don’t let them climb with tree spikes, since these cause permanent damage to the trunk.

Hurricane Pruning

When it comes to pruning palm trees, less is usually better. You never want to overprune your palms by subjecting them to what’s called “hurricane pruning” or “hurricane cutting,” where all but a few fronds are cut off.

Palms are naturally able to withstand the high winds that hurricanes bring, so removing fronds isn’t necessary. In fact, it can seriously damage the palm tree.

When pruning palms, only remove fronds that are completely brown and that hang below the 9 o’clock or 3 o’clock position. If you hire a professional, make your wishes clear by putting them in writing. Explain that you want your palms to have a rounded canopy, not a mohawk.

Always remember that the point of pruning is to remove only dead growth.

Queen palm fruit on tree
Queen palm with fruit. ©Doug Caldwell, UF/IFAS.

Palm Tree Fruit Removal

In addition to periodic pruning, you may want to remove the fruit stalks from certain palm trees to keep them safe and prevent future problems.

Queen palms fruit abundantly and can create a mess when the fruits fall on sidewalks or driveways. If left alone, the seeds may germinate and create a weed problem. Coconut palms produce heavy fruits that can pose a hazard to people or vehicles below.

In these situations, you can remove the fruits or even the flowering stalks on an as-needed basis. It won’t harm the tree and will prevent future issues. Never remove any green leaves, since doing so can damage the tree. If you’re not able to do the job yourself, remember that you can always hire a certified arborist.