September 13, 2018
Proper Palm Pruning
Mid-September is the peak of hurricane season; you only need to look at a weather forecast to be reminded of that. The mere word hurricane strikes fear in our hearts and sends us running in preparation mode.
The words hurricane pruning would strike fear in a palm tree's heart if it had one. The practice of hurricane pruning our beautiful palm trees has been around for decades. This is an unhealthy practice perpetuated by landscapers who want to sell you a service. It is bad for your wallet, but more importantly bad for the palms.
The practice of hurricane-pruning a palm is when all but a few fronds are removed. Palms are naturally able to withstand the high winds that hurricanes bring so this practice is unnecessary and can seriously damage the palm. Only dead or damaged leaves should be removed from palms. Flower stalks and fruit stalks can also be removed if they are causing an issue.
When removing dead leaves, cut the leaf bases close, but do not cut into the trunk. Never pull or tear leaves off, as this damages the interior of the trunk and can be a gateway for pests or diseases. And remember to sterilize tools between each palm (especially Canary Island date palms) to reduce the likelihood of spreading diseases.
Excessive pruning affects the vigor, nutritional health, cold hardiness, and in some cases it can even spread disease. You can choose to not prune the palms at all and leave the brown leaves as a roosting spot for wildlife such as bats. Some Florida municipalities do not prune their palms during bat maternity season (April 16th through August 14th) to protect the habitat of these beneficial creatures.
Remember that proper pruning of your palm trees will keep them as beautiful component of your Florida-Friendly Landscape, even during hurricane season.
-- Wendy Wilber