Palms are one of the few plants in which regular pruning disrupts rather than encourages growth. We’ll tell you how to prune your palm without disfiguring it and harming the plant.
Whether date palms, Kentia palms, or cycads (the “fake palms”) – all palms have one thing in common: They present their evergreen foliage all year round and do not actually have to be cut. In contrast to many other plants, palm trees do not have to be cut regularly to encourage their growth. In fact, the opposite is true.
To be able to cut your palm properly, you have to know the growth behavior. It is important to know that palm trees only sprout from a single point – the so-called heart, which is located at the tip of the palm. For this reason, no new leaves form on the trunk of the date palm, for example. So you must never cut off the tip of your palm – no matter what type of palm it is.
If you cap it, it means the certain death of your palm. But how does the conspicuously shaped trunk of the Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis) come about? And what do you do when the leaf tips of the Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana) get unsightly dried up tips in the living room? Here you can read how to cut the different palm trees.
Properly prune back dried up leaf tips on palm trees
Who does not know this: You forget to water your palm in your room for a few days – or the magnificent hemp palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) in the bucket on the sunny terrace – and the tips of the palm fronds begin to discolor and dry out. Then, for optical reasons alone, one is inclined to simply cut off the dried-up tips. And in fact, you are allowed to do that too.
The decisive factor, however, is where you apply the scissors. Of course, you want to remove as much of the dried-up fronds as possible. Nevertheless, you should not use scissors to penetrate the green leaf area. The reason: you destroy healthy leaf tissue. It is best to always leave about a millimeter of withered material.
By the way: In indoor palms such as the royal palm, brown tips can also be signs of too dry indoor air. Here it helps to spray the plants preventively every two to three days with a water sprayer.
Remove dried out palm fronds
As already mentioned, palm trees form new fronds only at a single point – the palm tip. For the plant to be able to supply these new shoots with sufficient nutrients, it is completely natural that they gradually reduce the nutrient supply in the lower palm fronds. As a result, the leaves dry up sooner or later. You can then cut off the fronds completely. But wait until they have actually dried out completely. Then the palm has drawn off all reserve substances from this part of the plant. An exception is palm fronds, on which the characteristics of a fungal disease are shown. You should remove these immediately before the fungus spreads to other parts of the plant.
Always leave a small piece of the petiole standing when cutting. This not only creates the trunk image typical of some palm species, but the trunk also looks much thicker. There is also less chance of injuring the palm while cutting. For smaller specimens, you can cut with a sharp knife or secateurs. A small saw will make the job easier for larger plants with palm fronds whose petioles are thicker than 2.5 centimeters.