November Newsletter: Palm Selection & Care

Palm Selection and Care

Roebelenii Palm

Selecting the right palm for the right place is the first step in maintaining a healthy palm. Know how tall your palm you would like, will grow. Often palms are planted too close to buildings and then the fronds are sitting on the house or roof. This provides a great way for rats, ants and other creatures to make it onto your roof or into your home. Also, planting too close results in too many fronds being trimmed off palms.

Proper fertilization is also a key component to maintaining healthy palm trees. Most palms are planted in sandy, nutrient deficient soils which makes palms susceptible to nutritional deficiencies. Some of the most common would be potassium, magnesium, manganese and boron deficiencies.

To prevent this, use a good quality, slow release fertilizer with micronutrients such as Nurserymen Sure Gro 8-4-12. This fertilizer is acceptable for use on all landscape plants including lawn grasses, so avoid using lawn fertilizer within 50 feet of the palm trunk. Use the 8-4-12 instead.

Palms in this zone require fertilizing three times per year- Spring, Summer and Fall. 1.5 pounds (or 13 cups) per 100 sq. feet of palm canopy area is the rate of application. Spread the fertilizer evenly around and if there are other plants in the beds it will help fertilize them as well.

Palm pruning is another misunderstood practice in palm maintenance. Palms are different than trees and most of them store their nutrients in the older, green fronds. When palms are “hurricane pruned” (removal of lower green fronds), it deprives the palm of stored nutrients and can result in severe deficiencies.

Removal of fronds also can expose the tender heart of the palm to winds and cold temperatures as well as “pencil pointing” of the trunk- which is the narrowing of the trunk where nutrition has been deprived. This can also cause the palm to snap off.

Brown of dead fronds can be removed throughout the season as well as flowers and seeds but green ones should only be removed when they are a danger or detriment.

Many palms like pygmy date palms (robebelini) and Sylvester Palms should have fronds that are at least parallel to the ground while others like Sabal Palms, should have “heads” that are almost 360 degrees or rounded.

Fall is a wonderful time to add trees and palms to your landscape. There are many cold hardy palms that will enhance your landscape- check out our selection of Sabals, Sylvesters, Mule Palms, Queen Palms, Chinese Fan Palms and European Fan Palms to name a few. Trees planted in the fall will get well rooted in by spring so will flush out beautifully when the warm spring temperatures arrive.

There are no guarantees in life- as there are not in the Garden

Plants are living things and can be affected by all kinds of factors and for that reason, often it could be impossible to determine exactly what caused a death of a plant. Beyond basic care required for a plant to thrive, there are unseen forces at play.  When a plant dies, we might be able to determine a cause, but sometimes there is no single insect, disease, or cultural condition responsible.  When plants don’t do well it can be a combination of things.

Plants, like clouds are forever changing and some of the changes can be out of our control.  Plants when early planted have a look that is pleasing to us, however, as they grow it is unrealistic to expect them to stay the same. Therefore, when we are asked for “low maintenance plants” we need to remember that there will be some maintenance because plants are ever evolving. Likewise, many times we are asked why two plants that supposed to grow the same will grow at different rates. People assume that because they are “next to each other” that the conditions are the same.  This is not always the case as there could be subtle distinctions in soil compaction or PH.

Plants, like humans, require care and nurturing.  Frequently, many problems with plants are human based- that is overwatered, underwatered or problems that go unnoticed or untreated.  So, the next time you want to purchase plants for you yard, remember the Florida Friendly master rule: “right plant, right place”. Always know what your environmental conditions are where you plan to plant (sun, shade, part, wet, size etc.) and purchase plants that will meet those needs, not try to force a plant into a spot that won’t work because you love those plants.

In summary, planning and seeking advice is always the best way to start when purchasing plants for your garden.