All too often, palm trees are improperly pruned and left within an inch of their life. A wrong cut can make a palm unattractive or even kill it, so it's important to know the right method for keeping your palms in healthy shape.
When to Trim
Most palm varieties require infrequent pruning. It's only time to prune if you notice a lot of dead or yellowed fronds in the canopy.
Some frond death is natural, but if the whole canopy is turning yellow, pruning won't solve the problem. Palms need a lush, green canopy to produce the energy they need for healthy growth. Excessive yellowing is often caused by a potassium deficiency in the soil. Using a high potassium palm fertilizer can help reverse some of the yellowing while encouraging healthy growth of the new fronds.
Palm trunks are susceptible to damage, which can lead to disease and death. A cherry picker or ladder is the best choice for reaching the canopy. Don't use spiked shoes to climb the trunk, because the holes from the spikes can cause irreparable harm.
You will also need clean pruning shears and heavy gloves. It's also a good idea to have a buddy spotting you on the ground, just in case there is an accident.
Never cut out a healthy green frond when pruning a palm tree. You only need to remove the dead and dying fronds. Before making the first cut, inspect the tip of the tree from where the fronds emerge. This swollen area is the growing point for all the fronds. When you remove fronds, you don't want to damage or cut into this point, or the tree will decline and eventually die.
Before resorting to the shears, give the frond a tug. In most cases, the dead frond will pull out easily on its own. Only use the shears when absolutely necessary. You will also need the shears if you cut off the old flower stalks. Although you may sometimes see it done, it's not a good idea to top a palm tree by shearing the fronds off across the top. This weakens the canopy so it won't provide shade and can't collect nutrients for the tree. A topped off palm is also more likely to contract disease.
The sheath of dead frond bases that forms along the trunk, sometimes called a palm skirt, protects the trunk from damage, pests and diseases. It's becoming alarmingly common for people to "skin" the trunk by removing the old material. If the trunk looks ragged, you can pull off the loose material by hand. There's no need to take clippers to it or worse, trim it bare with a chainsaw. The skirt on the trunk is part of the natural beauty of your palm tree.
A healthy palm can go many years without pruning. If you just want to trim off the flower each year, you can do it yourself or hire a service like Woodland Tree Expert CO to perform this quick chore.