Planting and Maintaining Perfect Palm Trees
Posted in Trees and Shrubs on May 2, 2015
Palm trees are a magnificent symbol of gorgeous climates and beautiful places. They remind us, even on “bad days,” that we live in a paradise. As far as trees go, they also have a lot of benefits to offer besides beauty. Raking leaves becomes a two-minute job that doesn’t even require a rake and palms are ready-made landscaping choices as they immediately add to the appeal of the area. Palm trees are also pretty easy to care for and they’re easy to plant, too!
Successfully planting palm trees requires a bit of planning and preparation. Similar to any tree or garden, you need to make sure you choose the right palm for the area. Take light levels, temperature variances, soil and water needs into consideration and you should have beautiful palm trees. The friendly and knowledgeable staff at Hydro-Scape is always glad to help if you have questions. Let’s take a look at the necessities for happy palms:
Palm trees have different lighting needs depending on the type of tree you want to plant. Don’t worry, though, there are many different varieties from which you can choose. There’s the small end like the Windmill palm, which grows anywhere from ten to twenty feet tall. There’s also the large end, such as the Queen Palm, which grows to about fifty feet tall. The best thing to do is check the individual palm’s needs before you buy.
It’s a popular myth that palms only grow in tropical climates. Nothing could be farther from the truth, actually. Just as they do with light, different palms like different climates.
The easy-going palm also handles soil pH types pretty well. Most types don’t care if the soil is acidic or alkaline, with a few notable exceptions. The regal Queen Palm prefers acidic soil, for instance. Again, with the wide variety of types from which to choose, it’ll be easy to find the right palm for your soil type.
All palms need soil with good drainage, though. If you’re going for potted palms, a soil amendment like Kellogg® Palm and Cactus Mix is perfect. It also works well to mix into your native soil to help ensure proper drainage when planting in-ground.
Another helpful step is feeding your palms with something like Gro-Power Palm & Tropicals or Lutz Palm Tree Spikes.
Here’s where the palm is a bit less laidback. Palms can be very sensitive to moisture levels. Some need to be watered five times per week, while others prefer only once a week. Too much or too little water is a sure way to have failing palm trees. We recommend choosing palms which are more drought tolerant.
One fairly reliable method of figuring out if your palm needs water (other than knowing your palm’s preference ahead of time) is checking the moisture level in the soil near your palm. Dig about an inch down to test it. If it’s completely dry to the touch, break out the water.
Speaking of, don’t water at more than two gallons per minute. Your palm’s root system extends far beyond the base of the tree so don’t focus all of your efforts there. Make a mounded berm or grass-free ring at the edge of the root system to help make sure the whole root system receives water. Apply a layer of mulch to conserve moisture, regulate soil temperature and help block weeds. Remember too, that palms don’t need as much water during the cooler winter months and you should never water them if you’re expecting a freeze.
If you see the following, your palms are suffering from water stress (not enough water):
- Reduced growth
- Browning of leaf tips (spreads as it gets worse)
- The oldest leaves typically show symptoms first and in older, more established palms, severe water stress can cause the trunk to shrivel or collapse.
These are symptoms of over-watering (more likely to occur than under-watering):
- Wilting or discoloration of the whole palm canopy
- Rot diseases
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Cracked or split trunks if the palm has been through alternating over- and under-watering.
Planting new palm trees requires finesse and care. The palm heart is very sensitive and doesn’t like being handled. This is the part of the tree from which the leaves grow. If it’s damaged (cracked or shattered) your palm is either going to die or suffer from stunted growth.
The root ball is also quite sensitive. The best method for removing the palm from the container is to cut away the container. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball and as deep, but no deeper, than the root ball. The bottom of the tree trunk should be even with the ground.
Fill the hole with loosely packed soil and any amendments mentioned earlier. Don’t plant palms in particularly dry times, as new trees are very moisture sensitive. Your new palms need more water than any established trees and should get a thorough watering within four to six hours of planting.
The palm will take about four to six months to fully establish its root system. During that time, it should be watered weekly or get at least an inch of rainfall. The root system and the area around it should be moist but not saturated during the establishment phase. If your soil is especially sandy, you may need to water twice per week. If your tree is in a turf-covered area, know that it needs more water than you typically apply to the turf. Once established, your palm will require less water than during establishment.