June is when we really kick into high gear to schedule most palms but especially fan palms since there are so many here in the Phoenix area. Fan palms start to flower in the month of June and it is important to cut those blooms before they start dropping and making a mess.
PALM TREES are what tree-like palms from the Arecaceae family are called. Their growth form can be climbers, shrubs, tree-like and stemless plants, all commonly known as palms.
To an average person, “Palm Tree” and “Date Palm” are used synonymously. If we were to discuss Date Palms, scientifically called “Phoenix Dactylifera”, it is part of the Genus Phoenix who, as a group, contains 13 different types of species. All 13 types are members of the Date Palm group thus all are typically called Palm Trees.
Of the 13 species, four species are single trunk while the rest form suckering groups of stems. Some trunks are massively thick and tall, sometimes to over 60 ft. Most species tolerate heat quite well and therefore do well in hot, desert areas. They grow in full sun and would be considered to have a slow to medium rate of growth. Regarding cold tolerance, as a group, Palm Trees are reasonably cold hardy. Palm Trees prefer a well-drained but sandy soil. Watering can be done in infrequent deep irrigation once established. Water restriction typically does not cause death of the tree. Most species tolerate some degree of drought. Another interesting characteristic of Palm Trees is that all species in this genus are dioecious. This means that any given plant is either a male or a female.
As important as knowing which palm tree you should place on your property, it is also vital to every decision to know if you can care for a Palm Tree. Correct pruning is a key component to maintaining palm health.
Palms are known to be tall plants, pruning a Palm Tree can reduce the risk of injuring people or your property as fronds, flowers, and fruit clusters tend to fall off. Their leaves or sprouts from the base of the trunk should also be removed as they may harbor vermin. Another good reason to prune is that palms tend to be prone to fires. It is important with Palm Trees that you know what species you are growing and give them adequate room for their eventual size. Palm Trees can gravitate to being hazardous if not pruned.
Removing completely dead fronds and flower and fruit stalks is never a problem. Remove these at 180 degree angle positions and use a sharp pruning gear to cut each frond at least 2” from the trunk. There is also no biological reason to remove live green fronds. This can just put undue stress on the tree.
Palm Trees flower and fruit once per year. In the Phoenix area, date palms flower in late spring (usually April and May) and fan palms flower in late spring/early summer (May and June) so pruning activities should be scheduled towards the end of the reproductive cycle. If you are not certain as to when to prune regarding the reproductive cycle, observation and record keeping will be the guide, regardless of species.
Now, what should a healthy, properly pruned palm tree look like? It should have a green full-rounded head (not shaped like a feather duster or pencil point) with green fronds (as leaves of palms are called) right down to the bottom of the canopy. Always remember that, correct pruning is the key to maintaining a healthy palm tree.
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