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Monday, June 25, 2012

Palm Tree Fronds Dying at the Bottom


Q. We have a couple of fan palms whose fronds are continually dying off from the lower level.  Is this normal or are they lacking in something i.e., water, nutrients, etc.

Readers palm tree

A. I looked at the picture of your fan palm. In this case, yes, this is natural. The fronds grow from a central bud located at the top end of the trunk. All of the new growth for a palm tree comes from this bud. If the bud dies, the trunk is dead. If the palm has one trunk then the tree is dead.

            As these new fronds emerge from the bud, the older fronds (the ones at the bottom) begin to die. Normally you would expect the fronds at the bottom to die in this manner. First they will begin to yellow and then eventually they die. As these lower fronds yellow, it is then an appropriate time to remove them.

Palm trunk skinned
            I like to cut the fronds as close to the trunk as I can leaving very little stub coming from the trunk. Some people remove the stub even closer to the trunk, at its point of attachment to the trunk, by cutting with a sharp knife (box cutter or linoleum knife) at the point where the frond attaches to the trunk. This is called "skinning" which results in a very smooth trunk which some people like. It also lessens the chances of having bark scorpions living and looking for food on the trunk.

            You can remove these older dying fronds any time of the year. If you elect to remove green fronds then remove green fronds that are only in the total shade of its canopy. You can also do this any time of year as well but best done during the summer or late spring months.

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