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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Palm Died and Dont Know Why

Q. We had 3 healthy palms in our yard for many years. Just recently, we had to have one removed, but were not able to determine why it died.

A. After you sent me these pictures of the tops of your palms in the base as I suggested, I don't see a problem. They look healthy. Just some notes, I see some common bermudagrass growing at the base where the irrigation is occurring. Let me just make some general comments. Palms are typically an oasis plant which means they like to have a lot of water nearby but don't do well if the roots are constantly wet. They like to be able to tap into an available water supply. 

Palms use a lot of water considering how skinny they are and our perception that they are a desert plant. That's why I mentioned they are really an oasis plant rather than a desert plant. Some desert plants will grow with limited rainfall out in the middle of the desert while some others will grow close to a perennial river bed where they get water from flooding and that water then disappears for a long time. We call these riparian species like Mesquite.

So a true desert plant will have ways of growing in the desert and surviving during long periods of drought. They have several different mechanisms that they can use to survive. Palms on the other hand don't have a good mechanism for surviving drought. That's why we don't see them growing in the desert where Mesquites grow or out in the middle of the desert with no apparent water supply. When you see palms growing in the desert, here you are almost certain to find a fairly permanent water source nearby.

What does this mean to you? It means that when you irrigate palms they should be watered thoroughly and the soil allowed to dry fairly well but not too dry. You will not treat them the same way you would treat mesquites and acacias for instance or even cacti. So make sure that your water supply is giving them an abundance when they are watered, perhaps 15 to 20 gallons, and then don't water them again until the soil begins drying down. In the summer this might mean irrigations twice a week but in the winter time this could be twice a month.

In between these two seasons you will vary the frequency of when you water but not the amount that you water. You will still water with the same gallons each time but you will change how often you apply it based upon the seasons.

Let me know if I've answered your questions were not. But your palms look healthy.

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