Palm trees make a great choice for Southern California landscapes. However, palm trees do come with particular considerations that must be taken into account.
For example, when planting a palm tree, you need to consider your climate. Not all palms are able to survive in different environments, and even if they have the capability it doesn’t mean their health will hold out. Before investing in that tall, elegant palm for your yard, consult with an expert on whether it’s the right time of year to do so, or you might end up with a dead tree.
Palm Size & Light
Size is important to consider when planting a palm tree. A small palm tree can grow to over 60 foot at maturity and may have to be removed if it interferes with your view, overhead lines, underground lines, or if it grows too large for your landscape. Your palm tree’s preference for sunlight depends on the species you choose. Some trees thrive in shade, others like direct sun, and some prefer shady conditions when young but grow best in sunlight as they age. When planning where to buy a tree, keep in mind how much sunlight it will be exposed to. Too much sun can burn the leaves and prevent the palm from growing at all or looking like you planned.
One of the most problematic issues for palm trees I have seen is that different types of palms do not require the same conditions to grow. To plant a new palm in your landscape, you should make sure that it will be able to tolerate the drought conditions around you. Planting a tree in the ground is less likely to kill the tree than transplanting it. Generally speaking, palms are from tropical or subtropical regions, but many climates allow for a greater variety of palm trees that can be grown. Many palm enthusiasts enjoy pushing the limits of a species’ known tolerance zone. Use a Zone Map to determine your comfort zone for palm trees in general.
Field-grown palm trees are either sold as potted plants or balled and burlap. To keep the rootball damp until it is planted. The best time to plant a palm tree is early March after the last frost and ground temperatures are around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If the soil is predominantly sand, then it is acceptable to dig a hole that’s wider than the root ball and backfill with 1 part compost for every 2 parts of sand.
If you’re planting a tree in clay ground, I suggest not digging the hole any wider than the size of the root ball. If you dig a hole in dry clay soil and backfill with sand/compost, you are actually digging a valley for more water to pool. This may cause root rot or other health issues for your palm tree. If you dig a hole too deep, add loose dirt to the bottom instead of all the way back out again, and water it and tamp down before adding your palm tree. Placing your palm in loose soil and then getting it wet will cause the dirt to settle around it, making a hole with an unnatural looking bottom. Doing this can actually kill your palm. After backfilling the hole, use the handle of a shovel to make sure large air pockets are out and then tamp down with your foot. Create a small berm around the circumference of your palm and water it in. For the survival of a newly planted palm, extra care must be given to provide the right amount of water. Newly planted trees need a slightly moist, not wet soil. Water the palm densely for three weeks before tapering off to a more regular schedule of water (around one gallon twice a week)
Palm trees also require periodic fertilizing. There are commercial mixes that work best for Palm trees on the market. Palm trees require specially tailored fertilizers that correspond to a few very specific conditions and is another important aspect of palm tree care. Palm fertilizer has micronutrients that palms need for growth and to keep them healthy. Palm trees benefit from fertilizer that is in a 3-1-3 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
When applying fertilizer, be sure to do so at the drip line of each leaf. A sick tree becomes weak and is prone to insect damage. A well-managed palm tree is more likely to survive extreme weather conditions. You should fertilize a palm tree two or three times a year. Some people like to add mulch around the bottom of their palms in order to keep weeds away.
It used to be considered bad form to clip the frond on a palm tree without waiting for it to turn completely brown. Now, we realize that while green leaves can still photosynthesize, removing them too early robs the palm of nutrients and by cutting them off before they should be cut results in a dead plant.
When detecting pest or disease problems early is key because it will lessen the chance of them escalating.
In some regions there are diseases which are not treatable for palms and your palm will die. It is best to remove the diseased palm as soon as possible to avoid disease spread. Tree planting is important to protect the health of palms, which are prone to several harmful organisms. Some of them include Lethal yellowing, Fusarium wilt, Ganoderma rot (root rot), Leaf spot fungi, Sooty mold and Phytophthora root rot.