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Caring For Desert Palm Trees To Keep Them Beautiful!
California Fan Palms and Canary Island Date Palm Trees are most often found in the desert...
Here in Las Vegas, since we are in a desert-valley, there are two kinds of Palm trees that are found most often. Commonly, you will see the "California Fan Palm," which is distinguished by the fan palms on top, and when they are trimmed, you will see a "braided" look to their trunks due to the pieces of old palms that were pruned off of them, and these pieces remain on the trunk.
Another common palm tree in the desert is called the "Canary Island Date Palm"... these are distinguished by the different (more "feathery") looking palm leaves, they aren't "fan-like" and the way that they are pruned differs from the fan palms. On most of these, you will see either a thick area of trunk at the top, which thins out at the bottom, or sometimes the top of these are made to look like a giant pineapple, with a thin trunk!
Palm trees are relatively low maintenance - but they do need some water, and twice a year, a kind of palm tree fertilizer that is mixed with water and sprayed to give them some extra micro nutrients. They do thrive in sandy soil. The main nutrition of a palm tree comes not from the root system, but from the palms themselves at the top of the trees. They get their "food" (nutrition) from a process called photosynthesis. The fertilizer is actually not food, but micro nutrients that the tree uses, along with water and sunlight to make it's food. Palm trees do not have a root system that "spreads" beneath them, they have just a small "root ball". Palm trees also do not have "branches" that spread out like most trees, this makes the Palm trees "monocots" because they don't have the new wood being created by outward growth.
Palm trees do need pruning (often called "trimming") but you can harm the trees if they are over-trimmed. There is a myth that prevails that the more you cut off of them, the faster they grow, not true! Green palms must be left ON the tree, only the brown, dead palms need to be removed. By removing some of the green palm fronds, you can "stunt" the growth of the palm tree, slow down it's growth, which is something you don't want to have happen. Taking too many fronds off can weaken the palm tree, making it more susceptible to wind damage, parasites, and fatal infections. Also, the trunk of the palm tree tends to be sensitive to any damage, if you damage it, there's a good chance the damage won't heal.
We have found that it's best to have a professional tree trimming service do the trimming for you. I remember I was still in Wisconsin last year when our palm trees needed trimming... and amazingly enough, my dear husband was actually considering going up there and doing the trimming himself! Those things are HIGH up off the ground, it is windy up there, and you have to make sure you have proper shoes to wear (there are special shoes that professionals wear to climb the trees). Not to mention that you need special equipment to cut the palms off, they are very THICK. Needless to say, I told him "DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!" And I told him to call a professional! What is it that makes men (and some women!) think they can do everything themselves? :) While he IS a great handyman, there are still some things best left to the professionals - they will have the proper equipment and knowledge to do the best job.
It is best to keep palm tree pruning to a minimum, once a year is plenty, and sometimes you can even go longer than that. When pruning, care should be taken to leave at least two rows of fronds on the trees, to keep them at optimal health. And only the palm fronds that are yellow, brown or broken should be pruned off. It's important to remember that damage caused by pruning is more likely a cause of the death of a palm tree than old age is! Palm tree fronds can take 3 to 5 years to fully mature.
Pruning your palm trees can be dangerous to your trees if not done correctly, but it can be beneficial as well. Leaving the green healthy fronds on them will keep them strong and healthy and a source of enjoyment for years to come!