Date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) not only produce edible dates but add value to the landscape with their textured trunks and fronds. The date palm's grayish trunk sports diamond-shaped marks from old fronds and creates lines in the landscape with its vertical height. The bluish green fronds may reach lengths of 18 to 20 feet. Occasionally, fronds will die and require removal to keep the date palm looking clean. Date palms grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, where pruning is suitable any time of the year.
Things You'll Need
50 percent bleach solution
Put on a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, hat and safety glasses to protect your skin and head from injury. Remove debris, rocks and other obstacles from around the base of the date palm.
Pour 1 part water and 1 part bleach into a bucket. Stir the solution briefly with a stick to combine the liquids. Submerge the blade of a pruning saw in the liquid for 5 minutes. Pull the saw out and hold it over the bucket to allow excess solution to drip back into the bucket. Set the saw on a flat, clean work surface to air-dry.
Place an A-frame ladder next to the date palm if needed to reach the base of the fronds. Position the ladder to the side of a dead, brown, dry or yellowing frond.
Bring the saw to the tree. Climb the A-frame ladder to a point where your torso rises above the stems of the fronds selected for pruning.
Grasp the frond in one hand, holding its stem just below the leaves. Lift the frond upward if it is drooping to better expose its stem. Hold the saw in the opposite hand. Cut horizontally through the frond's stem, 1/2 to 1 inch out from the trunk to avoid damaging the bark. Ensure that no one is standing below the frond. Drop the frond to the ground.
Repeat the pruning process to remove all dead or dying fronds. Dip the saw in the bleach solution after removing each frond to kill any pathogens on the blade. Pick up the cut fronds and stems, depositing them in a trash bin. Leave the frond stubs, also called boots, on the tree to dry for two to four weeks.
Climb the ladder to reach the frond stubs. Grasp the end of a stub in one hand. Pull the stub repeatedly back and forth to loosen it from the tree. Do not use excessive force to make the stub loose as this may cause the trunk's bark to tear, creating a wound that disease and insects may enter. Continue to pull on the stub until it comes free from the trunk. Drop the stub to the ground. Leave stubborn stubs that do not loosen on the tree for an additional two weeks to dry further.
Do not cut of fronds with less than 50 percent yellow tissue as the date palm is still receiving nutrients and energy from these leaves. Only prune off fronds growing or hanging at an angle less than 90 degrees to the trunk. This will ensure that the date palm retains sufficient foliage and an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Do not prune date palms that cannot easily be reached with or without a standard sized A-frame ladder. Hire a professional to prune overly tall date palms.
- Floridata: Phoenix Dactylifera
- Arizona State University: Phoenix Dactylifera
- University of California Cooperative Extension: Issue # 3: Palm Tree Culture
- University of Nevada Cooperative Extension: Pruning Palm Trees
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Pruning Palms
- Ortho's All About Pruning; Judy Lowe