We are only a week away from the traditional “safe date” to trim Mexican Fan Palms (Washingtonia robusta). By then all the seed stalks that are going to be produced for the year should be mature enough to be cut off and eliminated. Trimming your trees earlier will lead to seed stalks coming out afterward and will make a mess until they are trimmed off again. There is always a chance that a late stalk will pop out, but it is pretty rare with Mexican Fan Palms. When exactly to trim your palms depends on your specific conditions and requirements.
If you have a pool and are bothered by the flower parts falling off the tree, it might be important for you to get your palm trimmed a little earlier. If the flower parts of the seed stalks don’t make too much of a mess for your sensibilities, it might be better for you to wait a few more weeks or even months – that will insure that we get all the stalks for this year. Most customers definitely want their palms trimmed before the fruit is mature (and would sprout if it gets to the ground and watered!). Again, it is up to your individual requirements when the ideal time is to trim your trees.
California Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera) run about a month later than the Mexican Fan Palms. The traditional “safe date” for them is after July 15 each year.
Some of our customers wait until August of September each year to get their palms trimmed. It will not hurt the tree to wait!
We trimmed the above tree last year at the end of May – the owner was sure all the seed stalks were out. They weren’t. You can see the old stalks hanging down under the tree. If you look carefully you can also see some of the new seed stalks sticking out on the right side of the tree. in the left/center of the tree you can see the flowers opened on some of the stalks (I plan to get closeup pictures when we get into palms later this month). The owner is going to let us wait a little longer this year!
If you have palm trees that look like the ones in the picture above, don’t hire somebody to do them by climbing on spikes! There are 3-4 people killed almost every year trimming palm trees and they are always trees with big “skirts” of dead fronds like these trees. A few years worth of dead fronds is usually not a problem, but this is too many. The first fronds to die and hang down are usually securely fastened to the trunk of the tree. In later years, it seems that the frond bases rot off at the trunk, but they fronds are intertwined with each other. When an unwitting person climbs up the tree and cuts loose the lowest fronds, the whole skirt slips down the trunk and pins them – suffocating them in short order. Trees in this condition need to be trimmed from a lift where the cutting can start from the top down eliminating any danger!
The other thing I need to mention about palm trimming is the amount of trimming to be done. The ANSI standards say that no live healthy fronds shall be removed above horizontal. There is no need to take off almost all the trees fronds every year! Doing so is hard on the tree and looks ugly – we will not do it! If you see someone taking off this many fronds, they were either coerced by the trees owner or don’t know what they are doing. When we take off less fronds, the tree needs to grow less back (each tree has a certain number of fronds it needs to support itself). These older, more mature fronds that the tree has will stand up better to winds and hot temperatures as well as the cold temperatures of next winter.
“Skinning” of palm trees is completely esthetic. The tree is probably better with the skins left on – at least up at the crown of the tree. Taking off everything up to living tissue (more is prohibited by ANSI standards!) is hard on the tree and we prefer to leave them on. Skins lower on the trunk may be safely removed if you like that “look”. We usually only remove very loose skins at the top of the area that has already been skinned and leave it at that unless requested to do otherwise by the customer.
If you want to get on our schedule for trimming your palm tree right, give us a call!