Palm Tree Dropping Fronds: Can You Save A Palm Tree Without Fronds

Palm Tree Dropping Fronds: Can You Save A Palm Tree Without Fronds

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Palm trees are quite hardy in their native ranges but problems can arise when these transplants are sited in regions that aren’t specifically adapted to their needs. Palms that live in areas with violent storms, cold snaps and even excessively wet winters can be prey to leaf loss. There are innumerable reasons for palm tree fronds falling off, from natural “cleaning” to damaging cultivation, disease and pest issues. If there are no fronds on palm tree, the plant may be in real trouble but it is possible to still save it.

Can You Save a Palm Tree Without Fronds?

Palms are notable for their air of tropical elegance and ability to conjure up warm trade winds and sandy beaches. In areas with hurricanes, it is common to find sickly looking trees which require special care to resurrect.

Reviving dying palm trees may take expert assistance depending upon the level of damage sustained by the plant. In cases where just some of the foliage has been killed, a palm has a good chance at thriving after a good rest and some excellent care. First, you should discover why you have palm tree fronds falling off and nip the cause in the bud.

Self-Cleaning Palms

Many palms, such as Washington palms, naturally replace their leaves. The Washington palm forms a skirt with its old leaves while others, such as Foxtail palms, will dispose of dead leaves. If you have a self-cleaning plant, it will naturally replace old fronds with new ones. The large old leaves littering the ground may worry you, but it is a natural process and as long as the tree has a full crown of foliage, nothing to stress about.

Every species of palm has a certain number of fronds it will produce in maturity. As new fronds form, old ones fall off. The balance of the perfect number of fronds is essential to the plant’s appearance and health. A palm tree dropping fronds and not replacing them could be a sign of a problem.

Storm Damage, Cold Injuries, Pests and Disease

Not all palms are tropical. Some are suited for desert settings, while others have remarkable cold tolerance. If you find palm tree fronds falling off after a heavy weather event, it is likely due to the fact that you do not have a hardy palm tree. Cold injured plants can lose all their leaves.

Additionally, wild winds (such as those in a hurricane) can tatter, shred and kill palm leaves. It is a good idea in hurricane prone areas to leave the old skirt of dead leaves to protect the trunk and crown of the plant.

Pests can cause damage to fronds. Scale insects are a classic problem. Their sucking feeding activity reduces the tree’s sap and can diminish health. A palm tree dropping fronds is the result in heavy infestations.

Diseases, such as root rot, affect the entire tree’s health with leaf loss the number one symptom. It is best to call in a professional if a disease is suspected.

Reviving Dying Palm Trees

With winter injured trees, wait until the weather warms before removing dead leaves. These will help protect the tree during the remaining cold months. As long as new leaves start to form after winter, the plant can survive but will need to be watched for any additional stresses.

When no fronds on palm trees are forming, start to get concerned. Without leaves, the plant cannot gather solar energy to turn into carbohydrates for fuel.

Be judicious about your pruning. Most palms don’t need severe pruning and removing leaves for the sake of beauty can actually be the cruelest cut of all regarding plant vitality.

Use a good palm fertilizer in spring and give the tree deep infrequent watering to enhance its health. One thing to note about damaged palms – if the core of the plant is mushy or heavily damaged, the plant is probably on its way out.

Be patient with any foliar loss. Over time the plant may regain its health and grow a new crown of foliage.

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Common Palm Tree Diseases and Pests

Palms are commonly affected by black fungus, leaf-spotting fungi, lethal bronzing disease, diamond scale, bud rot and root and butt rot. Unfortunately, all palms should be considered hosts for leaf spots and leaf blights, especially in the seedling stage. Some identification methods for the most common palm tree diseases and pests include:

  • Black fungus. If your tree is covered in what looks like black soot, this is likely a fungal disease known as sooty mold or black fungus. This type of mold grows on honeydew, a sticky substance left behind by sap-sucking insects.

Bud rot. A soil-borne fungus that can be caused by various fungal pathogens, bud rot is easy to identify. Look for black lesions on the buds and young fronds of your tree.

Fungal leaf spot. Leaf spots can be circulated to elongated, and they vary in color from yellow to brown to black.

Ganoderma root and butt rot. With this infection, the first sign is usually the withering and drooping of older fronds. New growth is also stunted and is pale green or yellowish in color. In addition, the head of the tree may fall off.

  • Lethal bronzing. This bacterial disease is deadly. Typically, once you've spotted symptoms of lethal bronzing, it's too late for treatment. Symptoms include flowers that spike prematurely, premature fruit dropping and bronze-colored, dying lower fronds.

  • Common Palm Tree Problems and How to Fix Them

    Whether they are used as an exotic houseplant, a greenhouse specimen or a landscaping focal point, palm trees are the ultimate in luxurious tropical foliage. While these trees can be hardy in their native habitats – withstanding drenching rainy seasons, all manner of tropical pests and even brutal hurricanes – they are still susceptible to a variety of problems. Understanding the most common and widespread palm tree problems can help you properly identify and fix issues to keep these stunning trees strong and healthy.

    Different problems are common among a variety of palm trees. How each problem affects individual trees, however, will vary depending on the tree's exact species, overall health and the extent of the difficulties it faces. The most common problems afflicting a wide range of palm trees include…

      Sooty Mold
      This mold appears as ashy gray or black mold on palm fronds, and while it doesn't dramatically harm the tree, it is unsightly and often unwelcome. The mold forms from excess sugar byproducts in insect wastes, and treating insect issues is essential to eliminate the mold. While spraying can be effective on smaller palms, systemic treatments are more effective for taller, more mature palms that are difficult to spray.

    Lethal Yellowing
    Palm trees infected with lethal yellowing will show yellow, drooping fronds that lose all their green pigmentation and cannot recover. Flowers will wilt and die, and any fruits or nuts will drop early. This disease is spread by insects and can be treated with root injections if the infection is only slight, but if the majority of the tree is impacted, it is best to remove the tree completely to prevent spreading the illness to other palms.

    Fungal Infections
    Palm trees are subject to a wide variety of fungal infections that are common in warm, humid environments. Symptoms of fungus can include rotting on the trunk, uncharacteristic wilting and overall slow growth. Because these infections can spread quickly, it is important to remove an infected tree as soon as possible to protect other trees. When pruning palms, it is critical to sterilize tools between plants to avoid spreading these infections.

    Like all trees, different types of palms have different moisture preferences, and all too often these trees are drastically overwatered with supplemental irrigation. The drainage of the soil influences how much water is necessary, and it is best to plan nearby landscaping to accommodate plants with similar watering needs to avoid accidentally overwatering a palm tree. Adjust sprinklers regularly to be sure palms are not receiving too much water.

  • Improper Pruning
    Poor pruning practices can have a dramatic impact on the health of palm trees. These trees store nutrition and energy in their fronds, and it is essential to not remove fronds unless they are completely brown, or else the tree will be deprived of that stored nutrition. When pruning a palm tree, remove no more than 15 percent of its fronds to avoid shock and deprivation.
  • In addition to these common problems, other difficulties faced by palm trees include cold injuries, lightning strikes, air root growth, nutrient deficiencies and more. The exact problems any palm may face depend on its species, location and overall care. If your palm trees aren't looking their very best, consult your local garden center, nursery or palm tree arborist for expert guidance on how to get your palms back to their most luxurious, healthiest appearance.

    How to Care for Jelly Palm Trees

    Related Articles

    The jelly palm (Butia capitata), better known as the pindo palm, takes its nickname from the tasty jams and jellies made from the tree’s fruit. Large yellow-orange date-size fruit ripens in summer, adding another striking feature to the tree. Jelly palms are cold-tolerant and slow growing and should be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8b and above.

    Space jelly palms 10 feet apart. The trees eventually reach a width of 10 to 15 feet, but they grow so slowly that you can even plant them under power lines without worry.

    Plant the jelly palm where it will receive full sun or partial shade.

    Allow the soil to dry out in between waterings. Jelly palms are susceptible to root rot when grown in constantly wet soil.

    Fertilize the jelly palm with a 15-5-15 fertilizer. Although this product can be diluted and used as a foliar spray it works faster as a soil drench. General application rate is 1 to 2 tablespoons per gallon of water, applied once a month during the growing season, but check the label to ensure that you are using the appropriate strength and amount of fertilizer for the size of the jelly palm. Water the palm before and after fertilizing.

    Remove the fruit as it begins falling from the jelly palm. If you’ll be using it to make wine or jam, hand pick them from the tree, otherwise scoop up what has dropped to the soil and discard it.

    Prune dead fronds from the tree. Unlike other palms, the jelly palm won’t drop the fronds when they die and they’ll need to be removed. Because of the tree's size and the difficulty of leaf removal, you may want to hire a professional.

    Inspect the tree each season for signs of trouble. Although the jelly palm is resistant to the most common palm diseases, it may suffer from a boron deficiency if the fertilizer you use doesn’t contain boron. The most obvious symptom of this deficiency occurs on new leaves. The tips bend at a sharp angle as the leaf emerges. To correct the deficiency, use 2 to 4 ounces of sodium borate or boric acid twice a year. It may take a season or two to respond to the treatments.

    Hurricane Pruning

    When it comes to pruning palm trees, less is usually better. You never want to overprune your palms by subjecting them to what's called "hurricane pruning" or "hurricane cutting," where all but a few fronds are cut off.

    Palms are naturally able to withstand the high winds that hurricanes bring, so removing fronds isn't necessary. In fact, it can seriously damage the palm tree.

    When pruning palms, only remove fronds that are completely brown and that hang below the 9 o'clock or 3 o'clock position. If you hire a professional, make your wishes clear by putting them in writing. Explain that you want your palms to have a rounded canopy, not a mohawk.

    Always remember that the point of pruning is to remove only dead growth.

    Queen palm with fruit. ©Doug Caldwell, UF/IFAS.

    How to save money on palm tree trimming

    There are a few simple tricks that will save you lots of money on palm trimming and a lot of it comes down to the company you hire…. or when you hire them!

    1. Hire in winter
    Tree services are a seasonal business and tend to have little work on in winter. By getting your job done in winter, you have the same supply of tree services, but little demand. Most winters are a fight for scraps between companies, as they all lower prices to be competitive.

    2. Dispose of the fronds yourself
    Palm trees are not like regular trees where the tree service can mulch them into woodchips and sell it on as garden mulch. Palm trees are too acidic and need to be disposed of with general waste making them expensive for tree services to dump.

    By getting the tree service to price the job to remove and cut up the palm leave and leave them on-site, you can put them in the green waste bin free over time. This will save you 20 – 30% off the price of trimming which is usually taken up with dumping fees.

    Author: Ben McInerney – Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.

    Watch the video: Saving your Sago Palm