Everyone loves having a palm tree in their yard, and in South Carolina there's none better than the palmetto, but no one seems to know how to trim them when they become covered in overgrowth. Not only is this unsightly, but it could wind up doing some significant amounts of harm to your trees. Thick patches of dead or overgrown palm fronds can leave a huge impact on the overall health of your plants, either from blocking the main parts of the trees from collecting sunlight to becoming too heavy and uprooting itself, to even creating the perfect conditions for birds, rodents, and other animals to begin nesting.
Obviously, these are all things that no homeowner wants to see. So how do you begin keeping your trees looking clean shaven and free from harm? The obvious answer is to hire a professional company, but not everyone will be able to afford professional arborist services. Also, not everyone who owns their home lives in it year round, making it difficult to schedule a landscaper or other tree care team to help them.
Some palm tree species are easier to trim than others, most notably by how tall or short that they happen to be. Some taller palm trees simply are not worth the risk of putting yourself in danger; these trees should certainly be handled by a professional, especially as they require specialized safety harnesses and cutting tools to help reduce the risk of injury, or worse.
A good rule of thumb is if you have a ladder that can safely get you to the top (and that means without standing on the top where it says to not stand), give it the old college try if you feel comfortable. Again, trimming palms is dangerous work, and it is not worth harming yourself trying to trim it. The good news is that most palm tree trimming tools have a way to extend the handle or even the blade, allowing you to control it from further below.
Simply steady the saw teeth in position, and slowly saw away at the overgrowth like you would any other limb. Be careful not to stand directly underneath, as dead palm tree fronds are surprisingly heavy. Keep going around until you remove all the dead pieces first, and only remove living fronds if it is necessary to do so. Trimming live growth off of a plant is similar to stabbing it; you are actively damaging the plant, and each time you trim is another area that the tree has to now heal.
Other palms that are closer to the ground, such as a palmetto palm, may be just as tricky to trim. All palm fronds have prickly ends for defense, and most contain some form of pollen or another allergen to further protect them from becoming eaten. You will definitely want to wear thick landscaping gloves, preferably hide or leather. Nylon or other fabrics can work as well, but they will not be any match for the sharp ends.
Next, carefully use your pruning tool of choice, be it a palm tree cutting tool as mentioned before or a pair of shears. Carefully cut away at the dead growth first, and then ensure that the live fronds are even.
Trimming palms are fairly easy; the hardest part is keeping yourself safe. Considering that the tallest species of palm trees can reach almost 200 feet, it is always best to hire a professional when it is apparent that you will not be able to reach the top. Finally, ensure that your trees are going to pose a fire hazard and keep them away from power lines and other obstacles.
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This is what can happen to a tree given some winter conditions and neglect. This tree had never been pruned and had an extremely full canopy. This storm also hit when our area's trees hadn't dropped their leaves yet so this tree was even heavier than it would have been post fall. However, it is very important that your larger trees remain pruned and ready for any strong storms no matter what time of year.
Light pruning and removal of dead branches can be done anytime of year but heavy pruning is best during dormancy. Pruning in the winter can result in a huge growth spurt during spring. If this is your wish, then prune this winter. Pruning is also easiest in the winter months because the foliage is gone, making it easier to see the tree's shape. It is usually best to wait until the worst of winter has past to do the major pruning, but here in South Carolina winter is usually pretty mild so just about anytime will do. You'll notice that some trees will "bleed" when the sap begins to flow but don't worry, this isn't harmful to the tree. When blooming begins, the sap bleeding will cease.
If you want to prune smaller trees and shrubs yourself, there are many places to get how-to guides online that will walk you through it. However, for the larger trees, it's best that you call a professional tree service company. Winter months bring discounts on tree services as they are the slower months in the industry. If you're thinking of hiring a tree service company in the midlands, call Southeastern Tree Removal. We love what we do and it shows!