Pruning a Date Palm
Owning or maintaining a date palm tree might seem daunting at first, as palms are exotic and therefore seem mysterious to care for. However, caring for your date palm is much simpler than one would think. One of the most important things you can do to maintain the health of your date palm tree is to regularly prune.
This article will cover the 9 to 3 pruning method as well as the materials you’ll need to prune your date palm, and how to distinguish a date palm from other palm trees!
What You’ll Need to Prune your Date Palm Tree
Before you start hacking away at your date palm (and we certainly hope you use discretion during said hacking), you’ll want to be prepared with the following items:
- Long-sleeved shirt
- A helmet
- Eye protection
- Thick, heavy-duty Tree trimmers
- A friend/helper
If your date palm is still young and low to the ground, you may not require some of the above items (such as a ladder or helmet). However, if your palm tree is quite mature and is over ten feet tall, you’ll likely need a ladder or, at minimum, a step stool.
While long sleeves aren’t required to prune, it's recommended as palm leaflets can be pokey, and the closer you get to the trunk of the palm, the spikier it can get up in there. This is also where you’ll be pruning (as close to the trunk as possible). The same holds for gloves: you do not need gloves since you are using trimmers to sheer your palm fronds; however, it is best to protect your hands from unwanted pests that could be lurking near the trunk (like spiders.)
Using the 9 to 3 Rule
The 9 to 3 rule is referring to the hands on a clock. When pruning a date palm tree, you want to prune any of the branches that fall below the 9 to 3 arch on a clock face. If there are any branches drooping around 8 or 4 o’clock or below, go ahead and trim away!
As you trim your palm fronds, let them fall to the ground. When you have finished pruning, you can dispose of the branches in your green waste disposal.
If the idea of trimming your palm using the 9 to 3 method still sounds confusing, this video by Big Earth Supply shows you how to do so in real-time.
Why Prune a Date Palm Tree?
Pruning a palm tree helps to prevent damage from breakage and helps eliminate the likelihood of rats, scorpions, or other such pests making nests or homes up in the palm trees. The process of pruning helps to maintain the overall health of the date palm.
Should you Prune Yellow Leaves or Branches on your Palm Tree?
You can leave yellow branches on your date palm. However, if they are dried and brown it is best to prune them off entirely, to not waste the trees energy. Trees must parse out their water and nutrients to all their leaves. Keeping dead branches on the tree will not assist your palm tree in growing. In fact, it will hinder your date palm from maturing further.
Yellow leaves, however, are in that in between stage of a healthy leaf and a dead leaf. You may prune a yellow leaf if it is hanging below 9 and 3, but if it is questionable, it may be best to leave it for the time being to observe what becomes of it. Should you notice it withering away further, you can go ahead and remove the frond.
Removing Fruiting Structures
You do not have to remove the fruiting structures of your date palm. However, most people do, especially as the palm trees grow taller, as the fruits can suddenly drop from their great heights and come crashing down on unsuspecting victims below. Not only that, but when the fruits drop to the ground, they create a real sticky mess down below.
If you plan to harvest your dates, you’ll need to learn the proper look and feel of harvestable date fruits. However, if that does not interest you, it is best to remove the fruits all together. To do this, remove the flowering structures from the date palms crown. Cut ½ to ¾ inch above the base of the stem. Allow these to drop to the ground as well to pick up after you’re done.
Don’t Over Prune!
Even when using the 9 to 3 method (cutting only those branches that droop below 9-3) you should always step back and appraise your work. You do not want to over prune your tree. Not only will it look less than desirable, but over pruning can stunt the growth of your palm tree and leave room for pests or tree diseases to take root.
You don’t want any pruned palm branches sticking out, so be sure to cut the branches close to the trunk as possible
Differentiating a Date Palm from Other Like Palm Trees
The date palm tree is distinctive in nature thanks to its fruit: dates! This middle eastern palm tree is believed to be originated near Egypt and Mesopotamia and is currently cultivated across the Middle East, Northern Africa, and South Asia.
Date palms can grow to be anywhere between 60-75ft feet tall! Their leaves can grow to be between 10-20 feet long! On any given date palm, you are likely to find upwards of 150-200 leaflets. The dates that grow on date palms are oval and around 1-3inches in length and appear bright yellow or red.
The Nature of Date Palms
While date palms are naturally cultivated in North Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East, they can also be found in Southern California, Arizona, South Texas, and Southern Florida in the U.S.
Date palm trees take between four and eight years to bear fruit after being planted and won’t start producing viable friend that can be harvested and eaten until between seven and ten years of maturity. However, once the date palm does reach maturity to produce ripe dates, it can then produce between 150-300lbs of dates per harvesting season!
Though, each date on a date palm does not ripen at the same time. Therefore, multiple harvests are often required per tree. Once dates are ready for harvest, they are thinned, bagged, and covered in a dark and temperate place before they ripen so that the rest of the fruits have time to grow larger without fear of predators (like birds) pecking away at them.
How to Keep a Healthy Date Palm
To keep a healthy date palm, your tree must be able to drain well and easily within a deep, sandy loam soil. The pH level should range between 9-11, and the soil should be able to hold moisture, while draining well. Additionally, the soil ought to be free of calcium carbonate.
The Key Take Away
Date palm trees are beautiful trees that flower deliciously sweet fruits, and now you know how easy they are to care for as well. As date palms are native to hot, exotic climates (like that of Africa and the Middle East) it’s important not to attempt growing a palm tree in an environment where it won’t thrive. However, Mediterranean type climates like Southern California and Mexico can support date palms just fine!