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How To Plant & Maintain A Palm Tree

Planting palm trees is similar, in most ways, to planting other kinds of trees. Nursery-grown palms are generally sold either potted or balled and burlapped. Try to plant your tree shortly after purchase. If there is going to be any time lag between purchase and planting, make sure that the tree's root ball is kept moist but not soaking. When transporting and handling palm trees, use care. The bark is easily damaged and damaged areas leave the tree vulnerable to insects and fungus. The best time of year to plant is during the warmer months when the soil temperature is at least 65 degrees F.

Dig a hole wide enough to fit the root ball with plenty of room to spare. Twice as wide might be a good rule of thumb in many cases. The hole should be just deep enough so that the tree is planted at the depth at which it was grown. Do not plant the tree any deeper as this may deprive the roots of nutrients and water. When the tree has been situated in the hole, backfill with the freshly dug soil.

When the palm tree has been planted, build a soil barrier around the circumference of the hole to form a dam that will hold water. Then lay down a layer of organic mulch around the tree. About three inches deep should do.

Frequent watering is crucial for newly-planted palm trees. Daily for about the first two weeks and then tapering off over several months as the tree establishes itself. Use a bubbler or arrange a hose to slow soak the area around the tree. It is important not to allow the soil to dry out as this will severely weaken your new palm.

Palm trees also require periodic fertilizer applications. There are commercial mixes available especially for palms. Finally, exercise caution when using lawnmowers and weed-whippers around palm trees as even minor bark damage may attract insects or invite disease.

Maintenance

Once planted, a palm tree is easily maintained with just a little effort and some tender loving care.

The most important factor in a palm tree's health is soil. Compacted, nutrient-deficient soils found in most urban environments do not contain the components necessary for a palm to truly thrive. As steward to your trees, it is your responsibility to maintain healthy soil. You can do that in two ways.

1. Adding Mycorrhizal Fungi
Mycorrhizal fungi coexist with plants in nature, colonizing the root systems. In exchange for food, these fungi provide the plant with nutrients and moisture. Effectively, they can extend the root area of a plant by up to 1000% helping it survive under conditions of stress. Soil in many urban areas and in most potted plants lacks this essential organism. By adding the correct mycorrhizal fungi to the soil, you are giving your trees a vital boost. For more information about mycorrhizal fungi, click here.

2. Fertilizing
Palm trees require a large variety of nutrients to survive and because they thrive in sandy, well-drained soils, these nutrients tend to leach away quickly. As a result, most common problems with palms are caused by a lack of nutrients or improper fertilization. There are palm-specific fertilizers available that release their nutrients very slowly to provide consistent, targeted feeding. To find out what fertilizer you need for your palm, click here.

Other Care Concerns

The most important consideration is to ensure that your palm receives sufficient water for healthy growth. In desert areas and in the absence of regular rainfall, periodic watering is essential. Slow drip or bubble type watering over a number of hours is better than a simple drenching with a hose. As for how often, this will depend on the climate, season and rainfall frequency. In many areas, twice a month during the summer decreasing to once every six weeks during the colder season should be enough. As they grow, the older fronds of palm trees will turn brown, die and, eventually, fall off. For esthetic reasons, you may wish to speed the process along a little by pruning off the dead fronds. Use some caution when pruning a palm tree. Prune only the dead fronds and remember not to cut too close to the trunk. In the case of a large tree, this is a job that should be left to a tree maintenance specialist. Finally, be careful when using lawn mowers and other gardening equipment around your palm tree. The bark is easily damaged and the resulting wounds are entry points for insects and disease.

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