Palm tree care
The rare Trachcarpus princeps is real beauty and a good investment!

How to look after your palm tree

Well, there it is. You've purchased your palm as a seedling, or have just taken delivery of and planted your magnificent Trachycarpus wagnerianus Windmill palm. Or Trachycarpus princeps, or takil, or maybe a feather palm. You've followed our advice regarding 'growing palms', have given your new palm a good drink of Palmbooster and you've retired beneath the palm fronds with a nice beer or cup of tea.

What's next?

Our palms are selected carefully for you from nurseries all over the world where the palms are hardened to climates similar in severity to our own. All we have to do now is understand how the plant grows, what its needs are, and how to protect it in really severe weather.

Feeding your palm

How to nourish your palm

We're frequently asked how much food a palm tree should be given. This is dependant upon the type of palm, its size and the circumstances in which it is living. In particular, plants in pot or container can quickly become undernourished. We would strongly recommend use of the 'Fertometer'; a device which enables you to  measure the nutrient levels in your pot.

A palm should be fed well during its growing season. You'd be surprised how hungry a palm tree can become! Use a proprietary palm fertilizer and mix in some general fertilizer (NPP 3-1-2). Scatter a little potash next to the trunk in the autumn to help the plant prepare itself for winter. Be careful to distribute fertilizer on the ground only; if you spill onto the plant itself you can cause 'burns' and damage the growing point (spear) of your palm!

Modern thinking suggests that if we enrich the soil too close to the root ball the roots become lazy and don't develop. You are better off mulching your plant substantially with wood chippings, lawn cuttings or other organic matter in a large area arond the root so that the food is distributed evenly and the roots are encouraged to develop well. You'll find that if the roots develop well, the top foliage and trunk will respond a year or two later.

The palms roots are important!

palmbooster
Palmbooster ensures
healthy roots
A palm tree needs to establish its roots first. Only when the roots have developed adequately does leaf development take place. We've already mentioned Palmbooster as the solution for ensuring root development after planting or transplantation. We would recommend continuing applying this excellent treatment throughout the life of the plant (at a reduced dosage). Excellent results are achieved with products such as Palmbooster if applied regularly and well. Most palms roots are still growing late in the year when foliage has apparently stopped - keep giving your palm the necessary attention even in this period and you will be well rewarded later on!

Watering

Most palms like a lot of water. It is a good idea to create a sort of saucer to trap water round the root by making a rim of soil around 40cm from the trunk. This will then trap water and funnel it to the roots. If you have created enough drainage at the base of the palm you will have created ideal conditions for your palm!

Winter protection

care for your palms
Don't smother
your palms!

Plants are not only susceptible to cold in the winter. Wind and drought play their part too! Cold in combination with wetness is also often a killer; simply by thinking things through and protecting intelligently you can achieve surprising results with your palms.
It's important not to use plastic foil or bubble wrap to protect the top of your plant. It's essential that the plant breathes well; if you cover it up with foil it will simply suffocate and rot

Protecting your palm in cold weather

If the temperature is going to drop below the level at which you should start protecting your palm, you should act as follows:

First wrap the leaf crown with garden fleece, if necessary twice, then wrap the trunk with bamboo mats. Tape the fleece overhang to the bamboo mats. Finally, cover the ground to about 50cm around the trunk with a generous mulch. Don't over protect!

Once a cold snap has passed, unwrap the palm as appropriate and let it breathe.

Troubleshooting

Just as any other living organism, your palm is subject to attack from a selection various pests and diseases. Here'es a quick troubleshooters guide:

Spear rot

care for your palm spear
Take care of
the palm spear!
The spear is the point where new growth occurs in your palm tree. It is the most vulnerable part of the plant. This can appear rotten (worst case scenario: it just lifts away if you pull it upwards). This can have a number of causes:
  • fertilizer burn: if you apply fertilizer, make sure it is applied to the ground around the plant and be sure not to scatter it on to the spear! If you think you have, wash off as soon as possible.
  • mould or bacterial infection: this does not usually occur in a healthy plant. There are sprays which are available to treat your plant. We have good experience with a product called 'Baycor' by Bayer
  • Cold and damp: if your plant becomes wet and then cold the expanding ice will damage the cells of your plant.
It's a good idea to test the spear of your plant in the spring (pull it reasonably firmly, if it's loose remove it) and to remove any dead leaves; by doing this you can prevent the spread of rot further into the crown of your plant.

Leaf browning

Leaves often brown during a warm period following a cold winter. It is an indication that the leaves have not been optimally cared for; see our tips above. A case of prevention being better than the cure! Be consoled with the fact that new leaves are made each year!

If you follow our advice you should enjoy a fine, healthy palm for many a year!
© Gardenpalms.com 2012