Selection & Preperation
Preparing the Soil
Time of Year to Transplant
SITE SELECTION AND PREPARATION
Several factors should be considered before selecting the
planting site for a palm. If you have a specific type of palm
in mind, be sure to consider how the plant will fit in the
landscape in 10-15 years, when it reaches maturity. Are there
overhead utility wires, buried cables, or irrigation lines?
Would the palm pose a hazard during a hurricane? Is the sun
exposure full, partial, or shade? As a general landscaping
rule, small lots with one story houses look best with medium
sized or smaller palms. Large palms such as royals, washingtonias,
and coconuts look best when planted in large areas or in the
vicinity of larger buildings. Clusters of odd numbers of palms
(1, 3, 5) are generally more aesthetically pleasing than even
numbered groups, unless more than seven are being planted
in one area.
Consideration should be made of the type of soil the palms
will be planted in. Is it alkaline sand, coral rock, clay,
marl, or another soil-type? By knowing the soil-type, it is
often possible to predict certain nutrient deficiencies and
correct them preventively rather than after the problem shows
PREPARING THE SOIL
For many years, it was felt necessary to amend poor soils
with organic material. Current planting recommendations discourage
the use of soil amendments (such as peat moss) mixed with
the back fill. The ideal situation is to have the whole planting
area rich in organic material; if the planting hole is filled
with soil much better than that around it, the roots may never
penetrate the surrounding poor soil.
It is much more important that you apply a heavy mulch around
the trunk, using wood chips, cypress bark, lawn clippings,
or other similar material. As this decomposes, it enriches
the soil while also reducing the weed competition and reducing
water consumption. Be sure to replace the mulch as it decomposes.
Keep a small circle (several inches) around the trunk free
Water the root ball of the plant with a hose as it is being
planted. This will ensure that no air pockets are trapped
in the soil and will establish a good union between the root
ball and the existing soil. After planting, a small (2-3 inch
high) soil "dam" encircling the plant will direct
and concentrate future watering to the root ball of the palm.
Watering for the first several months is critical. Never allow
the soil to dry out completely. It is also important not to
overwater. Overwatering not only encourages root diseases,
but it also discourages the establishment of new roots in
the surrounding soil.
TIME OF THE YEAR TO TRANSPLANT
Palms can be transplanted at any time of the year although
they establish themselves far more quickly and with fewer
problems if they are set out in the spring and early summer.
Palms do not grow as rapidly during the winter months and
several experimental observations have shown that cold-damage
is much more severe in palms that are not well established.
The dry winter season also requires more irrigation to insure
the survival of the newly planted palm.
To establish a palm rapidly, a good fertilizer program is
necessary. For the first year, a foliar micro-nutrient spray
applied every three to four months and a slow release granular
fertilizer with a 313 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium
applied every four months will provide the optimum results.
After the first year, only the granular fertilizer is required.
A good fertilization program for all palms is detailed in
the Extension publication "Palm Nutrition Guide"
If you purchase a field-grown palm that has been "balled
and burlapped" but is not to be planted out immediately,
it is important to store the palm properly. Most palms can
remain out of the ground for two to three days with no damage
is they are kept in a shady area and the root ball is watered
daily. Desiccation of the root ball will severely damage the
palm and reduce its chances of proper establishment. When
planting a "balled and burlapped" plant as opposed
to a containerized one, it is necessary to remember that the
plant is more likely to suffer from transplant shock since
the root system has been severely reduced. Also, one should
pay particular attention to the burlap surrounding the roots.
If, after planting, a portion is exposed to the air it will
act as a "wick" drying out the soil and stressing
the roots. Complete coverage of the root ball and a heavy
layer of mulch will alleviate this problem.
Many palms also suffer from being planted too deeply. This
essentially suffocates the roots and invites root diseases.
As a general rule, one should always plant a palm at the same
depth as it was initially grown.
Many palms are ideally suited for Florida and California and
provide much of the unique environment for which the state
is known. Because of their relative ease of culture and minimal
pest and disease problems, they should be prominently displayed
in our landscape. By observing the recommendations of this
fact sheet you can make palm trees an important part of your
document is Fact Sheet ENH-46, a series of the Environmental
Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service,
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of
Florida. Publication date: March 1991.
Author: Henry M. Donselman, former assistant professor and
Extension Specialist, Environmental Horticulture Department,
Ft. Lauderdale Agricultural Research and Education Center
(AREC), Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville