Posted by Brent Wilson on 9/4/2016 to Fertilizing & Watering Tips
Palms are very easy to grow when planted in the right spot and cared for properly. Before planting a palm outdoors, make sure to select a variety that is hardy in your USDA Zone. These zones are listed on every individual plant page in Wilson Bros Gardens.
The most important factor in growing a healthy palm tree is good soil. The type of soil determines how much nutrients and water the plant receives.
The best contribution you can make to your palm tree's soil is the addition of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi exist naturally in most soils that haven't been disturbed by tilling or treated with chemicals and chemical fertilizers. The word "mycorrhiza" comes from the Greek language and literally means "fungus roots." You may not know it but mycorrhizal fungi are a crucial part of the health of 95% of the plants growing throughout the world. Organic compost is a good source of fungi. When planting a palm, be sure to add some to the backfill mixture.
A vital component of palm tree care is proper fertilization.
Newly Planted Palms
Newly planted palms should not be fertilized until after they put out a new spear. That being said, if you live in a region where temperatures drop below freezing during winter, cease fertilization two months prior to the average first-frost date in your area.
What kind of fertilizer for palms?
Palm trees nutritional needs are easily met by following a yearly fertilization program. Mature palms in the landscape should be fertilized with a complete, granular, palm tree fertilizer, specially formulated for palms and containing all the essential elements and manganese: a mineral that helps prevent yellowing and necrosis between the leaf veins and a reduction in leaf size. Follow application instructions on the package.
When to apply fertilizer to palms?
In regions where temperatures do not drop below freezing, 3 to 4 applications of a palm fertilizer are recommended to provide a constant supply of nutrients during the growing season. Be sure to only fertilize during the growing season (end of March through end of October). If you are using slow release fertilizer, apply it twice a year.
In regions where temperatures drop below freezing, two applications of fertilizer are recommended. Make the first application in spring when all chances of frost have passed. Make the second application in early to mid-summer. Cease fertilization two months prior to the average first frost date in your area.
How To Water a Palm Tree
Properly watering your palm trees is very important. As specific palms have different needs, you'll want to know the exact requirements of your specific palm.
Here are some general tips:
First, watering your palm every day will usually do more harm that good. Deep soaking every day will often oversaturate the soil, which can cause root rot and other harmful diseases. Splashing just a little water on plants every day does little to provide the roots of plants the water they need.
Deep soaking is a process where you'll slowly apply water so that it soaks deep down into the soil around the roots of the plant. When my palms need water, I use a drip hose for about 1 to 2 hours depending on the season. Drip irrigation gives this Georgia clay-based soil time to absorb the water.
So, know that when your palm does need water, it's better to deep soak than to just splash a little water on or around the plant. But don't deep soak every day!
How to know when a palm needs water?
Allow the soil to dry somewhat between waterings. In general, whether you're watering palms in garden beds or containers, if you use the finger-test to check the soil to a depth of at least a couple inches each time before you water, you'll soon develop a feel for when water is needed. If the soil is dry, provide water. If moist, no watering is needed. Err on the side of watering less, not too much, as it's much easier to kill a palm by overwatering than by underwatering.
How much water?
Newly planted palms
A new palm should be watered everyday on its first week, switch to every other day the following and then settle for 3 times a week on the third. Then water as normal for established plants.
For more established palms, watering should be done only 2-3 times per week, and this is only in the absence of rainfall. Most palms will only require watering only if the top 2 inches or so of the soil has dried out.
Adjust watering levels based on the season
Palms do most of their growing during the summer's warm months so they will need a lot of moisture to keep up with the expelling of energy they require to grow. In the absence of rainfall, water frequently during this period to maintain moisture content just below the surface.
Palms grow very little during winter and won't need nearly as much water. Palms need all the warmth they can get during the winter and watering tends to cool the soil. So, water only on occasion during the cool season if there has been little rainfall.
Overwatering can kill
Oversaturated soil can cause root rot and other harmful and deadly plant diseases. There is little that can be done to remedy root rot, especially in its advanced stages and it is very difficult to detect. Be sure to know what your palms specific water requirements are in order to prevent this from happening.
Best time to water
The best time for watering is in the early mornings or late afternoons in summer and earlier in the day during winter.
Avoid splashing water on fronds during the afternoon hours as this can cause sunburn. Early mornings are ideal because it ensures that the soil will stay moist even as the sun is hottest.
Water in late afternoon will help to cool your palm down some after a hot summer day.