5 Tips for Caring for Palm Trees in California

5 Tips for Caring for Palm Trees in California

By Felipe Benavides on June, 21 2018
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Felipe Benavides

Felipe has been working in the Nursery and Garden center for many years and bring extensive knowledge to trees, plants, and landscape design.

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la_jolla_palmsCopyright: alkanc / 123RF Stock Photo

It’s hard to imagine the Southern California landscape without palm trees. They are an iconic part of our region. They can be seen lining boulevards, adorning yards, and helping to create a backyard tropical oasis from Los Angeles County to San Diego County.

Most palms are subtropical or tropical. A few of them are also surprisingly cold hardy. In fact, don’t be surprised to see a few palms growing in unexpected places such as Portland, Seattle, and Denver!

Here in California, eighteenth-century Franciscan missionaries were the first to plant palms for ornamental purposes. The palms’ association with biblical references likely inspired these missionaries. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that palms became an intrinsic part of the SoCal landscape. During the turn of the century, homeowners started to plant them in the front yards of mansions, and they were planted in historic parks such as in the Palm Canyon spot in San Diego’s Balboa Park. The rest, as they say, is history!

Even though our landscape is dotted with a diverse range of palms, only one species, the California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera) is native to California. All the other species, such as the feather-topped, majestic Canary Island Date Palm to the slender, pillar-like Mexican Fan Palms have been imported, with great success. Yes, palms can evoke the blissful feeling of the tropics year-round. Of course, yellow and brown foliage is not the picture of a healthy palm. With special care, we can keep our palms thriving. Don’t worry though. These iconic trees require minimal maintenance.

What to Look For

There are at least three things to look for in your palm tree that should cause you to take immediate action. Spot the issues that palms can have early, and you can save the lush appearance of your palm.

Yellowing leaflets: If you notice that the leaflets on older fronds are turning yellow, it may mean that the tree is lacking magnesium. The older fronds will be the ones that are lower on the tree. Magnesium deficiency can turn a once attractive tree into one with yellowing fronds.

Orange or yellow spotting: A lack of potassium can cause older fronds to have yellow or orange spotting. Potassium deficiency can cause the trunk to be narrow, which can kill the tree, especially if there is substantial storm damage.

Scorched fronds: Manganese deficiency can cause newer fronds to appear scorched and can make the leaflets starts to curl. In fact, one of the most common causes of palm tree death is a result of improper fertilization.


Five Tips for a Healthy Palm


A little bit of tender loving care is essential to any plant, palms included. With a little bit of maintenance, we can keep our palm lush and lovely, keeping their leafy tropical allure in-tact. We talked to our experts, and they help us compile five tips for keeping the foliage of your graceful palm green and healthy. Keep reading!


Planting: Decide on where to plant your palm tree. The right place will vary on what type of tree you have. Sun exposure and the amount of space required to grow are also factors to consider when planting.

Let the Pros do the Digging: The best way to have the look of your ideal yard is to let us do the digging. Our experienced crew will plant your palm the right way the first time! Our professional planting includes all the digging, planting, and mulch. We also add Moon Juice, and everything we plant is guaranteed to grow!

Watering: Established palms thrive in fertile, well-drained soil. Newly planted palms benefit from faithful irrigation. Keeping the earth sufficiently moist is beneficial to the health of the palm. Keep an eye on your palm for signs of stress due to lack of water. Symptoms include slow growth and browning on the tips of the oldest leaves. Some palm species show signs of stress when the leaflets wilt. Water stress can also cause the trunk to hollow out or collapse. In areas where the temperatures reach above 100 degrees, water deeply about four to five times a week. We recommend drip watering or using a soaker hose with a very slow trickle. You can always use an electronic soil moisture meter or a soil probe to check the soil moisture. Another easy way to check is to grab a little shovel and scrape the surface at least six inches deep.

Tip: In the summer, we recommend watering in the early morning or late afternoon.

Fertilizing: Using the right fertilizers is an excellent way to keep your palm looking healthy. For instance, a fertilizer such as Super Palm Juice has magnesium, which can prevent it from being iron deficient. This easy-to-apply liquid can reach roots fast! It can help increase moisture and nutrient uptake. Super Palm Juice can also stimulate root growth and can help protect against stress. Moon Juice is recommended for palms because it has manganese, which can help them prevent and recover from stressors.

Cleaning and Trimming: Help control spider mites and other sucking insects by hosing off the palms with a water hose periodically. Frequent washing provides some humidity, too. Some palms are self-cleaning and will shed the old leaf bases on their own. For those palms that hold their bases, they can be trimmed. You can prune them by slicing the old bases off at the very bottom of the base. Be careful not to cut into the trunk. Always clean any tools with rubbing alcohol to prevent the spread of disease. For best results, hire a professional tree trimmer.


We Do the Work!

Palms bring value and interest to any landscape. Let us do all the work! Our nursery pros will be glad to help you design, select the perfect palms, deliver, and plant. At Moon Valley Nurseries, we have the ideal palms ready to thrive in your yard. Our selection includes beautiful palm trees such as our Piru Queen Palms and King Palms, which are two of the most popular palms for any size yard. Our Canary Island Date Palms add elegance and luxury to all types of properties. Line up some Date Palms along a driveway and create a grand entrance! Mediterranean Fan Palms are the ideal size for planting in small areas! We have just what you need to establish an exotic look in your yard. Best of all, all our palms are guaranteed disease-free!

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