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Palm tree care
Beauties such as the still-rare Trachycarpus princeps blue-silver are an investment so care well for them!

Caring for your palm tree

Well, there it is. You've nurtured your palm from seed or seedling, or have just taken delivery of and planted your magnificent Trachycarpus wagnerianus (Windmill palm). Or Trachycarpus princeps blue-silver, or a Trachycarpus 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. And what now?

As we've said on our other pages, 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

When and how to feed your palm

We're frequently asked how much food a palm tree should have. This is dependent upon many things, 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 can get! Use a propriatary palm fertilizer and mix in some general fertilizer (NPP 3-1-2). If you scatter a little potash next to the trunk in the autumn you will help the plant prepare itself for winter.

Oh, a word of warning. 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.

As to general compost; 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. And you will find that if the roots develop well, the top foliage and trunk will respond a year or two years later

Palm roots are important

palmbooster
Palmbooster ensures
healthy roots

A palm needs to establish its roots first, only when they have developed adequately does frond 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. If you ensured adequate drainage around the root ball as we suggested it's 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, funnel it to the roots and the drainage trench will ensure the roots don't get waterlogged. Ideal conditions for your palm!

Winter protection

care for your palms
Don't smother
your palms!

When considering hardiness we tend for some reason only to think of cold-hardiness. Many people are unaware of two other main players in winter; the wind and the fact that winter is usually very dry! Cold in combination with wetness is often a killer; simply by thinking things through and protecting intelligently you can achieve surprising results with your palms.

It's important (we've said it before) 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!

See our extensive range of winter-protection!

Packing your palm for cold snaps

Check our advice as to what temperatures your palm can tolerate. 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 of, for example, pine needles. 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 of life's nasties. Here'es a quick troubleshooters guide:

Spear rot

care for your palm spear
Take care of
the palm spear!

The spear is the growing point of the palm and the most vulnerable part. 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 can just occur out of the blue but is less likely if your plant is healthy and strong. There are sprays which are available to treat your plant. We have good experience with a product called 'Baycor' by Bayer
  • coldness and wetness: if your plant becomes wet and then cold the expanding ice will damage the cells of your plant.

In general, it's a good idea to pull the spear of your plant in the spring and to remove any dead leaves; by doing this you can prevent the spread of the rot further into the crown of your plant.

Brown leaves

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!


Rory Whittle -© 2008 mypalmshop.com