Hurricane-cutting palm trees has been adopted by a few palm tree trimming services as the go-to method.
The idea is to protect your trees during hurricane season, but does it help to protect palm trees during hurricane season? Or is it just another sales tactic by tree services to drum up business?
The idea is that if the wind has fewer leaves to grab onto, then your palm has a better chance of survival.
Many passionate palm tree growers have objected to the idea of hurricane pruning. In fact, in some states, hurricane cutting is an offense2, and violating the set rules amounts to fines and tree removals.
Resource: Palm Tree Trimming Cost Guide 2020
Does it Work?
Hurricane pruning is the over-trimming of a palm tree. It is perfectly fine to prune palm trees once per year to remove any deal fronds, seed pod removal, and low-hanging leaves, but over-pruning can lead to problems with the palm tree.
Hurricane cutting is mostly undertaken by lawn care companies who think they are doing the owner a favor. It is believed that by pruning most of the leaves off there is a longer period of time between prunes and the palm is ready for survival for when a hurricane comes through.
Hurricane cutting does not really work, and people just up damaging their palm trees. Over-pruning palms reduces the ability of the tree to produce food. By getting rid of the fronds, you will also be depriving your palm tree of the valuable food it needs. Palm trees take a long time to develop into full trees, and this will hurt them in the long run.
This can lead to weaker palms when a hurricane does finally roll through and can lead to growth abnormalities including trunk shape defects.
Pros and Cons of hurricane cutting Palms
Here are a few pros and cons of hurricane-cutting palms.
- Not one!
Pruning a palm tree in a proper manner is very much advisable, but do not over-prune or top a palm tree.
- Deprives your tree of necessary nutrients that assist in palm tree growth.
- This leads to a reduction in the width of the palm tree trunk.
- Destroys roosting places for insect-eating bats and other birds.
- Make the tree overall weaker and more likely to snap in a strong wind.
- Looks ugly.
- Can affect roots and how well the tree is anchored to the ground.
How to properly prune a palm tree
Pruning a palm tree is quite easy and requires the removal of any dead fronds, any seed pods, and the removal of all branches/fronds/leaves below the horizon line.
See below for an illustration of good palm pruning as well as a gallery of palm trees that have been trimmed correctly.
Do Palm trees fall over easily?
Palms are remarkable species of trees, and as they are mostly found in the tropics, they have evolved to be remarkably resilient to tropical weather including hurricanes and cyclones.
They can also thrive in sandy soils, and withstand exposure to salty soils and air.
Palm trees can fall, and this occasionally happens, but normally it’s when a tree has been exposed to a disease like Thielaviopsis, a fungus disease that causes trunk rot.
Extensive insect damage to supporting structures can also cause palm trees to become weak and fall in strong winds, but under normal circumstances, Palm trees can withstand winds that range between 75 to 150 miles per hour.
When to trim Palm trees
Some palm trees don’t require any trimming, as they have self-shedding leaves like Alexander’s palms. For the most part, however, you will need to get an expert once every year or two to tidy your palm up.
If you want to prune your palms for safety and in a safe manner, I suggest getting a certified arborist to ensure the job is done in a safe manner and for the benefit of the tree.
- Timothy K. Broschat, (2020) Pruning Palms. <https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP443> Accessed: 29-02-2024
- Florida Administrative Code & Florida Administrative Register, (2019) Preservation Of Native Flora Of Florida. <https://www.flrules.org/gateway/ChapterHome.asp?Chapter=5B-40> Accessed: 29-02-2024
- Harold E Moore, Natalie W. Uhl, (2024) Palm Tree. <https://www.britannica.com/plant/palm-tree> Accessed: 29-02-2024
- Mary L. Duryea, Eliana Kampf, (2021) Lessons Learned From Hurricanes. <https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FR173> Accessed: 29-02-2024