Don’t Prune Palm Trees in the Winter

How often palm trees should be cut back

Arizona is a beautiful state with the capacity to grow plants and trees from all over the world, and palm trees are among the most common, at least here in the valley. Palm trees are made for the heat and can grow in Arizona as well as they do in the tropics, without too much trouble. They need little maintenance and only need to be trimmed or pruned once or twice a year, but knowing when to prune palm trees is the tricky part. (Hint: Don’t prune palm trees in the Winter.)

Did You Know?

Many Arizonans consider winter the perfect time of year to prune trees because most trees come from colder climates than ours and go dormant in the winter, but you don’t actually want to prune palm trees in the winter. In fact, there are some people who suggest never trimming your palm trees, but that isn’t a practice we recommend.

There are a number of different heights and types of palm trees, but despite their differences, one thing is universally true—they look nicer and healthier when they’re properly maintained. Here are a few rules of thumb for maintaining strong, attractive palm trees:

  • Don’t prune palm trees in the winter. Wait until the spring.
  • Only remove the dry, dead palm fronds.
  • Call a professional for anything you can’t comfortably reach from a 5-6ft  A-frame ladder.
  • Trim Safely.

Waiting Until Spring

There is a great reason to wait until spring to prune your palm trees: Insulation. Dead palm fronds, though they are ugly and droopy, can protect the trunk of your palm tree from the sunlight and heat of the summer sun, as well as the frost and cold of the winter. Palm trees thrive in Arizona for 8-10 months of the year, but in our cold season, without their umbrella of branches to trap warm air in and protect their core from the cold, you could lose them.

Removing Dead Palm Fronds

Palm tree branches (or palm fronds) are not like regular tree branches. They don’t sprout new branches from themselves supporting more and more weight. Instead, each branch comes directly from the trunk. With other trees, you can trim off branches and manicure the canopy to a pleasing shape, while removing the deadwood. Palm trees have leaves that taper from wide to narrow at the end of the frond, like a bird’s feather. Thus, trimming any branch back will result in a “V” shaped end, which won’t look good.

Palm fronds can be left to their own devices in general as the tree naturally spirals fronds in a manner which staggers the branches, so each one can receive maximum sunlight. It’s only the dead leaves you need to worry about cutting. With a few simple tools like a pruning saw, pruners, and a garden knife, you can remove the dried-out limbs without much trouble. The reasons you need to remove the dead branches are:

  1. Dried out branches are a fire hazard. They can catch a spark quickly and spread it to other trees or structures in a rapidly expanding inferno.
  2. If left to build up, some of the fronds that are very heavy and high up, can fall or be blown off during our summer monsoon storms and other wind and rainstorms. Falling branches, otherwise known as “Widowmakers” are unpredictable, but as you drive around the valley in the summer, you will probably see some dried out fronds hanging in neighboring citrus trees, over fences, or from power lines.
  3. Rodents and birds like to make nests in or behind dead hanging fronds. They also often burrow into the trunk of the tree itself. This can damage and even kill the tree, which presents a whole host of other problems, such as dead palm trees snapping and falling over in a monsoon, which would be like a thousand-pound widowmaker.

When to Call in a Professional

If you’re pruning your trees yourself, you’ll need to be sure you have a ladder you can reach the fronds with, without standing on top of the ladder or leaning it against the tree. Few things are as disorienting as balancing on a ladder and working with your arms over your head. It’s easy to lose your balance and fall or get knocked off of your perch. Not to mention a 10lb+ cutting tool over your head and a 30-100lb tree branch that you’re cutting off. Please stay safe: It’s cheaper than hospital bills or funeral arrangements.

If you don’t have the tools, the time, or the desire to prune your palm trees, give us a call. We’ll give you the information you need to know, and we’ll prune them safely and quickly. If you are considering pruning it yourself, there are a few things you’ll want to consider.

DIY Safety Tips

If you are able to manage your own palm tree cut, there are some safety tips that will help you.

  1. Start with the lowest branch and work your way up and around the natural spiral of the tree. This will ensure that your branches aren’t getting hung up on neighboring fronds, or dropping on your own head.
  2. The closer you are to the trunk the more new leaves you will come in contact with. New leaves at the base of the fronds start out as stiff spikes 4-10 inches long. If you’re not careful, they stab you. I have seen it happen, and it will quickly bring your job to a halt! If you’re at the top of a ladder, it can startle you into an even more dangerous situation.
  3. Wear safety glasses, protective gloves, heavy pants, and a long sleeve shirt while working. This ensures that neither the fronds, the trunk, nor your tools are able to reach your skin during accidental contact.

So, while you’re trimming your other trees and shrubs this winter, remember to wait until Spring for your palm trees. And unless they’re small palms, it’s probably a better idea to call in the professionals here at Green Keeper Tree Care to handle all of your tree needs.

Keep Your Trees Healthy in the Winter

Keep Your Trees Healthy in the Winter

Wondering how to keep your trees healthy this Winter?

3 tips to help you keep your trees healthy all winter long.

Winter will probably be pretty mild here in the valley this year. It usually is and it’s been a few years since we’ve had a real freeze here. It may not get below freezing or even below 40°F in the Arizona desert most of the time. However, it still gets cold enough to damage your trees. If we do have our first cold winter in the last few years, the outcome could be even worse for your trees. We’ve got a few tips to help your trees see their way safely into the new year.

Here are 3 tips to help you take care of your tree(s) this winter:

  1. Water your trees once a month when the temperature starts cooling down.
  2. Use bed sheets or burlap to cover the branches of young trees. Do not use plastic sheeting or tarps. They will trap the moisture and can damage the trees.
  3. Get rid of any dead foliage and overgrowth.

Make sure that your trees have their best chance to survive the winter by reducing your watering, covering the younger trees, and getting rid of all dead foliage or overgrowth will help keep your trees healthy and thriving.

If you plan on using this season of dormancy to trim your trees back, take these tips into consideration and you’ll have healthy trees all winter long. 

For more information on keeping your trees healthy or some help with it, contact Green Keeper Tree Care today.

The Danger of Dead or Diseased Tree Limbs

The Danger of Dead or Diseased Tree Limbs

Are your dead or diseased tree limbs putting you in danger?

When you look up into your trees, do you see patches of brown in the beautiful greenery? You might be able to ignore it, especially if it isn’t facing your front door or your curb, but that might be a dangerous idea.

If you have dead or diseased tree limbs hanging over you, you could be risking:

  • Deadfall
  • Spread of Disease
  • Attracting Rodents
  • Death of the Tree


High winds are a big test for all of the trees in the valley, especially during the monsoon. As 2018’s monsoon draws to a close, you may be left with several broken limbs and branches. These limbs and branches can drop on your house, or nearby houses, on vehicles, or even on unlucky people or animals. It’s a big deal.

Spread of Disease

Whether your dead limb was killed due to infection, or just cracked and died, the whole tree can become susceptible to rot. Infections don’t just kill a limb and leave the rest of the tree alone; they continue to eat away at the rest of the tree, starting with other nearby branches.

Attracting Rodents

Small animals love to take advantage of tangled knots in the dead wood of trees. Some are more benign, like squirrels, but even those can do damage to trees. As animals eat away at your tree, the tree will weaken and will become more likely to crack in high winds. The damage can be even more extensive if the inhabitants are rats. Tree and roof rats are damage-causing, disease-carrying menaces that can quickly take over a home and then a neighborhood. It’s best not to give them a foothold.

Death of the Tree

Any of the three previous problems can lead up to the eventual death of your tree, but sometimes, they happen in sequence. When a tree dies, the whole thing stiffens up and becomes brittle. If deadfall is dangerous, dead trees are a disaster waiting to happen! Falling trees can take out entire houses. In fact, there were a few houses destroyed due to treefall this monsoon season and fortunately, the destruction was property damage and not the loss of life.

If you have a dead tree, please call us ASAP! And if you have dead limbs in your tree’s canopy, give us a call so we can prevent the damage from spreading further.

How to Maintain Queen Palms in the Winter

Queen Palms in the Winter

Keeping Healthy Queen Palms in the Winter Takes a Little Work

Queen Palms in the WinterFor many years, Queen Palms have been used for quick shade, screening, and a lush tropical accent across the valley. Queen Palms are great to use in landscape designs, are very clean, and are easy to grow. Queen Palms originally came from Brazil and Argentina, but can now be found in the western part of the U.S. where winter temperatures don’t drop below 20 degrees. These tropical gems can grow up to 20 feet tall and like all plants, need proper treatment and care in order to thrive.

When it comes to caring for a Queen Palm, there are only three important factors in keeping them healthy.

  1. Watering Correctly: Queen Palms are quite similar to grass. They don’t have extremely deep roots, therefore, it’s important to water the entire root base.  You can make sure you’ve watered enough by getting a long screwdriver and inserting it into the soil two to three feet away from the trunk. If you’re unable to do so, keep watering.
  2. Fertilize: Manganese is critical to the health of Queen Palms. Unfortunately, this rare nutrient is in short supply in Arizona and must be fed to the Queen Palms by fertilizer. The best fertilizer for these royal palms is a manganese-rich formula. A tree’s root system can be as wide as the canopy itself. So it’s important to space emitters wide and not close to the trunk. This will promote root growth and improve tree health.
  3. Trimming: Not only does trimming help keep Queen Palms looking magnificent, but helps keep them healthy too. When a frond begins to yellow or brown, it’s time to remove it so a new frond can grow in. This enables the tree to give all their healthy nourishment to a new one.

Queen Palms are beautiful trees and give Arizona a unique tropical look in the middle of the desert. It’s important to take proper care of them so they can continue making Arizona spectacular. If you have a Queen Palm tree or two and need some help caring for it, call Green Keeper today and we’d be more than happy to come out and help.


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