I have a palm tree next to the house that is about 15 ft tall. It has multiple trunks and the trunks have a “v” shape all over them. They have fan shaped greenery at the top. If I cut down the trunks to a shorter size, will more green “fans” grow again?
Gloria, via email
Palms are interesting plants. They are not really trees in the sense of a plant that grows a woody trunk. They are classified as monocots which mean among other things that the stems (trunks) are made of fibers instead of wood, the water and nutrients move thorough multiple bundles in the stem and the flower parts are in multiples of three. Palms are more closely related to corn plants and turf grasses than oak trees.
There are more than 2,500 species of palms. They are generally evergreen, shrub-like, tree-like or vines. Most grow as solitary-trunked specimens thought there are species which cluster and a few are prostrate, creeping, or climbing. Even with this diversity, palm stems or trunks rarely branch.
It is the plant’s ability to branch that allows for the pruning and new growth we take advantage of in the landscape. If hibiscus shrubs are sheared or crape myrtle trees topped in to a lollipop, these mis-pruned plants grow new shoots from multiple growth points located up and down the stems.
Palms generally only have two growth points, one at the top deep in the crown that generated stem and leaves and one at the bottom that generates roots. If the top bud or growth region is damaged or removed, the palm will not sprout and recover, it will die. Even palms with multiple trunks such as paurotis and lady palms will not sprout from the individual trunks if cut below the top bud.
No palm trunk should be pruned below the bud. And while I have the chance to say it again, green leaves should never be removed from a palm.