Somebody Needs to Have Their Loppers Taken Away…

It’s that time of year again.

Summertime is palm-pruning season, which means that we’ll be seeing a lot of beautiful palm trees around town receiving some pretty bad haircuts by people who really should know better. Cutting palms back too far is bad for the tree and it looks positively awful, and yet every year there are countless trees around Vegas that wind up looking like enormous, frilly appetizer toothpicks.

I was able to catch one of these pros at work on my street just last week. It only took him the better part of two mornings to take about a dozen-and-a-half lovely Washingtonias from this…

California Fan Palm


to this


Pruning Californias 6 gom-min


I know, I know. Wow, right?

Homeslice really went to town on those palms. I actually started to go over and tell him in a mildly facetious tone that he’d missed a couple of fronds, but I was afraid he wouldn’t catch my point and would just go back to cut off the remaining two or three he’d left on each trunk.

The sad thing is, this is far from an isolated incident. In fact, it looks like these W. filiferas a couple of blocks away got a visit from a guy that was trained by the first one, but decided that his friend was being just a tad too conservative with his cuts.


palm trees, bad pruning, how to prune palm trees

Good golly, Miss Molly, please make it stop. 

We Don’t Have To Live Like This…

The thing is, a properly pruned palm is so much better-looking and it’s less work for the person doing the cutting, so I’ve never really understood this prevailing tendency to take things so far overboard. As it turns out, a friend of mine in the tree service business who does know better has explained that at times, at least part of the problem lies with the homeowner or property manager. After seeing these overpruned palms around town, they assume that it’s the right way to do it, which leads them to believe that they’re not getting their money’s worth if their own palms aren’t cut the same way.

That’s why I’d like to help inform anyone who prunes their own palms or pays a landscaper to do the job. There’s a right way to do it and if more people see it done correctly, perhaps we can start to reduce the number of badly-pruned palms around town over time.


So just what should a palm tree look like after it’s been pruned, you ask? If you think of the head of the palm as the face of a clock, the general rule of thumb is that nothing above the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions should be cut. There are a couple of good reasons for leaving the lower fronds on your palm tree. First of all, these lower fronds will drop down over the course of the autumn and lay flat against the trunk, thereby serving as protection from the cold for next year’s fronds, which are developing inside. The top part of the trunk where the new growth comes out is known as the heart and it’s the most cold-sensitive segment of a palm. That’s also why you shouldn’t skin a palm all the way up to the top of the trunk.

The other reason it’s a bad idea to overprune a palm is that all of those green fronds are working to provide the tree with the nutrients it needs in order to produce healthy new growth next summer. This means that when you cut off too many fronds, it’s actually damaging the next year’s growth in two ways.

Because there are a lot of people who expect their palms to be pruned to within an inch of its life, you’ll want to let your landscaper know before they start cutting that you don’t want yours overpruned. Ultimately, if enough people ask for it to be done right, maybe those who wield the loppers will start to do it on their own.


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