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  • Lauren Adams

Why You Should Never 'Hurricane Cut' Your Palms

Getting ready to trim your cabbage palm trees? Here in Florida, we do a lot of this every year. We know you want to reduce the frequency of trimming and you may also want to make them look as clean as possible. Have you been told you need your palms "Hurricane Cut" to make them weather storms better or just that it makes them healthier? You don't and it's not true. In fact, cutting your palms into a Hurricane Cut so they only have a few fronds left at the top will make them more susceptible to wind damage and disease. The cut was developed to increase the chance of survival when transplanted as it decreases water loss through the fronds. But that's the only time it should be used and why newly planted palms in the landscape look like they've been compulsively cleaned. Obviously, someone liked it and it caught on as the tree industry standard. But most Floridians appreciate our state tree, the Sabal palmetto's natural beauty and it should be preserved.

Hurricane Cut Cabbage Palm
Hurricane Cut Cabbage Palm

Plants need food and they not only make it using their foliage, but they also store the nutrients here. If we remove most of it, they will starve and weaken. This can cause trunk thinning or abrupt constriction which can leave areas of misshapen trunk. Not pretty. Additionally, it has been proven that palms with more fronds have a better chance of surviving storms. The palm fronds protect the apical meristem, often called the heart of the palm. If this is damaged, the palm will die.

Really, it would be best not to remove ANY green fronds from your palms and just remove the big fruits and dead fronds that can make a palm look messy. But if you feel you must manicure your palms the industry standard is to keep the canopy at least above 9:00 and 3:00. In other words, only trim fronds that hang down below a line parallel to the ground.

If you are hiring a professional tree company, take some precautions for yourself and your trees. This job has a very high level of risk and requires a professional company that is operating with extreme care. Ask for proof of insurance and actually look at their certificate. Make sure it is still valid. All tree companies should carry this with them at all times. Trimming palms with spikes is not recommended as this can damage the trunk. Most palms can be trimmed from a ladder or the ground with a pole saw. And if your tree company doesn't look like they are operating safely, they probably aren't.

Don‘t get me started on Crape Myrtles....

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