How to Trim a Palm Tree and When Not to Prune

Trim Brown Fronds and Fruit but Only When Necessary

person pruning a palm tree

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Palm trees are relatively low-maintenance when it comes to pruning, but it's still important to know when and how to trim a palm tree. Unlike many other plants, cutting back the green fronds won't help with growth. In fact, pruning healthy fronds will just minimize food production and ultimately weaken the tree.

However, occasionally you'll have to remove a healthy frond if it's too close to a structure or blocking a road or sidewalk. Otherwise, most of your pruning will be to remove brown fronds, as well as flowers and fruits. The best time to prune is in the spring, especially prior to hurricane and fire season.

When to Prune
  • To remove dead, dying, or damaged fronds

  • To eliminate flowers and fruits that can sap the tree's energy and be a hazard to those below if they drop

  • To improve visibility, such as near a roadway

  • To reduce fire hazards and other damage from fronds too close to structures

  • To get rid of unwanted seedlings

When Not to Prune
  • To shape for cosmetic purposes


If your palm tree is small enough to prune from the ground, then you are set to start. However, if you need to climb a ladder, you should consider hiring an arborist. It's more than likely the fronds will require a chain saw to cut, and an experienced professional will be able to do this safely. You must always prune from the top down; cutting lower fronds can dislodge upper fronds and trap the pruner against the trunk.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pruning saw
  • Hand pruners
  • Clean cloth or paper towel
  • Step stool (optional)

Protective Gear

  • Gardening gloves
  • Safety glasses


  • Rubbing alcohol


materials for pruning palm trees

The Spruce / Almar Creative

  1. Examine Your Palm Tree

    Begin by taking a good look all around your tree. Note whether any fronds are completely brown. You can leave fronds that are turning from green to yellow, as they're still providing the tree with some nourishment.

    Also, note whether any fronds have been broken and are at risk of falling. Likewise, look for fronds that are too close to structures. Finally, check for fruits and flowers, and put them on the to-prune list.


    Some palm trees are known as self-cleaning. They include king palms and Kentia palms. Self-cleaning palms naturally drop their dead fronds, so you generally just have to wait until they drop and pick them up from the ground. However, you still might need to prune in certain situations, such as to reduce fire and wind hazards.

    palm tree fronds

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  2. Plan the Prune

    Determine the tools you'll need. In most cases for DIY palm tree pruning, this will include a pruning saw and hand pruners. Prior to making your cuts, sanitize your pruning tools by wiping down the blades with rubbing alcohol on a clean cloth or paper towel.

    As the rubbing alcohol dries, determine the order in which you'll make your cuts, so nothing is ever at risk of falling on you. It's often best to work from the lower fronds upward, so you have a clearer path as you reach up for fronds. Bring out a step stool if necessary.

    planning where to prune

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  3. Make the Cuts

    Cut fronds at least 2 inches from the trunk. This will prevent damage to the trunk that can introduce pests and diseases.

    As you remove fronds, fruits and flowers will be easier to see. So be on the lookout for any that you hadn't previously noted in your tree inspection.

    cutting off a palm frond

    The Spruce / Almar Creative


    The rule of thumb for palms is to never remove more than one year's worth of growth at a time.

  4. Clean Up

    Responsibly dispose of your pruning waste. Fruits, flowers, and other debris left at the base of the tree might attract pests or even result in unwanted trees growing.

    If you're unsure of how to dispose of your palm fronds—especially diseased fronds—call your local public works department for information. Many areas have special instructions regarding palm waste.

    preparing to discard pruned palm fronds

    The Spruce / Almar Creative