Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

May 22, 2012

How far back to trim your palm tree or sago palm

Even though they aren't technically related, palm trees and sago palms grow the same way, from the middle. So, if you are wondering how far back you can trim these plants, rest assured that you can trim them back very hard. With a palm tree you can literally leave only one leaf growing (usually called the *spear leaf*). Palm tree trimmers call this *candle-sticking*, and it looks kind'a sad, but does no harm to the tree. In fact, if you're paying someone to trim, tell them to go ahead and take all of the leaves off that you want to (as long as they leave one or two in the middle). It will look sad for a while, but it will grow back even stronger.

For sago palms, you can go even further and cut all of the leaves off if you want to. As long as the plant isn't cut completely flat (like with a chain saw) across the top, new leaves will reappear in the spring. You would want to do this if all of the existing leaves were damaged from frost or something else. It will look like a fire-plug for a season, but it will recover.

My sago palm, shown here, took a devastating hit when it lost the shade of the tree that had been its companion for a decade. I cut off all of the leaves, and it looked like a short fire-plug for a while, and then they all grew back, as you can see.
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