Planting the Palm
1. Remove the root ball cover (usually burlap or plastic) to expose the roots. Avoid shaking the soil from the roots any more than necessary, since this will allow them to dry and cause the delicate, hairlike feeder roots to die. Also avoid splaying the root ball before planting; although it may seem like you’re giving the roots room to breathe, this process actually does more to hurt the root ball than help it.
2. Ease the tree into position, making sure the top of the root ball is slightly lower than the level of the adjacent ground. Typically, the top of the tree’s root ball should remain only 1 or 2 inches (2.5 or 5.1 cm) below the ground when the tree is seated and the hole is filled all around (backfilled).
3. Straighten the tree. Palm trees often have curved trunks, so the plant may not be plumb (vertical) when you finish the project.
- Also make sure to find the front side of the palm, e.g. the side that has been given the most sunlight. Depending on your preference, you’ll probably want the sunny side of the palm facing a spot where you can enjoy it. If the palm is in the front yard, that probably means facing the street; if it’s in the backyard, that probably means facing the house.
4. Backfill the hole barely covering crown. Fill the hole with a washed plaster-grade sand backfill, watering as you go. The sand backfill will ensure good drainage plus provide rigidity so you may not have to brace the tree.
5. Build a soil barrier. Build a soil barrier a bit like a berm or dam all the way around the outside of the hole. This will help retain water for the newly planted tree. Once you’ve finished the barrier, you are ready to water. The barrier will guarantee enough moisture to keep the palm’s roots from hardening.
1. Stake the tree to keep it standing, if necessary. Palm trees do not have large tap roots that support it, so they must be temporarily braced to keep them standing until their roots become established. That is, unless you are using the washed plaster sand backfill. This normally provides enough rigidity to avoid using braces.
- Wrap the trunk at least 1/4 up the tree’s height with a 16 inch (40.6 cm) wide piece of burlap to keep the bracing board cleats from chaffing the bark when the tree tries to sway in high winds.
- Drive stakes on three sides, equidistant apart around the tree’s circumference, and fasten lumber support braces (2X4 treated lumber will work) to blocks of wood secured to the trunk with tie wire, placed over the burlap.
2. Water the tree thoroughly. You may want to create a small earthen dam around the root ball to keep the water from shedding away from the tree’s roots while you water, particularly if the tree is on a hillside or in soil that doesn’t absorb water easily. Mulching the base of the tree will also help to keep the soil moist. Use about 3 inches (7.6 cm) of non-compacting mulch.
3. Hold off on fertilizing the palm for six to eight weeks after planting. Remember, transplanting your palm tree already poses a shock. Unfortunately, adding fertilizer poses another shock. To minimize the shock your tree might experience and maximize its chances of thriving, don’t fertilize until six to eight weeks after planting.
- When you do decide to fertilize, remember to use a slow-acting fertilizer, and hold off placing the fertilizer directly near the trunk. Place the fertilizer one or two feet around the trunk of the tree to avoid over-fertilizing.
- You should also consider improving your palm’s soil with mycorrhizal fungi. Palms evolved to have a symbiotic relationship with these fungi and thrive when they are present in the soil, as the fungi colonize the tree’s root system and help it take in nutrients and water. You can purchase mycorrhizal treatments online or from plant stores.
4. Keep the tree watered as often as necessary until it is established, if the soil is gravel and sand it will need more watering. The establishment period will depend on the type of tree, its size, and whether it was a container plant or a wrapped root ball specimen. Generally, the roots should be watered thoroughly, but not flooded. Watering daily for the first few weeks, weekly for the following few months, then tapering off the watering is a normally suggested schedule.