Dig the hole for your palm tree at least 4-6 inches larger than the container width. Put 2-4 inches of sand at the bottom of the hole and backfill around the root ball with 50/50 mix of sand and original soil. Be sure to blend bone meal or triple super phosphate (0-45-0) into this soil mix to assure adequate root growth, and firmly tamp down soil around the root ball to eliminate any air pockets. With remaining soil (clay), build a 2-3 inch berm, that has a diameter of about 3 to 4 feet, around the tree. This retention area should be capable of holding 3 to 5 inches of water; this will allow water to drain down through the root ball. Be sure to fill this well with 2 to 3 inches of mulch to keep the palm’s roots cool and moist and help reduce water loss in summer. If you are using rock or gravel as a groundcover it may be placed over the mulch. Anything but leaving bare soil!
If you are planting your palm in a lawn area, make a 1 to 2 inch depression in the soil, approximately 24 to 30 inches in width around the tree. In this way, a retention basin is created into which the lawn sprinkler water will collect. Even though this basin is much shallower than one created by a berm, the frequent lawn irrigation will supply adequate water. Tropical palms planted in lawn areas tend to adapt faster due to the frequent watering and increased humidity in the immediate area.
Under no circumstances should you plant palms
in areas with poor drainage!
As a rule of thumb, if water stands in a hole or tree well for more than 15 to 20 minutes, drainage is inadequate for palm tree health. Consideration should be given to another location. If already planted, the palm should be removed and the hole enlarged. To remedy the problem, backfill with enough sand before planting and avoid over watering.
Although palms can be planted any time of the year, it is important to carefully monitor the amount of heat or cold the site experiences for six months after planting to insure success. Palms slow down or stop growth completely during our cooler months and when planted during this time may take as long as 6 months to establish new roots due to lower soil temperatures. At this time, they will need less water and fertilizer.
Watering twice weekly in winter is usually enough although, in soil that drains well, 3 times a week is okay. Palms establish roots quickly during our warm months (April-October) due to the higher soil temperatures. Trees planted from early spring through summer usually set new roots in 2-3 months.
Watering 3 times a week is best during summer months when temperatures exceed 100 degrees. Daily irrigation is allowed in fast draining soils, however in heavy clay, watering every other day with a longer cycle will allow deeper watering and encourage roots to grow deeper. This will help them stay cooler in summer and will minimize leaf burn. Skipping a day between watering also allows good soil drainage so roots can absorb the oxygen they need to stay healthy.The root ball area should remain moist, but never saturated during the first 6-12 months after planting. On the other hand, never allow the root zone to dry out completely during this time or irreversible harm could be done to the palm. If you are not sure the tree has enough moisture, go ahead and water it. Adequate water is definitely better than too little in our dry climate!
Newly transplanted palms should not be expected to generate many new leaves during this establishment period because the plant’s energy is directed into making new roots. New top growth indicates a successful transplant. At this time, feeding may begin on a regular basis. Be sure and use a fertilizer that is especially formulated for palm trees.
Palm fertilizers differ from other types by having higher amounts of minor or trace minerals. These include, iron, manganese, magnesium, sulfur, and other micronutrients. Granular food should be used 2 to 4 times a year on tropical palms or if using “Lutz” palm fertilizer spikes, 2 to 3 times a year is best. For desert or other non-tropical palms fertilizing half this amount should be sufficient.
Queen Palm Care
Queen palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana) have been used for many years in the Phoenix metro area for quick shade, screening and the lush tropical accent they add to any landscape. They grace gardens across the valley, from older historic districts and resorts, to new homes being built all around the city. Although Queen palms are used in a variety of landscape designs, they tend to be happier in partial or full tropical landscapes as this usually assures that they will receive the amount of water and fertilize they require for optimum health.
Queen palms are native to the South American woodlands of Brazil and Argentina; they are regarded as a tropical palm rather than a desert palm, (i.e. Mexican and California fan palms.) Together with Pygmy Date, Cuban Royal, Triangle and other palms from more tropical areas, queens require regular feeding with palm food to insure maximum health and beauty. A well-formulated palm fertilizer should contain all the minerals important to the health of tropical palms. This includes adequate amounts of nitrogen, magnesium, sulfur, iron, copper and especially manganese.
There has never been a documented case of bud rot in Queen Palms!
Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Report on Bud Rot
After several years in the landscape Queen palms are susceptible to a manganese deficiency problem known as “frizzle top.” This condition is recognized by the “frizzled” look of new leaves as they emerge from the crown, or heart, of the palm. The affected leaves appear stunted and blackened. If this condition is left untreated the palm tree continues to weaken and will eventually die. The common believe that a heart rot fungus (Phytophora) affects Queens is false. A study by the Arizona Department of Agriculture determined that in 10,000 cases of "frizzle top" a fungus was present in only 2. By feeding your Queen palms regularly you can avoid this problem.
If it occurs increase the amount of manganese by using fertilizer spikes or manganese sulfate. Use the powdered form in the ground around the trunk and, if possible, as a slurry in the crown of the palm.
One of the best ways to insure your palms have sufficient minerals is to feed with Lutz palm tree fertilizer spikes 2 to 3 times per year. Palm spikes are formulated for a slow application of nutrients over a period of several months and should be placed around the palm tree 18 to 24 inches from the trunk, 2 to 4 inches below soil level. Lutz maintenance spikes are used for regular feeding but may be combined with Lutz manganese spikes to treat a “frizzle top” condition. A quicker response is obtained using a granular palm food such as “Plant Magic palm food”. Granular foods should be applied every 3 months in 4 to 6 inch holes placed about 18 to 24 inches from the trunk of the palm. As with palm spikes, the irrigation emitters should be placed away from the trunk so that they are approximately over the fertilizer that was applied.
Along with proper feeding, correct watering is critical for healthy Queen palms (and other tropical palms!) As a rule of thumb, newly planted palms should be watered about 3 times a week for the first summer, and a minimum of twice a week in winter. Sufficient water to moisten the entire root ball, and 6” into the surrounding soil, is the correct amount to use each watering period.
Queen palms that have been planted for 3 to 5 years or more may sometimes not respond to these treatments if the surrounding soil ph has become excessively high. The heavy clay soils in Maricopa County are typically alkaline but may become excessively so when lime leaches from surrounding concrete, such as walkways, house foundations and walls. Periodic applications of acid to the surrounding soil will lower the ph and allow the palm’s roots to chemically bind with nutrients allowing them to feed the palm. A commercial soil acidifier may be used or a solution of 1 cup muriatic acid (pool acid) in 5 gallons of water. Depending on the palm’s size the recommended application rate is 2 to 4 five gallon buckets of solution to treat the entire root ball area. A substantial watering 24 hours before will insure against burning and prepare the palm for treatment.
By following these guidelines your Queen palms will stay healthy and continue to grace your yard for many more years.