Large-sized palms, freshly dug from a nursery field or growing in large pots, weigh hundreds of pounds. Once planted, the upright palm may wobble or lean as a result of soil settling or strong winds. Until the roots grow outward and stabilize the upper weight of the canopy, landscapers often stake palms for no longer than one year after planting. Straps and braces must be removed so that they do not constrict vascular tissues during expansion of the trunk as it grows.
Newly planted large palms, such as those with at least 6 feet of trunk, require bracing. The taller the palm and more exposed to winds, the more important bracing is for the palm's root establishment and overall safety. Short palms planted next to a building, sidewalk, patio or parking lot may also warrant bracing, especially if the tropical region is entering the tropical storm/hurricane season. Bracing short palms makes sense if you don't want winds toppling a palm or a leaning trunk next to utility lines, blocking clearance, or falling onto picnic tables or playground equipment.
Bracing or staking palms provides anchorage and stability to allow newly forming roots to grow outward into the surrounding soil. Once roots stabilize the palm, bracing must be removed. A minimum bracing time frame of six to eight months is recommended by Alan W. Meerow of the University of Florida. Do not brace palms for more than 12 months. Consider leaving braces up on palms as they endure their first tropical storm season. Including the first storm season, still don't keep the braces on for longer than 12 months.
Palms are not true trees with a protective bark and cambium growth layer underneath. Any damage such as nail puncture wounds do not heal on palm trunks. A tripod or quadripod wood support system most appropriately brace tall palms. Wrap 3-foot-long 2-by-4-inch planks with multiple layers of burlap or old blanket fabric as padding. Fasten these padded plants vertically around the palm trunk with metal strapping. Nail the strapping into the planks, making sure no nail tips pierce the trunk. Then, place long 2-by-4-inch boards at an angle from the trunk to create a support structure. Nail an end of the long plank to each padded plank piece strapped onto the trunk. Again, don't puncture long nails through so far that they wound the trunk. Wedge the long plank bottoms into the soil to brace the tree. In soft soil, drive a pointed, 24-inch-long wood wedge at the end of the plank in the soil to stabilize the long plank support.
Importance of Removal
The bracing of tall palms merely helps stabilize them during windy periods. They are not permanent structures, even when used to brace upright and replant hurricane-toppled palms. Keeping the straps around the trunk for too long constricts expansion of the trunk and prevents flow of sap. Moreover, after 8 to 12 months, sufficient roots should have grown in the evenly moist soil environment. Removing bracing puts full weight load on the roots and allows them to further grow in a manner to better anchor the tall palm in winds.
- "Your Florida Landscape"; Robert J. Black and Kathleen C. Ruppert, Eds.; 1998
- Clemson Cooperative Extension; Palms and Cycads; Nancy Doubrava et al.; December 2007
- Florida Department of Transportation: Landscape Installation Design Standards
- University of Arizona: Arizona Landscape Palms
- Tree Staking, Inc.: Arborbrace
- University of Florida; Restoring Trees after a Hurricane; Edward F. Gilman et al.
Jacob J. Wright
Jacob J. Wright became a full-time writer in 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. He has worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Wright holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.