How to Water Palm Trees

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Propering watering will help your palm tree withstand stressful conditions.
Image Credit: Wheatfield/iStock/GettyImages

How do you water palm trees (Arecaceae) correctly? Figuring out the watering aspect of palm tree care is essential to help keep your palm tree healthy and free of stress. Too much water puts the palm tree at risk for root rot, an often deadly condition, while too little water can slow the tree's growth. Established palms typically do best with two to three weekly deep-watering sessions. Get into a routine for watering your palms to keep your landscape trees beautiful and healthy.

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How Often to Water Palms

Specific watering needs can vary based on the palm tree species, but in general, palm trees thrive with consistent moisture levels. The age of the palm tree affects how often you need to water it. Newly planted palm trees benefit from daily watering for the first week. In the second week, water your new palm tree every other day. Starting in week three, move to three weekly watering sessions until the palm tree is well-established.

Established palm trees typically need to be watered two to three times per week. However, the growing conditions, temperature and weather all play a role in the timing. Lots of rain naturally supplies the moisture your palm needs, so you might not need to supplement with irrigation until the rain eases. Hot, dry periods require more frequent watering. During colder periods, you might need to back off and water the palm tree less frequently.

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Checking Soil Moisture

To determine when to water, check the soil around the tree for dryness. A soil moisture meter can help you determine when it's time to water, but you can also use your finger or a shovel to feel the soil. If the soil is dry a finger-length deep, it's time to water. Another option is to take a small shovel and gently dig down a few inches to see if it's dry. If the soil is still moist, you can hold off on watering. Letting the palm tree get a little too dry is usually better than overwatering it.

How to Water Palm Trees

Palm trees appreciate slow, deep watering to the roots. A slow-dripping soaker hose is an ideal option for directing water to the root zone. If you dump lots of water onto the palm tree's roots quickly, it might run off to other areas before it can absorb into the soil, leaving your palm tree roots needing more moisture. Water until the soil is deeply moist but avoid making it saturated. The best time to water a palm tree is in the morning or evening during cooler temperatures.

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Signs of Overwatering

The leaves often show signs of watering issues first. Note how the leaves look routinely to spot a watering problem early when it's still correctable. When the palm tree is getting too much water, the leaves are often discolored — either yellow or brown — and the canopy is wilted. The newer leaves sometimes appear brown when they emerge in an overwatered palm tree.

Signs of Underwatering

Palm trees that need more water usually display brown and dry-looking leaves. You'll likely notice that the tips of the older leaves turn brown first. The palm fronds might start to droop or wilt. The tree could also experience slowed growth if it's consistently underwatered. If you notice those signs, dig down into the soil to check for dryness. Try increasing your watering and see if it corrects the leaf issues.

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Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.