Fertilizing Palms By Ralph E. Mitchell The care and feeding of palms is a mystery to many people. For sure, proper nutrition for palms in our area is very important. Nutritional deficiencies not only lead to unthrifty looking plants, but may also lead to the eventual death of the palm. This may be especially true of introduced palms that may not find our alkaline soils as accommodating. However, with the proper complete materials, gardeners can keep common palms healthy and growing. Let's look at some palm fertilizer requirements and offer some nutrient management strategies. First, take a look at the condition of your palm. Color and leaf condition will tell the story of your palm's health. Light leaf color may mean the need for nitrogen. Yellowing or orange spots may indicate a need for potassium. A lack of manganese will cause "frizzletop" where the leaves are withered and appear scorched. Our soils are often so high in pH that this nutrient may have difficulty becoming available to the plant. Cold temperatures may even reduce the uptake of Mn. All of these nutrients must be provided in proper balance for good growth and healthy plants. Now, while it is true that certain severe nutritional deficiencies may need to be corrected with the element that is missing (manganese sulfate for manganese deficiency for example), a complete "palm special" fertilizer is the best maintenance fertilizer to use on a regular basis based on the label instructions. Typical granular applications in the landscape may involve 1.5 pounds per 100 square feet of canopy four times per year, or 1 pound per 100 square feet of canopy 6 times per year. This is best applied in a slow release form to include the elements of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, with trace amounts of zinc, copper and boron - again commonly found in a "palm special" fertilizer. Apply the fertilizer in a broadcast method and not up against the trunk or in thick bands. Take a look at your palms today. Are they crying out for some fertilizer? Instead of throwing a handful of this or that in questionable quantities, why not use the proper material in proper quantities and see some solid long lasting results to the benefit of key aspects in our landscapes - palms. For more information on all types of horticultural topics, please contact our Master Gardeners on the Plant Lifeline at 764-4340 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Our office is located at 25550 Harborview Road, Unit no. 3 in Port Charlotte. Our Plant Clinics are available across the county: Demonstration Garden at 7000 Florida Street, Punta Gorda from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m every Thursday. Englewood/Charlotte Public Library 9 a.m. to noon every Monday. Monthly Plant Clinics are Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the following locations: Peachland Promenades Publix ‹ second Saturday of the month; Burnt Store Publix ‹ third Saturday of the month Ralph Mitchell is the county extension director/horticulture agent for the Charlotte County Cooperative Extension Service. You may contact him by e-mail Ralph.Mitchell@charlottefl.com You may also contact a volunteer Master Gardener from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 764-4340 or by e-mail Master.Gardener@charlottefl.com Resources: Broschat, T. K. (2000) Palm Nutrition Guide, The University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS. Worden, E. C., Broschat, T. K. & Yurgalevitch, C. (2002) Care and Maintenance of Landscape Palms in South Florida, The University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS.