Can these be transplanted?

jane__ny(9-10)February 16, 2014

I posted this on the Palm Forum but didn't get any answers.

I have two dwarf Palms (date?), which have to be moved. They are both healthy. We did not plant them so I have no idea how old they are. We bought the house a year ago.

Doing construction and they are in the way. I would like to save them if possible.

Any advice would be appreciated. I'd hate to lose them, but they need to be moved.


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Yes, you can dig them up, but understand these are very inexpensive palms and can be easily replaced. Second, as they grow, they become a maintenance issue as they are vigorous bloomers and will throw hundreds of seeds. Third, they have spiny petioles which makes them hazardous to trim.

If you do decide to dig them up, dig a very large root ball, at least 3' in diameter and equally as deep. Plant them immediately and slightly higher than the existing soil level. Water them in from the bottom before backfilling the hole to get all the air out from underneath. (Failing to do that will encourage fungus to grow.)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 9:16AM
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I've moved many shrubs, trees, etc. in New Orleans and Mississippi. Mostly successfully. My understanding is to move them in their dormant season or when heat stress is less. I realize you are in Florida, so now is the time to do it, before much warmer weather sets in. I also understand that when you dig the plant, you will lose some roots. So I've always learned to prune back the foliage so the lesser volume of roots will not have the full volume of foliage to keep up with. Saying that, I am not at all knowledgeable about palms and I don't know how they take to pruning, as far as the future look of the plant. Also, it is a good idea to use root stimulator or transplant solution (probably the same thing) which are sold at garden centers or Walmart or Lowe's etc as a liquid to enhance new root growth. Do not fertilize, however. Of course, water well until established. Mulch. Dig the (new) hole that you are going to place the palm in, before you dig the plant out. Make sure it is wide, as the other poster said. If possible, place the palm on a tarp, gently drag it to the new location, and quickly get it placed in the new hole so the roots are not exposed for long. I think you will be successful.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 9:29AM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

This one is so obvious - but when I was a newbie gardener (which you are not, Jane, but for the benefit of anyone who is) I made this mistake and nearly lost a maple tree - dig the new hole BEFORE digging up the palm. Have the water hose and the new spot ready to go so that the palm is sitting roots-in-the-air as briefly as possible. :) I transplanted a small maple tree, a sapling really, on a freakishly hot day in March around 8-10 years ago. I dug it up and then let it sit in the yard while I decided exactly where I was going to put it. The roots completely dried out - the tree made sure I knew how mad it was at me - dropped all of its new leaves - and it was two years before it was "right" again. His brother (another maple), who was never moved from his original location, is still twice his size.

Good luck!

This post was edited by love_the_yard on Sun, Feb 16, 14 at 10:43

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 10:41AM
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Thanks for all the tips. I was led to understand Palms are difficult to move once growing in the ground. I think they have tap roots.

I suppose they could be replaced, yet I don't think they would have been a choice if I had to pick a tree. Probably the best thing would be to just plant them somewhere and hope for the best. I won't put them in an important spot.

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 10:25PM
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Can be done, if you can handle the physical labor of it. None of ours have a tap root like a regular tree.
We moved a 15' tall date palm in our front yard, and although I was hoping it would croak, it's doing fine, unfortunately, so I'm stuck with it.
But, we had to dig out a gigantic ball (5' across?) and had to wedge it out onto our utility trailer to move it. And it took two grown men, two teen boys, and a lot of our come-along tie-down straps to do it. Plus I sat on the tongue of the trailer for a counterweight (which is why I'm doing Weight Watchers now!).

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 10:08AM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

I just learned this myself: most trees do not have tap roots. UF's EDIS/IFAS has a document called "Dispelling Misperceptions About Trees" and it is really interesting. See link below. Note that each of the bold statements in the document is true.

Carol in Jacksonville

Here is a link that might be useful: Misperceptions About Trees

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 11:29AM
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........also, and while palms are not really trees, the notion that because some roots inevitably will be lost in transplanting (true), one should therefore remove a corresponding amount of top growth, ie, branches, is unfounded. In fact, and again, this is for trees, not palms, chemicals produced in growing branch tips stimulate root development. So in actual trees/shrubs, one should never remove top growth merely to balance out lost root system. If a branch is broken or otherwise compromised, sure, go ahead and prune it. But that compensatory pruning idea is untrue.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 12:59PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Palms are easy to move since they have a really small tight root system.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 1:05PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions. Did some researching and learned a lot. Most Palms don't regenerate old roots so you don't need to cut a large root ball. They initiate new roots from the base of the trunk. Others, such as Coconut and Queen do better when half of their roots are saved.
Cutting off half the foliage is recommended. Timing is critical as they will live off stored water until they grow new roots.

Very interesting information and I think I will give these trees a shot. I have a spot I'd like to put them if they have a good chance of surviving.

Here is a link that might be useful: transplanting Palms

This post was edited by jane__ny on Mon, Feb 17, 14 at 21:02

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 9:01PM
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Irma_StPete(z9 FL)

Jane, I think your palms are very attractive. Good luck with them and with your building project.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 2:50PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Thanks for that post!!! Have some neighbors that are trying to move some Bismark palms notoriously difficult lol.
We dug up one side and root pruned and when warm weather returns will dig up the other side and move .. Do see new root growth on the cut side so it just might work ?? Have never moved date palms but suspect at that size shou ld be fairly easy Good luck gary

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 7:24AM
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coffeemom(Broward z10)

If you dig the hole before digging up the palm and transplant it quickly (as suggested) you shouldn't have to remove any fronds. Removing any green fronds will change the look of your palm. Then again it may be the look you are going for.
I tried to post a photo but GW said that D***'s garden is spam so I suggest googling mature robellini palm. See if the bare trunks are what you want.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 12:59PM
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Gary, the Bismark is one of those where the roots have to start over. Apparently many of the older roots don't survive. So it sounds like you are doing the right thing. The culture of Palms is quite different from 'regular' trees. Please post back after you move it.

Coffeemom, I'm hoping I don't have to cut the fronds, but I'll read the article more closely. I've seen transplanted Palms with their leaves cut short. Apparently certain types have a better chance of survival when their leaves are cut back.


    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 11:34PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

So far it's been interesting as we dug up around a third of one side cut the roots and left it exposed . Within a couple of weeks it started to grow new roots . about april will do the other side then move it . Obviously will already have new roots so should cut the shock considerably ??
Will probably prune the old fronds which should help with water loss Fortunately they have teenage kids who need something to do and have strong backs lol Will probably be July before we know if it worked lol Large Bismarks are sooo slow growing and expensive so think it will be worth the effort ??lol gary

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 2:45AM
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You are right, Gary, too valuable to replace. The article states to cover the new roots with plastic before moving to reduce damage to those new roots. You don't want those new roots to get too long, maybe they should plan on moving it in March. It said something about, if you lose those new roots the plant will not recover.

It will be interesting to see how the plant does. I'm not so worried about my small date palm, they are fairly easy to replace.

Keep us updated.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 12:33PM
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> I've seen transplanted Palms with their leaves cut short.

There are various reasons for doing this, most of which have little to do with keeping the tree healthy, unfortunately. Landscapers tend to cut back to the bud when moving large palms because it makes them easier to handle and less likely to blow off a truck.

Around here where I live, the HOA is made up of seasonal northerners who believe that nothing looks worse than a palm with fronds, so they constantly force the grounds people to give the trees Dr. Seuss style haircuts--down to the bud and one or two upward springing fronds. (I'm sure they'd really love to whitewash the trunks, too, if they could find anyone who'd do it.)

So sometimes cutting back is done because it's good, but mostly no, just a convenience for the movers.

This post was edited by writersblock on Sat, Feb 22, 14 at 14:24

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 12:51PM
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Thanks all. Truth is, I don't know much about palms. It is quite interesting to see big ones moving down the road on flatbeds down there! It sure doesn't take much a of a "root ball" to move a sizable plant. And again, while my palm knowledge is limited, I sure do like the look of Bismarckias as I've seen around Ft. Myers. Well worth the effort I'd say.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 6:44PM
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