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McdeltaT

Help with My Alexander Palm! Please...

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McdeltaT

First off, this community rocks.  I've been stalking the site since moving to Florida, and reading and learning a lot, and just recently signed up.  The wealth of information is spectacular. 

So my question is in regards to my Alexander Palm in my front yard.  It was planted in April...initially way to close to the house...and I relocated it myself about 2 months ago.  The problem is not new...it's been happening basically since day 1.  I have a double Alexander in my backyard and that is doing very well and doesn't look like the one in the back yard.

So essentially the lower fronds droop and essentially touch the ground.  The tree looks sad, and these branches just bend resulting in the droopy look.  I've tried extensive watering and I've fertilized a few times.  I put the fertilizer around the tree (2ft away from the trunk) in DRY conditions and then watered.  Next time I will ensure the entire area is very saturated before placing fertilizer...something I read on here.  

We have sandy soils in St Petersburg, FL.

My questions:

  • Any ideas on why my tree looks like this?
  • What can I do to bring it back to life and "strengthen" the branches so they don't bend like they are currently?  Any specialty supplements or soil recommended?
  • Should I cut the lower fronds when they do this?
  • Also, see the third trunk. I hate that thing.  I wish it was a double (like the one in my backyard).  It doesn't even show any wood....but this should eventually grow, right?

Again my Alexander in the backyard does not have this problem, and it looks healthy.  The trees were both planned at the same time.

Any advice is appreciated!  Thanks.

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IMG_4781.JPG

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kinzyjr
  • Any ideas on why my tree looks like this?
    • I'm not an expert on identifying exactly which Alexander Palm it is, but does it get a lot of direct sunlight?  My archontophoenix alexandrae seems to like having some shade.  When I had to trim my avocado tree before and after Hurricane Irma, some of the fronds on my AA started to bronze from the increased sun exposure.
  • What can I do to bring it back to life and "strengthen" the branches so they don't bend like they are currently?  Any specialty supplements or soil recommended?
    • Sounds like you are adding nutrients to the soil already.  You may want to back up on that.  Fertilizing a palm that has been in the ground less than a year can sometimes cause issues with the roots.  On this area, there are a lot of other members that can give you much better advice as I don't use a lot of artificial fertilizers here.
  • Should I cut the lower fronds when they do this?
    • No, not if they are still green.  Once they are dead, I would trim them off.  You might want to trim off the lowest 6 inches if they are touching the ground just to keep critters/bugs from using them to climb up into the crown.
  • Also, see the third trunk. I hate that thing.  I wish it was a double (like the one in my backyard).  It doesn't even show any wood....but this should eventually grow, right?
    • Might as well keep the third trunk.  Yeah, it will grow. :)
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gtsteve

2nd opinion,  "why my tree looks like this?"   I could only guess, but the move would not have helped - yet. Give it more time.

"strengthen"   Just wait, another time thing I think. The fronds yet to come will probably be better.

"cut the lower fronds"  No, only when dead, the plant probably recycles some of the nutrients right to the end. 

"I hate that thing".  Cut it off.  You should make the garden the way that you like it.

If you liked the look of them planted upside down, then that is what I think you should do.  

The garden is there to make us happy, if it does not do that, change it.

And like kinzy said  "adding nutrients .....  You may want to back up on that."

Welcome to the forum mate.

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kurt decker

Cut some leaves off. Maybe two or three off each trunk. You moved the tree. Anytime you cut roots on a palm, cut some leaves off to keep the equilibrium between the amount of water the plant can suck up through the root tips, and what the leaves hydrate out. If you crimp the palm's ability to take up water, reducing leaf surface will reduce the amount of water that the palm expels. Shock is just a plant trying it's best to equalize those two things. The only thing it can do is kill off some leaves as rapidly as possible. You can water as much as you want, but if the tree no longer has all of it's root tips, it just can't suck up enough water to keep that full head green. Help it out by reducing the head.

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SEPalm

If you don’t like the look of the third you can cut it off and it won’t regrow. It may have germinated later or is a little slower since it is competing with the other 2 larger palms. Remember those are three individual palms all competing for root space, water, and nutrients. I am sure it will grow just fine and you may like the look of the triple.

Just keep that palm well watered during the warmer parts of the day and don’t expect to much until spring/summer. I bet after this upcoming summer it’ll look excellent If properly cared for.

i put in a single this fall that was stunted and in such a small pot it was forming major stilt roots. It keeps putting out tiny fronds and just recently put out a huge spear that has yet to open. 

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McdeltaT

Thanks for that feedback.  Yes the Alexander does get a lot of sun from the morning through until 2-3PM.  The one in the backyard does get a bunch more shade....but that tree also wasn't recently relocated.

I will slowdown on the fertilizer.  I might buy a bag of potting soil to try to amend with the sand (and some mulch that is mixed with the sand in the upper layer).  I might not have done the best job in replanting it, and will give it another look tomorrow.

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Cannonball

This looks to me like a triple planted Solitaire palm, Ptychosperma Elegans.

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Neil C

I thought the leaves looked too wide for an Alex as well although the good info given above will be the same for this palm as well.

Regards Neil

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Sandy Loam

Here is why some PalmTalkers might have been confused by the name ---  I have noticed that some landscapers in South Florida refer to Ptychosperma Elegans as "Alexander Palm" instead of Archontophoenix Alexandrae. Both trees might share this common name, depending on where you are located.  I guess landscapers in St. Petersburg use the "Alexander Palm" name as well. 

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gtsteve

Crikey, Well spotted cannonball.  You are more than a seed. Welcome to the forum.

Now I notice the ragged ends on some of those leaves, you are probably right. 

and probably what kinzy meant "  identifying exactly which Alexander Palm it is"

How 'common names' cause confusion, this is why so many try to learn the latin one.  

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Monòver

For me, 99% it is Ptychosperma elegans.

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Sandy Loam
5 hours ago, gtsteve said:

How 'common names' cause confusion, this is why so many try to learn the latin one.  

I agree, GTSteve.  Some landscape businesses in Florida don't seem to know the botanical names at all.  They will have a palm that they call the "Picabeen," but there is no guarantee that they aren't mixing up Archontophoenix Cunninghamiana with Archontophoenix Alexandrae or some other archontophoenix.  You just have to hope that you're receiving the Cunninghamiana if that's what you want.

Back to McDelta's Ptychosperma Elegans, do the PalmTalk experts share a consensus that the palm will grow out of its drooping look as the trunks grow taller, wider and strengthen?  

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McdeltaT

I'm going to cut the Alexandria fronds hitting the ground today, and add some topsoil.  I think when I moved this palm, I got some of the mulch mixed in with the sand.  Maybe it is causing the water to drain to quick?

Now my other question, is related to my triple foxtail.  Similar to the Alexander, I moved this tree myself.  It was planted like 5ft from my porch and looking across the street at my neighbors 30ft foxtails, I knew they would obviously not grow properly as planted.  I moved them about 12ft off the house.  Right after I did this I fertilized the tree.  Obviously a no-no, but something I wasn't aware of at the time...and also something a local nursery told me to do.

I've attached some photos.  The lower fronds have been dying fast.  About 12 fronds have died in about 2 months.  New fronds were still growing, up until recently.  The top shoots shown in the photo are not opening up...and the shoots have been there 2-3 weeks.  When the tree was planted, I noted that some of the roots were exposed (right below the trunk).  I tried to cover up these roots when I re-planted.  When I spoke to the guy at Palm Trees Direct (who since then, I don't trust one bit), he told me that the roots should be exposed or I would be suffocating it.  I tried to dig around the tree to expose these roots, but after a couple weeks, due to erosion, the soil covered the roots back up.  Maybe I should replant and bring the tree up 6-inches or so?

Any idea what could be causing the lower fronds to die at a quick rate?  The tree had been installed a month before I bought the home, and for the first 6 months not a single frond died and now to have 12 fronds die in 2 months (after I move it).  I must have done something.  I've also thought the fertilizer has played a role and that it will eventually recover....but it is not happening...yet.  Also, similar to the Foxtail, I know there is some mulch mixed in with the sand.  Should I also add new topsoil to the root bed?  Do I need to raise the tree?  Anything else?

The crew at Palm Trees Direct are paid on commission and will do anything to sell you a tree.  Quite sad.  They are very pushy.

 

IMG_4785.JPG

IMG_4782.JPG

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dwimss

@McdeltaT maybe you applied too much fertiliser ?? They aren't looking too bad..., you should probably stop any fertiliser and use next spring organic matter like manure.
Thats what I use for my palms since I never know the fertilizer exact doses to use!

The other triple palms you have aren't Archontophoenix Alexandrae they look more like Ptychosperma elegans.

 

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Nakheel1412

There's no need to worry imo, all of this looks normal to me ;

1/ About your "Alexander palms" :
Quote from palmpedia :
"Ptychosperma elegans seems to be variable. Some have stiffer more upright leaflets and others, droopier." (Eric S. Botanist H.P. Leu Gardens, Orlando, FL.)
An example of droopy fronds : look at the lowest frond (right side), still green, yet super droopy :
P070364.jpg
(source : http://www.palmpedia.net/wiki/Ptychosperma_elegans)

2/ About your triple Wodyetia bifurcata :
Just transplant stress imo ;
When it came to your garden, the trio was in a pot, right? You've planted it without touching the root ball -> no stress ;
About 6 months later, when relocating it, you had to cut many roots -> the palm killed the oldest fronds to reduce its needs, and stops producing new fronds until it has regenerated enough root mass ;

Btw, what's that monster behind the P.elegans ?! (fat trunk with rings)

Edited by Nakheel1412
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PalmatierMeg

Welcome to PalmTalk. May I suggest in the future that you consult with the great people on this forum before you purchase more palms for landscaping. I know of FL nurseries who are members of IPS & PalmTalk who have great palms and will not twist your arm or harass you just to get a sale. Some of them have public sales at various times of the year that offer fabulous and rare palms you would love. Furthermore, any palm seller who refers to his stock only by frivolous common names like "Alexander Palm" or "Christmas Palm" and leaves out their proper Latin binomials is immediately suspect: he is lazy, fraudulent, ignorant or all of the above. If you must refer to your Ptychosperma elegans by a common name, call them "Solitaire Palms" so as not to confuse them with a separate genus of Australian palms. If you really want to get to know palms better, you have to look beyond the common and frivolous, i.e., get familiar with their scientific names. To do that, buy a good book. My palm bible is "Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms", 2nd ed., by Riffle, Craft & Zona.

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McdeltaT
1 hour ago, Nakheel1412 said:

There's no need to worry imo, all of this looks normal to me ;

1/ About your "Alexander palms" :
Quote from palmpedia :
"Ptychosperma elegans seems to be variable. Some have stiffer more upright leaflets and others, droopier." (Eric S. Botanist H.P. Leu Gardens, Orlando, FL.)
An example of droopy fronds : look at the lowest frond (right side), still green, yet super droopy :
P070364.jpg
(source : http://www.palmpedia.net/wiki/Ptychosperma_elegans)

2/ About your triple Wodyetia bifurcata :
Just transplant stress imo ;
When it came to your garden, the trio was in a pot, right? You've planted it without touching the root ball -> no stress ;
About 6 months later, when relocating it, you had to cut many roots -> the palm killed the oldest fronds to reduce its needs, and stops producing new fronds until it has regenerated enough root mass ;

Btw, what's that monster behind the P.elegans ?! (fat trunk with rings)

 

That monster is a pine.  We had a massive Oak Tree Blocking that Pine, but it got knocked down in the hurricane.  My neighbor is having it removed.  It is an eyesore.  I had three of those removed from my small backyard.  After they were removed, my yard look monstrous.  

Thanks for your your input.  I think you might be right on all fronts.  I'll just keep watering and paying attention.  Should the roots below the trunk on the Wodyetia bifurcata be exposed?  When I bought the house they weren't exposed, but after lots of watering the trunk started growing quickly and the roots started to come out of the ground.  If I cover them with soil am I suffocating the tree?

Also, I cut the lower fronts from my Ptychosperma elegans and the tree looks much better.  I do love the look of this tree but when it is so low to the ground, the lower fronds look odd.  

Thanks!

Mike

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Nakheel1412

Covering the roots is a good thing (roots usually prefer to stay underground), given that you use an adapted medium ;
Actually, I myself lost a bunch of seedlings because I was using some suffocating soil (very compact), but people here helped me save a few before it was too late XD

I don't quite know what your climate is like, but a safe (?)* choice could be covering them with chipped wood : won't retain too much water, and very light ; Another option is coarse river sand (coarse beach sand can be used if treated to remove salt) ; During spring-summer-fall, any soil will work, but during winter you don't want to have the roots stay in a soil that doesn't dry/drain properly ;

What I would do is wait for next spring to cover them ;
Usually, it is recommanded to cut fronds during growth seasons (spring/summer/autumn), since the palm needs to heal its wounds, and does that faster with heat and relatively dry conditions (an additional layer of medium helps the moisture stay ; in winter, this layer usually never dries)

*before using this, wait for inputs from experienced members, direct contact of decomposing wood with the roots might cause issues ;

Edited by Nakheel1412

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Cannonball

I have not personally seen a Ptychosperma react negatively to pruning, for Ptychosperma and Wodyetia  Step 1 mulch an water. Step 2 refer to step 1.

Fertilising after transplanting wouldn't be something I would encourage, if you can get some Auxinone I would give it 20 litres of diluted solution (as per the instructions) the concentrated product is used quite frugally and sparingly.

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