Whether you’re populating a subtropical landscape or are looking to add a bit of greenery to your indoor living space, a palm tree is an obvious choice. Yet the thought of caring for a palm tree might have you hesitant to take the plunge.
Believe it or not, palm trees are actually quite easy to care for. Once the tree is in the ground or in a suitable container, its environmental needs can be met by even a novice gardener, making the maintenance and upkeep of these tropicals little trouble at all.
In this article, I’ll specifically cover how often to water palm trees for optimal health and longevity. So keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the watering needs both of indoor and outdoor varieties.
Watering Requirements of Palm Trees
How much water a palm tree needs depends on a number of factors, including species, temperature, location, age, and soil quality. On average in summer, a medium-sized, established tree (in a 5-10 gallon container) requires at least 1 or 2 gallons of water per session. This should be repeated up to 3 times per week.
Keep in mind when watering, the soil around the base should be consistently moist but never soggy. Proper soil drainage has just as much to do with this as the amount of water used. According to Clemson University, slow-draining soil is a frequent cause of root rot in potted palm trees.
Whether your palm lives in the ground or in a container, slow and deep irrigation is ideal. This strategy ensures that water reaches all of the tree’s roots without oversaturating the soil.
How Often To Water Palm Trees
Not all palm species are adapted to the same climate. Several varieties are native to more arid climates and it’s important to take this into account when determining watering needs.
While it’s impossible to prescribe an exact watering frequency for all palm trees, there are a few rules of thumb worth keeping in mind.
On average, mature palms perform best when watered 2 to 3 times per week during the growing season. Decrease irrigation during the winter when the tree’s growth rate slows.
As with all landscape plants, your watering schedule should change with the weather. Palm trees require more frequent watering when conditions are hot and dry. The opposite is true when there is heavy rainfall or cool temperatures.
Also, whether your tree is planted in the ground or in a container will play a role in watering frequency. You should expect to water container-grown trees more often regardless of if they’re located indoors or outside.
The best soil type for palm trees is usually a sandy loam — i.e. a mixture that contains slightly more sand than silt or clay. A good amount of organic material is also recommended to improve weight and drainage.
Most watering guidelines assume that your palm tree is planted in quick-draining soil containing plenty of sand. If this is not the case, you may need to adjust your watering schedule to be less frequent.
How To Check Soil Moisture Levels
In my experience, the best way to test soil moisture is by sticking a finger into the top inch of soil. If the soil feels completely dry, it’s probably time to water again.
This method tends to be more accurate with potted palm trees. If you’re testing the soil around a large landscape palm, I recommend checking a few different areas near the base to determine the soil’s moisture content.
Watering Transplanted Palms
Newly planted palm trees should be given extra care until they become established. This includes more frequent watering during the first few weeks.
Unless otherwise advised for the tree’s species, I recommend watering brand-new palms daily through the first week. You can then switch to watering every 2 to 3 days before tapering down to meet the tree’s mature irrigation needs. Always water slowly and deeply to ensure moisture reaches the entire root system without oversaturating the soil.
Watering Potted Palms Outdoors
Potting soil often dries out faster than that in the ground. This is especially true for containers placed outdoors.
Closely monitor outdoor potted palm trees so that their soil does not completely dry out between waterings. This is the perfect opportunity to check the soil moisture using the finger test I mentioned above. You should water your palm tree anytime the top inch of soil is dry to the touch.
While you may need to water your outdoor potted palm every day when the weather is extremely hot and dry, there will also be periods when Mother Nature takes care of this chore for you. There’s no need to water when moderate to heavy rain is in the forecast.
Speaking of rain, it is a very good example of why good drainage is so important for potted varieties. The combination of heavy rainfall and poor drainage could drown your palm tree in its container. I also don’t recommend placing your tree’s pot in a saucer that may collect rain and prevent efficient drainage.
What Is The Best Time To Water Palm Trees
Heat and sun exposure are the most important factors in determining when to water palm trees. Watering when the sun is at its hottest and brightest could lead to burning damage — any water droplets on the leaves will act like tiny magnifying glasses that amplify the sun’s rays.
I personally prefer to do all of my watering in the morning, several hours before the heat of midday. There are also many people who choose to water their trees in the late afternoon or early evening.
As for indoor palms, it doesn’t really matter what time of day you water them.
Verdict: Watering Palm Trees
In reality, there’s nothing too complicated about watering palm trees. The main issue is that many people assume these plants require significantly more water than they actually do. As a result, countless trees growing in landscapes and containers fall victim to moisture problems like root rot.
By following the basic guidelines outlined here, you’ll be well on the way to growing happy, healthy palm trees of your own.