Can I prune golden cane palms?

Golden cane palms can be pruned to keep them shorter, or smaller to keep them contained in a pot or a tight space in your yard. Trim the extra stems off to keep the plant compact and trim off any brown leaves and stems to tidy up the plant. Trimming smaller leaves can be done with secateurs but you will need a pruning saw to deal with larger more established stems.

The golden cane palm is quickly becoming one of my favorite plants and they are easy to look after. The botanical name for these palms is Dypsis lutescens but they are also known as the golden cane palm, Areca palm, yellow butterfly palm or yellow bamboo palm as they look remarkably like bamboo.

These palms look beautiful in a tropical style garden but there are some tricks and tips to know when you go about pruning them.

Pruning small golden cane palms

Using secateurs is the easiest way to prune back your palm. This will make it easier to more accurately remove stems without damaging the others. Prune any stems that are moving out to an area that is in the way.

Pull out each stem slightly away from the main bunch of and trim down close to the soil. The plant will re-grow stems to replace these over time but trimming smaller stems is much easier than larger ones.

Pruning large golden cane palms

Pruning large golden cane palms is more difficult but can be done. If you have a large palm that has large stems near a pool, deck or paving and you want to remove some stems there are a few easy ways.

Start with a pruning saw, this is the best way to accurately remove stems from your golden cane palm that has stems wider than 1 inch. These are available from hardware stores or on Amazon.

Check out pruning saws on Amazon below.

While the golden cane palm looks like it has hard, heavy stems they can be pruned easily with a sharp pruning saw. Choose the stem you want to remove and cut it down low down to the ground. The stump will heal over at the top and the plant will eventually grow new smaller stems to replace them.

How to prune a golden cane palm

Here are the easiest steps to prune a golden cane palm at home.

Before you start pruning, put on some garden gloves and make sure your secateurs are clean. Cleaning them first will help to reduce the spread of disease from other plants. Clean them using dilute bleach solution (2% bleach and water).

For stubborn stuck on dirt or sap, wash the shears in warm, soapy water and spray them with vegetable oil. This will protect the blades. Wipe off the excess oil using a cloth before you start pruning your golden cane palm.

1. Start by deciding what you want to achieve with your pruning. Do you need a smaller stem base or are you looking to reduce height?

2. Start with the smaller stems and trim them off using your secateurs. Trim small stems that are ¼ to ½ an inch wide first. To reduce the stem base and keep the plant contained.

3. Remove any taller stems that are higher than you want your palm to be. These are not necessarily the largest thickest stems but small leaves can also reach very high. Identify the individual leaves and cut them down at the base.

4. Using a pruning saw, remove any larger stems that are in the way. You will be able to see them clearer once you have removed the smaller pieces.

5.  In warmer weather, the plant can be given a handful of pelleted chicken manure and watered to with seaweed solution. Both of these will help the plant to recover quickly from the pruning.

If the weather is cold when you are pruning, the plant may not look like it is growing back. Wait until the weather warms in Spring and Summer and you will see the palm jump back to life.

How to remove old or brown palm fronds

Over time your golden cane palm will replace old leaves with new. This natural process will occur where the leaves will turn brown and dry and can drop off on their own. Many leaves will still stay attached even when they are brown and this is when you will need to remove them yourself.  

Brown golden cane palm leaves will not recover so remove them with sharp secateurs. The stems will be easy to cut because they will be dry. For larger leaf stems you may need to upgrade to a large set of secateurs rather than hand snips.

Can I compost golden cane palm fronds?

Golden cane palm fronds can be added to your compost. Whole leaves or fronds can be placed on top of your compost to hold any light ingredients like fall leaves in place. The palm fronds on their own will take a long time to break down however.

To make the palm fronds and stems break down quicker they will need to be shredded. Small, home mulchers will break down palm fronds and larger more powerful machines will take care of thicker stems.

What to do with large golden cane palm stems

Large golden cane palm stems that are greater than 2 inches in diameter can be difficult to compost at home. While they can be placed underneath a garden bed to break down over time this will take many years.

Large stems will likely need to be removed and taken to a facility that industrially breaks down garden waste. These facilities can handle large stems and tree trunks with huge stump grinders that can turn them into mulch.

Check with your local municipality to see if anything like this exists in your area. Smaller pieces can be put in the garden waste bin as long as they are small enough to fit and not weigh down the bin.

Can I prune golden cane palms? | Summary

Golden cane palms can be pruned and they will look fresh and great when you do. Remove old, dead leaves, take off any extra stems that are spreading out into the area of paths. Take off any tall leaves that are reaching beyond the height that you want the palm to reach.

A well pruned golden cane palm will look great, tropical and can form a fantastic screen.

Happy gardening.