How to Make a Pygmy Date Palm Trunk Smooth

Growing 6 to 10 feet tall with trunk diameter in the 3- to 4-inch range, pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) displays a feathery mophead of fronds.

Often nursery growers clump multiple plants to create a more architecturally interesting silhouette in production containers. The trunk of this miniature palm never becomes perfectly smooth. Lower trunk parts may lose brown thatch but still reveal a coarse, knobby surface from old leaf bases. More thatch and frond bases linger up higher just under the leafy canopy and persist for several years, gradually falling off after dehydration and fiber decomposition.

Put on protective leather gloves, hat and eye goggles before working around the pygmy date palm. Thorns on frond stem bases and falling debris pose potential hazards.

Tug at the thatch and old, persistent frond stems under the canopy of leaves with your gloved hand. Remove as much thatch and dried debris as possible to clear the trunk. Most of this thicket of thatch and previously pruned frond bases must remain to protect the growing tip on the trunk.

Hold the top of the trunk with your hand and place the hand-held pruning saw blade upward into the base of thatch against the trunk. Saw upward to help remove any unattractive, lingering thatch and leaf bases to create a tidier, even look.

Put on a hard hat with face guard. Chainsaw blades violently throw cutting debris.

Run the edge of the cutting blades on a small chainsaw on the many small hard nubs on the pygmy date palm trunk. These scarred ridges are hard and uneven and may not easily cut to create a smoother looking trunk. Moreover, you risk creating uneven cutting scars and obvious trunk color variations if you choose to remove the rough tissues on the palm's bark. Do not cut deeply, as palms cannot heal puncture or cutting wounds in their trunk.

Things You Will Need

  • Leather gloves
  • Eye goggles
  • Cloth hat
  • Hand-held pruning saw
  • Hard hat with face guard
  • Small chainsaw


  • The danger, physical endurance and time involved to use a chainsaw to meticulously rid a pygmy date palm's trunk of leaf scars often isn't worth it. Focus on removing thatch under the canopy and allowing healthy green fronds to droop and mask the trunk. Alternatively, plant other tropical plants around the palm to hide the palm trunk.


  • Do not cut deeply into the thatch and leaf bases at the tip of the palm trunk under the foliage, especially with a chainsaw. Any damage to the growing tip makes the plant more susceptible to insect and disease infestations.

About the Author

Jacob J. Wright became a full-time writer in 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. He has worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Wright holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.