cutting a madagascar palm to propagate and for height maintenance

Asked April 23, 2018, 6:39 PM EDT

I have a madagascar palm around 14 years old. He's about 6 1/2 feet tall. I want to know how drastic I can prune him and if I can propagate the cutting? I keep him inside during winter and outside spring summer and fall just getting hard to move in and out.

Whitfield County Georgia

19 Responses

Hello, do you have a photo of your plant?

not the best picture of "Wilson" but there ya go... He's suffered leaf loss this winter. Indoors he doesn't do as well but at over 6 feet tall it's hard to find a good place to put him. That's why I'd like to know if I can top him down to around 2 feet and maybe segment the trunk and propagate it... I've had him for 14 years now. Thank you. Chris

Hi, no photo is showing up, could you try again?

This is a better older picture of Wilson, this is what he looks like in the summer...

Here's another try at the most recent picture...

Were you able to get the picture of Wilson????

I tried a couple of times to post the pictures so hopefully you got them,,, Chris

Hello Chris, sorry for the delay but yes the photos of Wilson came through!
There is no formal Extension recommendation concerning this but through my research I have found that you can attempt a cutting of the top of the plant. Using a sharp knife, cut the top 12-15 inches off of the plant and allow the cut to air dry for 5-7 days to create a callus over the wound. The existing leaves can be removed at this time to prevent them acting as a nutrient and moisture sap on the cutting. Once the tissue has callused over, plant in moist, well-drained potting soil in high-indirect light and water sparingly. If the cutting roots, this process could take weeks to months to produce viable roots. monitor the base of the cutting for rot and if rot develops, cut that area away until only healthy tissue remains, allow to callus again and place in fresh potting soil.
I would also cut the main stem of the palm back to 18" tall in the hopes of encouraging the original plant to branch below the wound. With this method we are imitating what the plant does after flowering in nature. Do not over-water while waiting for new growth, water requirement will be drastically reduced during this time.
While neither method is guaranteed to grow my hope is that between the two propagation methods, at least one Wilson (junior) will survive.
Amanda

Thank you Amanda. I haven't done anything yet, but I will let you know what happens when I do Cut him... Thanks again. Chris

Ok Well set the timer for t-7 and counting,,, I finally mustered up the courage to cut Wilson today... looks like a seedless cucumber inside,,, I am a 47 year old man but I believe I will cry if I've killed him. main trunk is now 18 inches tall. cut the top at 14 inches and as for the middle I just whacked it into pieces I thought might make good sized plants. I'll send pictures as the process goes...Regards, Chris

So probably sent the picture too many times but this is the top and the middle trunk drying...

Fingers crossed! When you plant the middle pieces make sure you put them back in oriented properly (this end up!). You could try some rooting hormone on one of the middle pieces to see if that helps. Make sure you don’t over water any of the cuttings or the original plant.

Well a 47 year old man cried... everything turned into mush. the top isn't completely gone but I'm not very confident it will come back, Purchased a new Madagascar palm Saturday, His name is Henry Standing Bear. he is about the size Wilson was when I got him. Thanks for your help though. I think the abundant rain had a great deal to do with the demise of my cuttings.

Well a 47 year old man cried... everything turned into mush. the top isn't completely gone but I'm not very confident it will come back, Purchased a new Madagascar palm Saturday, His name is Henry Standing Bear. he is about the size Wilson was when I got him. Thanks for your help though. I think the abundant rain had a great deal to do with the demise of my cuttings.

Oh Chris, I am so sorry! Too much water would definitely cause rot on the cuttings, it has been a very wet spring and summer. I'm glad you found a new palm, Henry Standing Bear is a good strong name! Be stingy on the water and fertilizer and hopefully he will stay small for longer than Wilson did!
amanda