Paint Palm Tree Trunk White - Why & How

Sometimes people paint palm tree trunks white. On the bottom. Why do they do that? Have you considered doing that on your palms? Probably not! But if you've seen such palms, with trunks painted white, you wondered what's up with that?!

A rather puzzling sight, isn't it? Well, you're not the only one to wonder why palm tree trunks are painted white. Many wonder why that's done & if it's necessary.

We'll set the record straight, with what we've discovered! That there's various reasons it's done.

Continue on to see it all, or Click the Subject You Want:

See the History of White Trunks>

White Trunk Paint - historical recipe>

Should you use Commercial Paint?

Why are Palm Trunks Painted White?

Steps for Painting Palm Trunks white>

Recipes to Make Your Own Trunk Paint>

Plan to Paint a Palm Tree Trunk White?

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Why Paint a Palm Tree Trunk White?

So, why would anyone paint palm tree trunks white? We've discovered four reasons. But overall this practice is mainly for protective purposes. In one way or another.

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Often seen in tropical landscapes of Mexico, Greece, Brazil, Vietnam, or China, for instance. We noticed plenty of them all around touristy areas of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.

White Paint at the bottom of the Trunk of a PalmWhat Problems Cause People to Paint a Palm Tree White?

To Block Insects From Attacking Palm Trees

White tree trunk paint can obstruct insects attacking palms. Some bugs carry disease. 

Pesky beetle larvae can cause fatal damage to palms. One of the worst is the Palmetto Weevil (Rhynchophorus cruentatus). If infestations begin, many palm lives would be threatened by fungal diseases.

  • Palmetto Weevil females lay eggs in leaf bases. Hatching as larva or grubs.
  • They bore into palm trunks to feed. The damage attracts fungi.
  • They like to get at the palm heart (meristem), or growing point. Damaging this, the palm dies.

Its genera "cousin" palmarum species (South American Palm Weevil) begins similar damage. Most dangerous for introducing another Palm Tree Problem. It carries the nematode that causes a disease: red ring. Often fatal, especially to Coconut Palms

Another, The Giant Palm Borer (Dinapate wrightii) isn't necessarily fatal. It tunnels into palms in arid areas. Weakening palms like Washingtonia filifera.

Protection From the Extremes of Weather

In the summer sun people Apply Sunscreen. To avoid harmful UVB sun damage.

Some paint palm tree trunks for a sunscreen. Especially in tropical or desert climates with strong sun rays.

Did you know trees can get sunburn? Ornamental Palm Horticulture says overly hot, dry conditions affect some palm species. New leaves will have abnormal yellow coloring. Or even brownish/black, leading to frond death!

White paint reflects sunlight. Giving palms some sunscald protection.

Sun Hitting Beach Palms With White TrunksThe Hot Sun is Being Reflected Away

Also in winter months, temperatures can dip to freezing. Even in tropical or desert climates. Most palms don't tolerate this well. Ending up in Difficulty With Cold Damage.

White paint acts as a Kind of Winter Coat. Since cold air sinks, the trunk is vulnerable.

For the Public's Driving Safety

Think of night driving on unfamiliar roadways on Your Tropical Vacation. When palms line a street, to paint palm tree trunks white makes them more visible. When headlights reflect off white paint.

It helps with accident prevention. Another reason to paint palm tree trunks white.

For Attractive Artful Landscaping Appeal

Some people like the cosmetic, manicured appearance of a group of palms with white lower trunks.

It appeals to those loving that polished uniform look. If palms are amidst other tropical plants, white trunks make a stunning change against lush greenery.

Not every Tropical Climate Area paints palm tree trunks white. This palm landscaping style is likely a natural intention of local culture.

It's probably not for everyone though! Would you ever paint a palm tree trunk white?

A Historical Perspective on White Palm Trunks

To paint palm tree trunks white isn't new. When researching historical gardening & horticultural approaches, you'd find these protective strategies. That Painting Trunks White Has Been Used for many years. Even as far back as ancient Rome.

Orchards first began to paint fruit tree trunks white. For protection. To keep harmful insects away from valuable fruit.

Farmers looked for ways to shield their trees from leafcutter ants and other pests. Whitewash was historically used to paint palm tree trunks white. Typically it was homemade.

Then palm trunks were painted, too. Palms are valuable resources throughout the world, including all Their Fruit Uses.

When people began Growing Their Own Palms, they heard of this practice to paint a palm tree trunk white. Some decided to try using white paint or whitewash for "bug prevention."

So it's been around through many years of history, and used in many countries.

How to Paint Palm Tree Trunks White

Are you convinced that it's a good idea to paint your palm tree trunk white? It's relatively easy to do, and doesn't cost much money. But is it desirable?

There are several methods to use.

Paint Palm Tree Trunk With Whitewash as in History

Whitewash was a mixture of water, lime, and copper sulfate. Also called limewash. Some people added ingredients like Pine Rosin, salt, Milk Proteins (called Casein), Molasses & various oils.

Some of these additives may not be good for palms. Mixing in Neem Oil or casein seems the best exceptions for palms.

You can Purchase Whitewash Ready-Made. If you want to make your own, there are whitewash recipes. Be cautious with lime, because of its corrosive properties. Be sure to read all labels.

The problem with limed whitewash is with rain the it can melt off trunks, soaking into the ground. Lime raises soil pH. The best pH for palms is between 6.0 & 6.8, which is slightly acidic. Lime pH is 12.4, very alkalotic. Not at all healthy for palms! The more alkalotic soil becomes, the less Needed Nutrients are absorbed.

Do you Know the pH of Your Soil?

pH scale with examples

Recipes to Make Your Own Whitewash

RECOMMENDED BY Oregon State Extension as tree-safe, as provided by R. Lieber at Blount County Master Gardeners. But safe for palms? Maybe not.

Ingredients:

Plus a Large Bucket to mix whitewash.

Pour water into the bucket. Mix in salt, stir until dissolved. Slowly & carefully add lime, mixing until it dissolves. Your whitewash is complete, but be sure it's a slurry-like consistency.

Since most palms are sensitive to salt, we have another recipe option for you...

Using a Commercial Preparation of Trunk Paint

Several paint mixture concoctions are sold to paint palm tree trunks white. We'll review some.

Real Milk Paint Company has Palm Options

A powder to mix yourself. Made from powdered milk. Follow their instructions to have a mixture that readily sticks. Some benefits:

  • No odor, isn't environmentally harmful & is safe for painting tree trunks.
  • Longer-lasting, so repainting isn't always needed.
  • One choice has UV resistance for sun protection.

The company says the solution allows air passage through tiny pores, so the palm trunk can "breathe." Keeping it healthy, while still offering palm tree's bark protection.

Milk Products for Palm Tree Paints

IV Organics White Wash is patented for use as a Palm Tree guard. It contains Diatomaceous Earth.

  • The Blue-Labeled Product doesn't have oils or other eco-unfriendly chemicals. Thickness can be adjusted. It's said to be safe for ornamentals trees, like palms.
  • The Yellow-Labeled Product contains Cinnamon, Clove, Garlic, Castor, Spearmint, Rosemary & Peppermint oils. The white color is certified by OMRI for organic gardening. It also says it's safe for ornamentals.

General Finishes has water based milk paint. There are some drawbacks to this brand.

Whiten Palm Trunks Bottoms With Latex Paint?

white latex paint with brushes and rags on a worktableAre Palm Tree Trunks Painted White With Latex Paint a Good Idea?

Sometimes Regular Water Based House Paint is recommended for having your palm tree trunks painted white. There's a problem with Using Latex Paint because it likely contains harmful additives. Be sure to use water-based, not oil-based.

A first coat of white latex paint from the can is probably not the best method for palms. Instead, if you use it, dilute one gallon of paint with 4 or 5 quarts of water.

A Cornell University study by David Kain & Art Agnello to determine the effectiveness of tree trunk painting found a half/half proportion of water to paint didn't deter borer insects. When switching to the full strength application, it was "effective and long lasting."

So Water-Based Exterior Paint is the recommended choice.

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Important Tips for Painting Your Palm Trunk White

It's best to use whitewash during the time of day when the sun isn't strong. If the heat of the day hits your palm while whitewashing, it may cause burns.

Keep in mind that reapplication will be needed every so often. Even more often if using whitewash.

Ensure your palm trunk is clean for good adhesion. No dirt, moss, etc. If it needs cleaning, lightly scrub the trunk surface with a water-soaked soft brush.

Don't paint a palm tree trunk white when there's rainy or very humid weather. Try planning for your climate's dry spells. To dry the whitewash or paint quickly enough.

  • For instance, I know in Arizona's Sonoran Desert, where we live, June is typically the driest month.
  • We'd plan for early morning or dusk.

Palm Tree Trunks Painted White - The Takeaways

The next time you see palm tree trunks painted white, you'll know what's going on. Did we satisfy your curiosity?

The practice of painting palm tree trunks white is from tradition, plant health practicality, and landscaping appearance. But will you do the same? Hmmm!

And remember the wrong product will do more harm than good!

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