Trees should be trimmed by early June, before storms threaten. Many municipalities have “amnesty” weeks before storm season, when you can deposit more than the allowable limit of yard debris. Call municipalities for more information.
Call a professional. Trees trimmed by a professional arborist are far less likely to go down in a storm.
Thinning a tree allows wind to blow through its canopy, offering less wind resistance in a storm. Prune young trees to create a single leader, which will grow into a strong trunk.
To minimize damage to a mature tree, eliminate weak branches and reduce the length of limbs at a tree’s sides. Don’t remove interior branches, as this can make a tree unbalanced.
Hatracked trees become sails. Removing a tree’s canopy encourages bushy growth, which makes a tree top heavy and wind-resistant. Some hatracked trees “sailed” directly to the ground. Hatracking is illegal.
‘Lifted’ trees mean broken branches. “Lifting” is a common practice where the lower branches are removed to provide clearance underneath. Lifting contributes to branch breakage and makes the tree top heavy.
Don’t wait until the storm is threatening to prune. If the trash pickup doesn’t get to your curb before the storm strikes, you’ve created a pile of potential missiles.
Coconuts behave like cannonballs in high winds. Remove them well before a storm hits. If trees are too tall for you to reach, hire a tree trimmer.
Tips for your yard
Take in hanging pots and baskets. Secure or take in pots from shadehouses.
Secure young trees with additional stakes.
Don’t remove fruit. If you put it in a trash pile and the pile isn’t picked up, the fruit may fly around in the wind.
Tree-dwelling bromeliads, staghorn ferns and orchids can be secured with fishing line.
Take in or tie up any piles of yard or construction debris.
Take in all garden furniture, grills, tiki torches and other outdoor items. (Do not sink furniture in swimming pool.)
Consider removing gates and trellises.
Palms, native trees fared best through 3 hurricanes
In high wind, palms will bend but not always break. Since they originated in the tropics and subtropics, their supple trunks have adapted to hurricanes.
Plant palms in clumps around the edge of your garden (not near the house) to block the wind and protect more fragile plants inside. Although fronds will be damaged in a storm, most of these palms will recover.
Ficus trees come down easily in storms
Ficus trees are not meant for residential yards. They grow to 70 feet with a massive span of shallow roots, and come down easily in high winds.
If you already have a ficus, have it professionally trimmed before hurricane season begins. (If you have Australian pine and ficus in your yard, consider removing them.)
Stake small trees as a storm approaches with stakes driven at least 8 inches into the ground.
Trim large masses of vines so they don’t pull down fences.
Lay arches and trellises on the ground and anchor with rope.
Fast-growing, brittle trees should never be planted in hurricane country, no matter how quickly you need shade.
(Consider removing these trees from your yard.)
Ficus (ficus benjamina, weeping fig)
Hong Kong orchid
Norfolk Island pine
Cabbage palm (sabal palm)
Canary Island date palm
Christmas palm (adonidia)
Florida thatch palm
Robellini palm (Pygmy date palm)
Note: Queen palms are the exception. They have a very low wind tolerance.