Your palm tree may be dying due to insufficient light, cold temperatures, incorrect soil type, overwatering, underwatering, lack of nutrients, transplant shock, or pests.
Figuring out exactly which of these factors is causing your palm tree’s declining health is the first step in treating the problem.
In this article, we will discuss the different reasons your palm tree may be dying. and how to save it.
Why is my palm tree dying and how can I fix it?
If your palm tree does not get enough bright, indirect light, it can cause the plant to become stressed. Although there are species of palm that do fine in areas with low light, they will still thrive when given more.
Palm fronds that do not get enough light will gradually turn yellow, then brown, and then die. They may even become etiolated, a process in which the plant will literally grow toward the closest source of light out of desperation. This results in the plant growing asymmetrically, and such stretched-out palm trees are more likely to attract the attention of pests.
If the palm tree gets too much light, on the other hand, the fronds can become sun-damaged, so make sure that they only get morning or late afternoon light where they are planted. If you keep the palm tree indoors, place it in either an east- or west-facing window. A skylight may be enough for a tall plant, but will be insufficient for short plants.
During cold or rainy weather, sunlight may be scarce and you may need to use a grow light to give the palm the light it needs.
The moisture balance in the soil is important for a palm tree, which is why the correct soil type can make a huge difference to your palm’s growth. The soil you use should hold some moisture, but it should not be compact. It needs to be well-draining and aerated so that it can dry out between watering. This allows oxygen to reach the roots, which is a requirement for the plant’s survival.
Check if the soil contains perlite, coconut coir or coarse sand; these components will help keep the soil well-draining. Refrain from using organic matter because it will break down and make the soil even more compact.
Another soil issue your plant may experience is a buildup of materials that are toxic to the plant in high levels. These materials can come from fertilizer. The tree’s leaves will develop brown tips and its growth could be stunted. You can get rid of these toxic materials by flushing them out with water once a month. Try using distilled or filtered water to reduce the problem.
Even though palm trees want moist soil, they should not be left to stand in soil that is constantly waterlogged.
An overwatered palm tree will have yellow and brown leaves, but the most definitive sign of overwatering can be seen in the roots. You will need to uproot the tree to check the roots. Healthy roots should be firm and white; if they are brown, black, mushy and smell like rotten vegetation, the tree has root rot.
You can try to save the tree by cutting away the rotten parts of the roots and changing all the soil in the pot. After repotting, do not water the soil immediately; instead, wait for the soil to dry out after several days.
Your palm tree will also not do well if it is left to dry out for extended periods of time. Brown tips on the fronds may indicate a less-than-ideal watering situation.
Palm trees are native to the tropics, so the low humidity inside most homes can be a challenge for your palm. When the moisture in the air is low, the tree becomes stressed and the fronds will start to develop brown edges.
Try to keep the humidity around the plant at around 50% or higher. To increase the humidity, keep a water tray near the plant and always keep the plant’s soil moist but not soggy.
You can also use a mister to spray water on the palm during the dry winter, but some people believe this does not do much for the overall humidity of the room and can even encourage fungal growth. You may be better off purchasing a humidifier to keep your palm tree healthy.
Another reason your palm tree may be dying is due to drafts in your home. The tree will turn yellow and dry out when exposed to either cold or warm drafts. These plants like a place with good air circulation, but if the air is too cold or too hot for their liking, they will become stressed. Good air circulation also helps keep pests away.
In the winter, keep the palm tree away from areas of the house that are affected by air flow from vents.
Too much fertilizer
Palm trees do not need much fertilizer to thrive, so feeding them even a little more than they need can result in burned roots and browning leaf tips.
Limit the feeding to only two or three times a year during the warmer months, using a half-diluted formula. Organic fertilizer will also be more gentle on the tree.
When you repot your palm tree, its health may decline because the process is traumatic and stressful for the tree.
When repotting, do not disturb the root ball. Cutting or tearing the root ball will only cause more stress. You may need to water the tree more frequently after repotting, since the roots will need time to recover and return to normal.
If your palm tree starts to look yellow and mottled, it could be a sign of a pest infestation.
The most common pests that attack palm trees are spider mites, mealybugs and whiteflies.
Look for pests under the leaves, especially near the base of the tree. Watch out for cottony patches of mealybugs and tiny spider mite webs. You can tell if the plant has a whitefly colony because they will fly around when disturbed.
You can try to remove the bugs by spraying the plant with water to dislodge the insects, or you can also use rubbing alcohol as a topical fix to kill them.
In a more serious infestation, you can use neem oil. Coat the underside of the leaves once a week for a month to make sure all the pests are dead.
The most common reasons your palm tree may be dying are insufficient light, cold temperatures, incorrect soil type, overwatering, underwatering, lack of nutrients, transplant shock or pests.
Treatment always starts with correctly identifying the cause of your plant’s declining health.
As long as you are able to provide your palm tree with all its basic cultural needs, you should be able to revive it and keep it happy in the future.
Image: istockphoto.com / Eagle2308