Why Are My Areca Palm Leaves Turning Yellow?

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The Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) are wonderful tropical plants that can reach 30′ feet tall outdoors. However, it’s also a popular indoor plant that’s relatively easy to care for.

Somewhat ironically, the plant is commonly known as the yellow palm or golden cane palm despite yellow leaves being a sign that something’s wrong. Unfortunately, spotting yellow on this plant can be more complicated than with many other plants, as areca plants treat it almost as a generic expression for “I don’t feel good.”

yellow leaves on areca palmPin

What Causes Areca Palm Leaves To Turn Yellow?

There is a wide range of potential causes for the fronds to yellow; most of them are interrelated or have the same symptoms.

  • Compacted or Poor Soil
  • Fertilizer Burns
  • Pests Infestations
  • Improper Watering Habits
  • Lack of Nitrogen or Potassium
  • Lethal Yellowing
  • Magnesium and Manganese
  • Mineral Buildup
  • Rot
  • Sunburn
  • Temperature

As a result, you will need to do a soil test and check environmental conditions to diagnose causes that aren’t immediately apparent.

Compacted or Poor Soil

The Areca palm requires loose and slightly acidic soil. Letting the soil become too compact can cramp the root ball, causing your palm to have trouble obtaining water and nutrients.

Adding perlite or encouraging earthworms by adding organic compost can help solve the problem.

However, this is only one way in which the soil may be a cause of yellowing leaves.

  • Areca prefers loamy soil, and peat-based mixes work great for indoor palms. Consider repotting with fresh potting soil every two years.
  • For outdoor palms, make sure to amend the soil with compost periodically to ensure plenty of nutrients.

Fertilizer Burns

No matter how organic your fertilizer choice is, it can cause chemical burns if it comes in direct contact with the plant or builds up in the potting soil.

This can lead to an excess of nitrogen which becomes too much of a good thing.

To remedy this, always follow the packaging instructions and regularly flush the soil. We would also recommend using a balanced water-soluble fertilizer.

In extreme cases, you may need to do an emergency transplant to fresh soil.

Pest Infestation

Whether it’s mealybugs, spider mites, caterpillars, or a host of other common pests, any form of piercing or chewing bug can cause your leaves to develop necrotic yellow spots or begin to yellow from the tips.

Even worse, piercing insects produce honeydew, leading to several fungal and bacterial infections such as sooty mold.

A regular neem soil soak will help prevent infestations, as well as stop an existing one.

Improper Watering Habits

Water is essential to your butterfly palm, but it can also be harmful.

Be sure the soil has good drainage and avoid soggy soil, overwatering or underwatering.

You should also avoid using unfiltered tap water, as it often contains fluoride, which is toxic to areca palms and many other plants.

Lack of Nitrogen or Potassium

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plants – so important that fertilizers are rated based upon their nitrogen content.

Plants require nitrogen for healthy growth and may suffer stunted growth when there’s not enough in the soil.

Likewise, potassium is essential for healthy growth.

Lack of either may cause the plant’s fronds to yellow or even turn brown.

Test the soil quality and/or check your fertilizer to ensure higher amounts of nitrogen (N) and potassium (P) in the fertilizer’s NPK rating.

You may also need to check the acidity of your soil, as a lower pH can drain potassium from the soil more quickly.

Lethal Yellowing

This phytoplasma disease spreads by planthoppers and results in yellow spotting where the fronds are turning necrotic.

This disease is incurable, and outdoor Areca palms are at higher risk of contracting it.

Magnesium and Manganese

Magnesium helps make the soil more acidic, and a shortage can cause leaf yellowing, although it won’t harm the plant in this case.

However, this could mean the soil is becoming alkaline, so you may need to apply a dose of magnesium sulfate.

Alkaline soil is deadly for your plant because manganese can’t dissolve easily above a pH of 6.5, and your plant won’t be able to get any at all once that pH rises above neutral levels.

Magnesium can help prevent this deficiency, which will cause yellowing before slowly breaking down almost every essential function of your Areca, killing it.

Mineral Buildup

Indoor plants can suffer from a buildup of minerals over time, especially salts and copper.

Not only will these cause yellowing, but they can eventually kill the plant.

To help prevent this problem, avoid using tap water and water with the soak-and-dry method to help flush mineral wastes out of the soil.


Caused by either bacterial or fungal strains, there are many kinds of rot your Areca can suffer from.

The most common of these is root rot, which most often happens when a plant is overwatered.

Root and stem rot are both deadly to your plants. However, if caught early they can be treated.

Properly caring for your plant’s soil, water, sun, and humidity level can greatly reduce the risk of rot setting in.


Despite being generally sun-loving, your areca palm can still get too much of a good thing.

When exposed to harsh, direct sunlight, the leaves will scorch and turn yellow, then brown. Often, the leaves will feel crispy or dry when this happens.

Moving potted Areca palms to where they will have indirect, bright light can help prevent or treat this situation.

It may be harder to move outdoor plants, so plan if you live in a particularly arid region.


Areca palms fare best with indoor temperatures between 65 and 75° degrees Fahrenheit.

Exposure to drafts or excessive heat for long periods can kill the fronds, turning them yellow, then brown.

Whether indoors or outdoors, make sure your plant has some shelter from extreme weather conditions to avoid this problem.

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