Why Are My Palm Tree Leaves Turning Yellow And Brown?

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Palm trees are generally fairly easy to care for plants. They shed a few spent, brown fronds in the normal growth process. If the yellowing, browning, and dropping of fronds become excessive, it signifies problems.

What causes the yellowing and browning of palm fronds? Among these are lack of nutrients, fungal infection, pests, and too much light.

Yellowing Palm Tree LeavesPin

Another pervasive problem for newly acquired or recently relocated palms is transplant shock.

This article will discuss the causes and solutions for palm tree leaves turning yellow and brown. Read on to learn more.

Why Are Your Palm Leaves Turning Yellow?

Here are 11 main reasons palm leaves might turn yellow and brown.

1. Aging

As new fronds grow from the center of the crown, older lower leaves naturally dry out, turn brown, die, and fall. This is not a cause for concern.

The number of green fronds a palm tree supports varies from one type to another. 

TIP: It is not always necessary to remove brown leaves. The natural process is for the leaf to turn yellow, orange, and brown and then fall off on its own.

This should take three days, and letting this natural process happen well. If the brown leaves linger longer than that, gently pull them off if they are entirely dry.

If you must trim them, cut them as close to the trunk as possible.

2. Drowning

As with most plants, overwatering can cause myriad problems in palm trees.

Yellowing and browning leaves may be the first indication that your plant is getting too much water and not enough air circulation around the roots.

Close-up of vibrant green palm fronds.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @adampantozzi

If this problem continues, your plant will suffer root rot and die.

To resolve this problem, switch to soak and dry watering and ensure that the soil around your palm is light, airy, and fast-draining. 

3. Thirst

If you are not watering enough, you will notice brown tips on the fronds as an initial symptom of thirst.

While it is good to let the top few inches of soil surrounding your plant dry out between waterings, it is not a good idea to let it stay dry for an extended period. 

Palm trees do not have deep roots. Therefore, when the first few inches of soil are dry, give your plant a deep watering.

For outdoor palms, use a soaker hose. For potted palms, pour water through the plants’ substrate until it runs out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the planter or pot.

4. Hunger

Palm trees need the right NPK (nitrogen, phosphate, potassium) balance, along with proper doses of minerals (magnesium, manganese, and iron).

If your palm is suffering from a nutrient deficiency, you may be able to determine what it needs by examining the leaves:

  • Iron deficiency causes the body of the leaves to turn yellow while the veins stay green. 
  • Manganese deficiency causes new leaves to grow frizzy-looking and brown. 
  • Potassium deficiency causes yellow spots on mature leaves.
  • Nitrogen deficiency causes generalized yellowing of fronds.
  • Magnesium deficiency causes yellowing of leaf tips. 

To avoid these problems, it’s a good idea to provide your palms with a proper, balanced supplement regularly. Check out this article on fertilizing outdoor palms.

Begin each growing season (early spring through mid-autumn) with a good dose of high-quality, slow-release fertilizer. 

Palm leaves against a blue sky.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @lismey

Follow package instructions for treatments throughout the growing season. Keep a close eye on your palms and make adjustments as needed.

The precise amount you will need to fertilize will vary depending upon your weather and the quality of your soil. 

5. Over-fertilization

It’s important not to give excessive amounts of fertilizer as this burns the plants’ roots and causes the tips and fronds of your palm tree to turn brown.

Providing a slightly lower amount of fertilizer is always better than recommended.

You can always give an extra dose if you see the need to do so.

6. Incorrect Placement Of Fertilizer

Take care not to apply fertilizer too close to the trunk of your palm tree. This can cause chemical burns on the trunk.

In addition, this injury opens the door for disease, fungus, and insect infestation, all of which will cause yellowing and browning leaves. 

7. Chill

If your palm tree is exposed to lower temperatures than it can tolerate, its fronds will wilt, droop, and turn brown.

If you experience freezing temperatures, you will see the damage right away. 

If you expose your new growth to slightly lower-than-ideal temperatures for an extended period, you may find that it is damaged or deformed. 

Keep a close eye on your weather report and protect the palm tree plant from cold as needed.

If your palm is exposed to freezing temperatures, treat it with an antibacterial or antifungal product to prevent potential problems. 

8. Pests

If your palm tree is healthy, it will naturally ward off pests and diseases, but if injury, cold, or other challenges compromise it, pests and diseases are invited in.

Stressed palm trees are subject to infestation by common pests, such as:

  • Mealybugs
  • Spider mites
  • Scales

To get rid of these pests, remedy whatever is causing your plant stress and provide a thorough treatment with an insecticidal soap spray.

You may need to treat the pests several times over a couple of weeks to catch them at every stage of their life cycle. 

9. Fungus

Overcrowded and overwatered palm trees are subject to several different fungal infections.

Among them are Fusarium Wilt and Ganoderma butt rot, which cannot be treated, and leaf spot fungus, which can. 

Fusarium Wilt typically affects one side of a plant, attacking mature foliage.

Leaves and fronds affected with Fusarium will wither and turn brown. Stems will turn deep red or brown. 

Ganoderma butt rot causes general decline and wilting. The lower fronds of the plant will turn brown, and a hard, shelf-like structure may develop on the lower trunk of the plant. 

In the case of either of these maladies, the affected trees should be completely removed and destroyed.

If in containers, the soil should be disposed of (not composted), and the container should be sterilized or disposed of.

If in the landscape, the soil surrounding the area where the palm was planted should be treated with antifungal soil treatment. 

Several different sorts of leaf spot fungus are not as serious as the fungal infections already described.

Leaf spot fungi may cause brown or yellow spots on the leaves of stressed palm trees. 

Treat this condition by determining and eliminating the problem that is causing the plant stress.

Then, apply a fungicidal spray product that contains copper salts of fatty acids or copper hydroxide.

10. Shock

When palms are moved from one place to another, they commonly suffer transplant shock. Changes in humidity, temperature, or light levels can cause this.

A change in the watering schedule may be the culprit.

A palm dug up from the landscape and transplanted may experience shock because of the loss of roots. 

When you acquire a new palm, set it up in an area that receives moderate sunlight, consistent warmth, and shelter from severe weather.

Establish a regular watering schedule, and don’t fertilize for the first couple of months.

Expect a bit of yellowing and loss of leaves. This is not a cause for alarm. 

TIP: Newly transplanted palms should be watered daily for a week, alternating days for another week, and on a soak-and-dry schedule after that. 

11. Harsh Sunlight

Although strong, mature palms like coconut palms do best in full sun exposure, young, new ones do not. Plus there are many palms that are not sun lovers.

If you acquire a new palm tree, you should place it in a setting described in #10 above for several weeks before planting it in a full sun location.

Then, move it gradually into its final destination, and expect to experience some yellowing and loss of leaves during the process. 

What Should You Do To Save A Dying Palm Tree? 

If you’ve rescued a palm tree from the bargain rack at the home improvement store, you may have a lot of dry, brown leaves to deal with.

Remove the worst of the dead, dry leaves, and place the plant in a conducive setting (as described in #10 above) and keep a sharp eye out for new growth. 

You should see new fronds emerging from the center or heart of the palm. As they do, gently remove older leaves.

Eventually, you will be rid of the yellow and brown palm leaves and have an entirely new, fresh plant.

More on Palm Care

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