Palm trees are usually quick to establish, easy to maintain, and can treat very few diseases and insects. Although healthy palms are naturally resistant to diseases and insects, they can sometimes be affected by the most common issues.
Are your palm trees dying? Do you not know what to do next? You may notice the following symptoms: discolored, spotted, or frizzled palm leaves, deformed new shoots, and droopy yellow, brown, or black leaves.
Remember that it is normal for older palm fronds to turn brown and dry out and then die, as the new one replaces them. If there are any yellow or brown leaves, it could be a problem.
Why is my Palm Tree Dying?
Before you can save your palm tree, it is essential to understand why it is dying. You could have a problem with your palm tree’s care or climate. The majority of people skip the “why” and focus on saving.
They trim all dying and dead leaves and add fertilizer to the soil. Then they water more frequently. If this doesn’t work, they move the palm to a better spot with more soil. These things can cause more stress to the palm and weaken it.
Begin by looking at your palm care every day and then moving on to the next topic. Here are 30 common problems I see and the solutions.
Be aware that an established palm tree may have more problems than one newly planted.
A new outdoor palm tree has brown, yellow, or drooping leaves.
Transplant shock is a condition from which a newly planted palm suffers after its roots are disturbed and exposed to sunlight and air. The palm tree loses a lot of its roots when it is moved, which results in water loss.
It’s not unusual for newly planted palms to have yellow, brown, or droopy leaves while they’re recovering. The palm’s adaptation could cause this to new light levels, humidity, and temperatures. Here’s what you can do:
- Continue to water the palm.
- Avoid fertilizing it.
- Do not prune dying leaves until they are dry completely. Palms transfer nutrients from dying leaves to new growth.
- Inadequate drainage could be the cause of droopy leaves. What type of soil are you using? What kind of soil did you use to plant the palm tree? My article on planting Palm Trees explains how to improve drainage.
- It might be damaged from transplanting, or it may have been planted too deeply.
- Verify the depth. You might have created air pockets in your soil by backfilling the hole with the dirt that has fallen to the root ball. Now the palm is too deep. It will be necessary to replant it.
- To prevent bacteria and fungi from growing on the tree, spray it with copper Fungicide if damaged.
- If you are still having trouble, make sure to check the buds and leaves (where new leaves are being grown) for signs of insect or disease. Below is a list of treatments.
An Outdoor Palm Tree With Yellow, Brown, Or Drooping Leaves
We can quickly dismiss many problems with established palms. The palm has been in the same place for a while, so there are no acclimatization issues such as light levels, drainage, and soil depth.
The palm had to have a more severe condition to make it change. The main reasons for the change are:
- Too little water. Check to see if soil moisture levels are needed to be adjusted.
- Nutrient deficiency. Nutrient deficiency is the second most common problem. Are you regularly fertilizing your palm? To check if any nutrients are missing,
- Frost damage. Is there freezing weather during winter?
- Insects and diseases. Pests and diseases are usually only able to attack palms when stressed. For signs of problems and fungi, check the leaves and buds.
30 Reasons Why Your Palm Tree Is Dying and How You Can Save It Fast
Evaluating primary palm tree care is the best way to diagnose the problem. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, you can move on to the next topic and make adjustments to see how the plant reacts.
Yellow or brown leaves falling off before drying are the first signs of over-watering. Different types of palms require additional water requirements, so it is essential to identify which type of palm you have.
As a rule of thumb, palms should be watered more during the summer and their growing season. They need less water in the winter. They prefer soil that is well-drained and moist. To solve this problem, you can add 30% of sand to your ground.
- Too little water
The tips of the leaves can dry out and turn brown. The soil’s moisture level should be checked the next day after watering. To measure the soil’s moisture, you can place your fingers 3 inches into the ground.
You can also use an electronic dirt moisture meter as I do. It gives you accurate and easy-to-read results. It will tell you if your soil is too dry, and you should water it more often.
Deep watering is the best option during hot, dry seasons. Instead of pouring water all at once, slow drip the water over a long period. This gives roots more time to absorb moisture. This is particularly important for palms just planted, which don’t yet have a robust root system.
Install a sprinkler system if you can and set it up to water on a schedule. This will make it, so you don’t have too much to worry about. You can find more information in my article on palm tree watering.
- Not enough depth
This is especially true for newly planted palms. Make sure that the palm is produced at the same depth as it has been grown previously. It can cause dehydration and nutrient loss.
The palm will look thin and sparse. You would need to replant the palm if it was planted too deeply. You can replant it if you are unable to. You can find planting instructions in my article Palm Tree Planting.
- Bad Soil
This applies more to palms that have just been planted. It’s possible that the soil is not suitable for this particular palm if it has been there for a while. Good soil should be able to absorb enough moisture and drain well.
Root rot can be caused by poor drainage. Leaflets might show Yellowing or dark brown. The new leaf spear could become discolored or wilted.
To prevent bacteria and fungi, spray it with copper fungicide. Next, improve drainage. This will prevent the problem from happening. To determine the type of soil, do a drainage test.
You can make the water drain better by drilling holes, adding rocks to it, and installing a pipe to take the water out of the tree.
Plant a palm together with plants that require the same amount of water. It is best to avoid using a fertilizer with soil, as it can burn the roots.
- Too Much Sunlight
Your palm will need more sunlight if it is not getting enough. An established palm, which has been growing in the shade for a while, is already well acclimatized, so it will not need more light.
This applies more to newly planted palms. For light requirements, check the specifications of your palm. It may be necessary to replant the palm.
To grow fully, some palms require full sun. You should be cautious when planting young trees in full sunlight as they can quickly get sunburnt. Palm leaves can become yellow and begin to appear dull in certain areas.
It is essential to acclimatize your skin before exposing it to the sun. There are a few ways you can do this. It is likely a new plant. The pot should be placed outside in a sunny place. Each week, you can increase the light level by moving it closer to the sun.
You can also plant the palm in full sunlight and cover it with a plastic sheet. To hold the plastic, you can use four sticks. You can increase the light level by making more holes in your plastic each week.
7. Nutrient Deficiency
A healthy tree will grow and develop if it has all the nutrients it needs. Lack of nutrients can make palms more vulnerable to disease.
It is possible to have tiny yellow, brown, or bronze spots on palm leaves. This could be a sign that there is potassium deficiency. To prevent soil imbalance, use slow-release potassium fertilizer and a similar magnesium fertilizer.
If there is a calcium shortage, the leaves may appear stunted or deformed. This can be easily fixed with Calcium Nitrate.
If there is a magnesium shortage, leaves could develop yellow lines along their borders. To correct the problem, you can use magnesium fertilizer spikes.
Iron deficiency leaves with thin veins, green spots, and broken ends are signs. Waterlogging could cause this problem if the palm were too profoundly planted. This problem can be corrected temporarily by applying iron fertilizer. This problem can be fixed permanently by replanting the palm.
Fertilize palms during the growth period, as little as 4-5 times per year, depending on the fertilizer. Low-quality fertilizers are not recommended as they don’t work.
A slow-release fertilizer is essential to ensure that your plants are healthy. My article fertilizing palm tree outlines the best time to fertilize and lists the top five palm fertilizers you should use.
- Fertilizer Burn
If you apply fertilizer too close to the palm trunk, it can easily cause damage. Keep 2 ft distance. The roots can also be burned if the soil is used with fertilizer. Damaged palms are more vulnerable to insects, diseases, and fungi.
Protect your palm with Copper Fungicide. This works well against both fungi as well as bacterial. It should be able to recover if the damage isn’t severe.
Everyone wants a green palm with no brown leaves. Many gardeners begin to prune their palms when they see a brown tip. Over-pruning is a common problem.
Palms transfer nutrients from the dying leaves to the new plant. It will cause nutrient loss if it is cut off. Leaves should not be cut until they are dry. Some palms have pruning tips that will stop new growth.
Very few online articles suggest cutting brown tips to prevent palms from wasting nutrients by dying fronds. Big mistake! You may have over-pruned your palm tree if it has a rooster tail appearance.
Hurricane PruningProfessionals who don’t have enough work will advise you to trim your palms before hurricane season to lose the extra weight. It’s not necessary. Your palm deserves all the protection it can from the wind.
The palm will be stressed if there are a lot of green leaves. Tie the fronds together if you are aware of a hurricane coming. Do not prune fronds hanging higher than the crown’s horizontal plane.
- Bad Climate
It is essential to know how cold your palm will experience in winter. This is crucial for successful palm tree growth. Before purchasing a palm tree, make sure you check its cold, hardiness zone.
Some palms are not able to withstand cold temperatures. You should choose one of the cold-hardy palms if you will be in colder climates.
Humidity is another problem. High humidity is a problem for palms. This makes it challenging to grow them in dry climates. If you live in a dry environment, make sure to check the palm’s requirements and drought tolerance.
- Freeze Damage
The winters of the past few years have been frigid. Even in Florida, the temperatures plunged below freezing point, and many palm trees were damaged.
One sign of cold damage could be the following:
- Palm wilting
- Crown flopping due to internal trunk Rotsoft lesions
- Softlesions outside the trunk
- New leaves falling around it
Palm trees that have been damaged by cold can be susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections. Spray it with Copper Fumigicide to protect them against bacteria and fungi. Sometimes the damage is too severe to repair.
You should prepare for freezing temperatures by protecting your palms in advance. I have written an article about 10 Ways to Protect Palm Trees From Winter Freeze. Do not fertilize cold-damaged palms as it will only increase stress.
- Trunk Injury
The palm’s bark can easily be damaged, making it more susceptible to insects and fungus. It is difficult to diagnose if you don’t notice any damage. Take care when moving the palm.
Make sure the root ball stays moist between purchase and planting. Plant your tree as soon as possible after you purchase it. Don’t remove the plastic container from which your palm was purchased. You can dry the soil and then cut the pot with a knife.
Some palms have been struck by lightning in rare cases. The brown leaves will begin to wilt. Don’t fertilize it. Continue to water it. Damaged palms can lead to fungal and bacterial infections.
Copper Fungicide can be applied to protect the palm from bacteria and fungi. The palm will die if the bud is severely damaged.
- Herbicide Toxicity
Most people wouldn’t think twice about herbicide toxicity. This type of damage can take several months to show up. The signs and symptoms of herbicide injury can look very similar to those you see after freezing damage.
The new growth will be more petite, less slender, and with a few patches of dead tissue. Use different weed killers around your palms.
- Leaf Spots
Leaf-spottingNutrient deficiencies in palms can cause a leaf-spotting fungi. It looks similar to brown, yellow spotting leaflets. This fungus is most common in palms that have been subject to excessive watering or poor drainage. It doesn’t matter if it is a nutrient shortage or inadequate drainage. Get rid of the stress.
When watering your palm, avoid getting water on it. In most cases, the leaf spots will disappear without any need for fungicide treatment. You may need to spray the affected area with fungicidal products that contain copper hydroxide or copper salts.
- Lethal Yellowing
Lethal Yellowing is a deadly disease spread by an insect called Myndus crudes. The new flowers will begin to turn black, and the stems of the fruits will become blacker.
The old fronds can also become yellow, grey, or brown until their entire crown is gone. Lethal Yellowing is a fatal disease. There is no cure. You can only get rid of infected palms to not spread to other plants.
- Bacterial Bud Rot
The bacterial bud rot disease can attack a cold-damaged palm. The new leaf spear will be yellowed and wilted. The affected leaf spear will often pull from the bud quickly. A foul-smelling odor could also indicate the problem.
Like many other diseases, it can be treated by soaking the affected area in copper-based fungicides. This is why I recommend copper-based fungicides before the cold snap.
- Fusarium Wilt
Fusarium wilt can cause a darkening or reddish streak to the leaf stem of your palm. The oldest leaves will turn brown on only one side of their branches.
It will move to the new fronds after all the old leaves have become brown. The Fusarium wilt can cause the palm to become weakened and eventually die. This can happen in a matter of months or years. There is no cure for this disease. To prevent the disease from spreading, you must disinfect your tools.
- Ganoderma Butt Rot
Ganoderma Butt Rot, a deadly disease caused by a fungus, is known as Ganoderma. It affects the trunk of the palms, also known as the butt. This is why it is called Ganoderma Buttrot. Because there aren’t many symptoms, it can be challenging to spot.
It causes the tissue to rot from the inside, resulting in a white spongey growth that turns brown as it matures. It spreads from tree to tree by wind thanks to millions of spores.
This disease is incurable. You can only get rid of the palm. To stop the fungal conk from spreading, you should first cover it with plastic. Then, take down the tree and dispose of it. Ganoderma can live in soil, so don’t plant it in the same place.
- Bud Rot
Phytophthora bud rot occurs in hot summers following tropical storms, periods of heavy rain, or palms that have been severely damaged by freezing.
If you have bud rot in your palm, the new fronds of your palm will turn discolored then start to wilt. The same thing will happen with the next leaves. Sometimes, the spears may have black lesions. Check to see if the new fronds are pulling out quickly. You might also notice a foul-smelling bud.
If the damage isn’t too severe, you can save the palm by spraying fungicide on the buds. When possible, avoid overhead irrigation.
- Sooty Mold
The superficial fungal doesn’t attack the plant directly but appears only on the tree’s surface. It feeds on honeydew from scale, palm, and mealybug infestations.
It forms a dark covering over the leaves, easy to wash off. Honeydew-producing insects can be controlled to prevent the growth of Sooty Mold.
- False Smut
False Smut is another leaf fungus that can affect palms when stressed by overwatering and poor drainage. This disease is also known as Graphiola Leaf spot. It initially causes yellow, brown, or black holes. The disease is more severe in older leaves. As it matures, the fungus will produce yellow spores from these spots.
The primary cosmetic disease can be prevented easily by removing affected leaves. Copper-based fungicides can be applied in the early stages of the disease to prevent it from spreading.
It is common to require multiple applications throughout the year to eliminate it. False Smut is most commonly found in Phoenix species, particularly Canary Island Date Palms and Date Palms.
- Palm Leaf Skeletonizer
The palm leaf skeletonizer caterpillar is a tiny moth-sized caterpillar that feeds on the palm leaf’s two surfaces, leaving behind fibrous excrements. They prefer to eat tissue between the veins and ribs, creating dark tubes looking structures. This is why the insect’s name is Leaf Skeletonizer.
It consumes the palm leaf between its veins or ribs, creating a dark tube structure similar to the leaf skeleton. This insect can be tough to control. Once you have spotted the insect, remove it and spray the rest of the area with an insecticide that contains carbaryl.
- Palm Aphid
The palm aphid is a dark brown, motionless insect that feeds on the new growth of palms. They infest palms in large quantities and produce honeydew, which attracts ants. Ants use honeydew to protect aphids and their food.
You will see dark brown bumps and a white ring of wax surrounding them on infected palms. Palm aphids can infect different species of palms but are most common on Alexander Palm and Date Palm. Coconut Palm and Washington Palm are also affected.
Although insecticide soap and horticultural oils effectively control palm aphids, they must be reapplied multiple times.
Many species of mealybugs can infest palms. Some mealybugs feed on the roots of palms and can be challenging to spot, but most focus on the palm bud. That is where new fronds are emerging. They produce honeydew, which is similar to Palm aphids and attracts ants.
Infected palms will have new fronds or stems that appear covered in white, cottony masses. A mixture of soapy water with alcohol can slow down the growth. Spray the area with insecticidal shampoo to get rid of all mealybugs.
- Palmetto Weevil
Palmetto Weevil, a giant beetle, is attracted to stressed palms. However, a new study by the University of Florida has shown that it can also attack healthy palms. It is known to attack Cabbage and Latina palms and Bismarck and Canary Island Date.
The eggs are laid by this black, sometimes red beetle in the leaf base of the palm. The eggs hatch and feed on the plant until they reach the heart. They destroy the buds and create cocoons, from which they hatch into adult weevils. Although it is difficult to detect a problem early, you can treat the palm with insecticidal soap.
- Saddleback Caterpillar
The Saddleback Caterpillar’s color is dark brown, with poisonous spines. It has distinctive bright green patterns on its back that look like a saddle. It digs large holes on palm leaves’ undersides.
To control young caterpillars, you can use biological insecticides. To protect your hands from the spines, wear gloves. It attacks palms such as Christmas, Butterfly and Fishtail, Christmas, Alexander, Christmas, Coconut, Princesse, Butterfly, Mazari. Pygmy Date, Queen, Mexican fan palms.
- Scale Insects
Scale insects are pretty common and can often be found on palm leaves. Many scales, including Florida red, thread, Magnolia white, soft brown, and Magnolia white. These tiny brown bumps with no legs attack new growth and suck out all its fluids.
Horticultural oil is the best way to get rid of them. It must be applied multiple times to ensure that they die.
- Spider Mites
Scale are not insects but are part of the spider family. They can be found indoors, in greenhouses, or outdoors, and they are most often an issue with palms. Many species will feed on palms, but the most common one is the two-spotted mite.
Infected palm leaves may initially have yellow spots. This could change to a pale or washed-out color as the infestation progresses. There may be webbing visible under the leaf. You can get rid of it by using horticultural oil, insecticides, or soap.