Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - October 03, 2015

From: Anoka, MN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Palm Leaves Turning Brown
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

My palm plant leaves are turning brown starting at the tip and moving down the leaf. I've changed my watering amounts, and moved it from the direct light to partial light and back. It's not by any vents or cold breeze.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants needs a little more information before we can definitively diagnose your palm problem. Without knowing the type of palm, it is more challenging to offer advice about what is causing the browning of the leaves. Also whether the plant is growing indoors (which I assume) and not outdoors would also assist with the diagnosis.

In any event, if it is growing indoors there are several general causes of leaf browning that deal with the root health and the frequency and type of watering that could be the problem. Indoor palms are extremely sensitive to chemicals in the tap water and should be watered after the water sits for 24 hours. Browning of the leaves could also be caused by underwatering (also caused by the roots being pot bound), overwatering, root rot and fertilizer buildup.

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/houseplants/growing-palms-indoors/

The University of Minnesota Extension has an informative webpage on growing indoor palms. Here's what they say about brown leaves and watering for several palm types:

Though their light requirements may differ, all these palms have similar needs when it comes to water and fertilizer. In fact, dried brown leaf tips or leaf margins, two of the most common problems facing indoor palms, are related — directly or indirectly — to how they are watered and fertilized.

Keep palms relatively moist. In spring and summer, or when temperatures are warm and days are longer, water them as soon as their soil feels dry a little below the surface. Allow the soil to get slightly drier in winter.

It's important that potting soil drains well and containers you use have functioning drain holes. Water palms thoroughly, then spill or siphon off excess water that collects in the tray or saucer below the pot.

Fertilize lightly from late winter through early autumn, the time when houseplants are likely to grow most actively. A build-up of fertilizer salts in the soil results in those dreaded brown tips and edges, especially if you allow the soil to get too dry between waterings. If you're unsure about fertilizing, err on the side of too little rather than too much. You can always fertilize again, if necessary.

Finally, keep palm fronds clean. Spider mites are attracted to dusty foliage and can balloon into a serious problem, particularly in winter when relative humidity is low indoors.

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Recovery of damaged fuchsia plant in hanging basket
July 23, 2007 - I had a beautiful fuchsia plant hanging on my porch. The hanger gave way and the plant fell straight down into another flower bed. The fuchsia seemed ok. I put it back in the pot put up new strong ...
view the full question and answer

What to do with a sickly American elm in Austin, Texas
September 27, 2010 - I have an American elm that is about 6 feet tall in my yard. It is has not grown quickly this year--as compared to another American Elm that I have in another spot that is about 3 feet tall and has m...
view the full question and answer

Bark splitting in old tulip tree in Red Creek, NY.
May 18, 2013 - Hello, We have a tulip tree that has some bark splitting I guess I would call it. The tree is older and very tall. On the north side of it starting at the bottom of the trunk to about 8-9 feet up i...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on fungal attack
October 12, 2005 - I have three plants that have been getting fungus on their soil and I've tried to get rid of it by scraping it off, watering it less and more sunlight. It's two coleus and a begonia. I don't know...
view the full question and answer

Growth on top of Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)
July 03, 2012 - I grow purple coneflowers in my garden. ONE plant has something growing on the top of each cone. I would like to know what it is but I don't see how I can add a photo to this post.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.