dry, dying leaves

gtaylor123March 16, 2013

Sorry, kind of clueless house plant owner here. I don't know the name of the plant, but I'm hoping someone can identify it through the picture attached. It was doing really well up until a couple of months ago when the leaves started turning brown and dying. I got the plant about a year and a half ago. I've moved it closer to the window and started watering it a bit more. I water it once a week. Any idea what I can do?


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Also, I recently trimmed off the dead leaves, so it looks better than it did before!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 11:59AM
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It's a palm. I was going to suggest a Kentia, but it seems to have multiple stems rather than one single trunk, so I hope someone more experienced with ID will come on board soon to correct me.
Loss of SOME leaves is natural as palms grow, but a severe browning off usually mean an issue with light (too much or too little) , or with water (same) , or feeding, or all three.
It may be, that it is also becoming a little pot-bound and could benefit from being placed in a larger container, and also fed some more.
Also check for insects, mealy bugs, scale along the under-ribs, or red spider mite, though if you don't have a problem with any other of your indoor collection that's probably not a problem.
Even though palms can be grown indoors they are really an outdoor plant, so benefit from a change of air occasionally and a wash-down of leaves to remove build-up of dust. Also air conditions can be a bit drying sometimes esp over winter you might need to provide a little more humidity.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 2:10AM
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Hi Greg. Did you notice the browning, drying leaves after you moved the palm closer to the window? Is that a radiator enclosed in the white ornate thing in the background? The palm may be getting too hot/ dry from the heat source if that is the case.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 8:45AM
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Greg, yep, your plant is a Palm. As for type, it could be a Parlor Palm, Chamaedorea elegans, but I can't say for certain.

Besides advice and questions Allison and Lorrr offered and asked, which direction does the window face?
Now that it's March, daylight is longer and 'sun should be' brighter.'
Parlor Palms are native to rainforest regions, grow in low light. Indoors, PP's should be placed in shade or medium, indirect sun.

PP's also require humidity and fresh, circulating air.

Too much sun, dry air, under-watering and insects cause leaves to brown.

Common insects most likely to attack Palms are Spider Mites and Mealy Bug.
Check for fine webs, (mites) and white, cottony lumps, (mealy.)

If possible, shower your palm once a week.
My tropicals are misted daily, but spraying is a matter of choice.

Good luck, Toni

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 1:25PM
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Thanks for all your responses!

To answer your questions, I just moved the plant to the window to give it more light. The browning leaves started before moving it and the window faces south. Yes, the white thing is a radiator, but I'll probably move the plant back to it's original spot when I see some improvement.

The house is pretty dry through the winter, so that might be part of the problem. I'll get it a larger pot when I get a chance and I'll spray down the leaves.

I'm probably not the best at feeding it. Any suggestions for good plant food and how often it should be fed? I put in some Jobe's plant spikes recently.

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 10:24PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

"I put in some Jobe's plant spikes recently. "

Did the issue with the leaves start after that? Those things are not something I have much faith in. The roots near it would be getting an overdose, the roots not near it may not get anything. I quit using those because I discovered they don't really dissolve, and never made any of my plants look or grow better or faster. A year later when repotting, you'll find a slimy thing... Ewww! Some people like them though, they've been around for decades.

Chamaedorea shouldn't mind dry house air, but if it's right where the hot air is blowing, that could be a hardship for it. If it's a majesty palm, they're much more finicky. It looks like that pot probably has drain holes so excess water can escape the pot, but if excess water sits in a drip saucer, that can affect the roots which in turn shows up as dead tips and whole leaves.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 9:27AM
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wndy_gardenweb(USDA z4b)

Hi Greg, I'm quite a beginner, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I think you either have a Cat Palm (Chamaedorea cataractarum) or as Toni said, a Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans).

I have a cat palm myself, and your plant looks just like mine. However, the two look so similar (to me) at that size, that I cannot tell them apart.

Palms have always given me trouble, yet I love them so. I will tell you about mine in hopes that it will help you. My palms *always* get scale and spider mites. In the past they would die from those pests, but now I am better at catching the bugs before they infest the plant.

Spider mites like dry, warm, unmoving air--basically, they thrive in winter in a good chuck of the US. I keep mine near the window, which just like you, is where the heater is (though I have a forced air from above). I take my palm into the bathroom tub and spray it with a pesticide (it's too cold outside for the this). Spider mites are usually on the underside of the leaves, so I usually lay the plant down flat in the tub and pretty much just soak it, and rotate it, so all leaves get covered.

Since I first did this, the plant, which was on its way out, is doing so much better (I've only had to do this maybe twice in past several months?). You may not have any bugs on your palm, so maybe this won't help you, but I recommend it, since spider mites are very hard to see.

As others have said, the plant should not be sitting in water. If it is a cat palm, they like more moisture than other plants, but never let them sit in water. A good way to water them is to take the whole plant to the bathtub or shower, and water it there until water comes out of the holes on the bottom. Then, wait a bit, and water some more. If there happens to be a build up of salts in the soil from watering with tap water, this will leach it out of the soil. You don't need to leach every time, maybe only a few times a year? But, watering in the shower & tipping the pot on its side to make sure all the water comes out is a good method for making sure no water is left in the pot. My palm pot does NOT have holes on the bottom, it has holes on the side about 1" from bottom, so it's quite necessary to do this.

There's a lot of info on here about soil medium & water draining... a fast draining "soil" would be good for your palm, if it is not already in it. Search for posts by tapla & you will find medium info. I have started to put a "wick" in some of my pots... I put a strip of rag in one of the holes at the bottom of a pot, so moisture wicks out of the pot.. that might help you?

You live in Ontario, I live in Minnesota. The sun here is not that strong, and I have my palm in direct sunlight in the morning on a SE-facing window. Often palms don't like direct sun, but my palm seems to do better with it than being in a darker room. It only gets a couple hours of direct sun though, and that's E and SE sun, not overhead hot sun.

For watering, I would stick a finger about 3-4cm (1.5") deep in the soil to see if it needs to be watered. In winter, I water less, since the plant isn't growing much. In the summer, mine needs more water. You said you watered once a week, so I wasn't sure if you checked the soil before watering,

For more drastic measures, you could remove the plant form the pot and see what's going on with the roots--see if they are rotting or not (if they are, you'll need to do something about that or it will kill the whole plant eventually). A lot of my plants are in their original pots+soils, and when the soil is dry, I can pick up the plant by the stem/leaves and remove it from the pot... and put it right back! (quite pot-bound!) If you can do that, it makes it real easy to check on the roots. Generally people on GW seem to recommend repotting in June or so, so I'm not sure if repotting (and again, read posts by tapla and others for how to do that properly) now would be good or bad.

Hmm, what else? I would make sure the plant is a good meter from that radiator... or maybe buy a humidifier and stick it near the radiator so the air is not so dry? I never mist my plants btw. On real cold days outside (where the heat is on all the time inside) I will soak a dishrag or some other cloth in water, and then hang it up near the plants. We have also started air-drying a lot of our clothes around the plants, and it does add some humidity to the air (and saves money by not using the dryer :-D

Anyhow, that's just my experience with my cat palm. I hope it is of some use to you--and I hope your plant makes it through. Once it's nice enough, stick it outside and that should help it :-)

Good luck & keep us posted,


(oh and I put the jobe's spikes in mine too, because I had some leftover from awhile back. They haven't done anything to harm the palm or any other plant, so I don't think that is what's harming your plant. I do agree with Purple that they get all gross, and in the future I would just stick with normal water soluble stuff :-)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 10:17PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I repot my palm usually yearly, sometimes it's 2 years and have never harmed it by doing so. I would wait until you can do it outside. The humidity is so helpful in regard to drying less quickly during recovery, especially if you trim the roots, and is what makes these plants comfortable anyway, whether recently repotted or not.

I put some pics of repotting a Chamaedorea elegans here. This last repot, I separated several of the plants from the main clump with a knife. Those pics were added to that discussion recently, but were taken in October. The trees are doing great, and all flowered profusely last month, kind of finishing up now. Bloom pic below.

Palms that have trunks must lose leaves, at about the same pace as they grow new ones, it's just how they get taller. Unless it's from a pest or debilitating cultural condition, it's not a cause for concern.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 1:03PM
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Purple's right about Jobe's Spikes.
The areas spikes are directly inserted gets fertilized, but nutrients do not permeate the entire rootball like powdered, timed-release or water-soluble fertilizers.

Greg, you asked about fertilizer. For Palms I use acid-type twice a year, (early spring/March, mid-summer/July,) then Fish Emulsion, from Apr-Sept..March and July do not get Fish Emulsion.

If your palm is a Parlor, fronds will burn in a south or west window.
You might not have noticed, but sun is pretty strong. Even on cloudy days.

I recently moved low-medium light plants away from south and west windows.
My Spindle Palm started browning. Same thing happened this time last year.

If your palm is near a shower or kitchen sink with attached hose, spraying leaves, once a week if possible, rids dust particles and raises humidity, 'a short period.'
I also mist daily.

Wndy. I never heard of a Cat Palm, so I Googled pictures. Cat Palms are very pretty. I love the weeping fronds.

You're right about Mites and even Mealy. Palms that do not get enough humidity, fresh air and sit water-logged are bound to attract either insect.

Both pests destroy fronds. Leaves dry out, then eventually brown.
People often mistake too much sun when, in fact, the problem is insects sucking foliage, misshaping and browning.

Purple, your palm flowers look great! Toni

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 6:32PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thanks, Toni!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 8:49PM
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wndy_gardenweb(USDA z4b)

Ooh, thanks Purple for the link to the palm repot--I'll be doing that this June I think (I need to repot most of my plants, they're all in their original soil...) Like Toni said, those flowers look great! That happened to my cat palm a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure what it was until I looked online!

Toni--if you're ever in the mood to pick up a palm, I recommend the cat palm. It's pretty darn resilient for a palm, which I think makes it a good houseplant. They don't form a "trunk," that's my only complaint. So if I feel like having the fronds in the air (er, up higher in the air), I just set the palm on a plant stand or something like that.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 9:23PM
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Wow, thanks again for all the help. Tons of good info that I was clueless about. I'll repot when it gets warmer and try your other suggestions. Thanks all!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 10:48PM
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Purple, you're welcome.

Wndy. "If I'm ever in the mood to buy a plant." LOL. Guess you don't know me.
I'm always looking, but space is an issue.

As a matter of fact, yesterday afternoon I was browsing palms on Ebay.
One seller, Coconut, has the rarest and prettiest palms.
Aside from space, 'mentioned above,' palm prices are a little steep.

I was actually looking at variegated and bottle palms.

Your Cat Palm is a beauty.
I noticed, via Goggle photos, some Cat Palm leaves looked silver or blue.
Was it the lighting?

Greg, aside from a few, brown fronds, your palm is very nice.
Remove discolored leaves, and inspect for webs and white, cottony patches. Nothing wrong with being cautious, right? Good luck, Toni

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 1:45PM
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I looked closer and found some white, fluffy bits, so it looks like mealybugs. :-( So, I've wiped off what I can and I guess I should use some alcohol to kill the bugs? I'll put it outside when the weather gets better, too.

Thanks, Greg

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 6:53PM
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wndy_gardenweb(USDA z4b)

Greg -- that's great news I think, now you have identified a cause for the problem and can take action. I've never had mealybugs before, so I can't comment on what to do.

Toni -- I know what you mean about space! Well, I have plenty of space actually, but my significant other doesn't fancy the idea of living in a jungle :-/

My cat palm is just sort of the standard green/darker green... very, very similar to the parlour palm. Palms do seem to cost more than other plants, though now and then I find a good deal on them. Normally it's just those awful Majesty Palms at a low price, but HD the other day had a sale on their large cat, parlor, and majesties... I think about $18 for a plant that was about my height (5' +). They looked good to me. The cat was actually flowering too! Costco also had some huge palms for $20something last time I was there... they towered over me! I'm saving my pennies for another palm....

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 8:20PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Yes, rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip or cotton ball will not hurt palm. Wipe off the critters with one or both of those.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:30PM
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Greg, I'm sorry your palm has mealy.
Mealy is one insect I can't rid, 'without the use of chemicals,' which I choose not to use.

Rubbing Alcohol works, but you have to keep at it.
A few Hoyas have mealy, so I wipe leaves with Cotton Balls and Q-Tips saturated with straight RA.
I also spray upper/lower leaves and stems w/RA and water.

Good luck, Greg.

Wndy...your significant other will eventually get used to the idea. Living in a jungle isn't so bad.
Plants are great for the air we breath. lol. 'Good excuse.'

Our local Walmart and Home Depot always have Majasty Palms, but finding a rare Palm is out of the question.
One time, several different palms were shipped to Walmart. 9,99 each.
I drove home, even though I had my eye on a Fan Palm. Not five-minutes went by before I drove back to Walmart..
Someone bought every last palm. I'd bet they purchased to resell for a much higher price.
Palms stood at least 5' tall.

I checked an Ebay Sellers store; he specializes in Palms.
Typed in Cat Palm and Chamaeorea cataractarum, but he doesn't sell this type.
Oh well, maybe it's better. lol.
However, he has two other palms I'd like.
Licuala Grandis and 3 Silver Spoked Leaf Palm/Coccothrinax. Both are beautiful but expensive. Especially since they're babies w/5-6 leaves.

Unfortunately, we're not Costco or Sam's Club members.
Although Ikea has rarer plants @ reasonable prices, the drive takes an hour or longer.

Oh well, don't know why I'm looking at plants anyway. lol. Toni

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 1:48PM
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wndy_gardenweb(USDA z4b)

LOL Wish I lived in your area, then I'd give you a holler when a palm pallet comes in. I went IKEA the other day (luckily it's on the way to significant other's work :-) and they had palms, but didn't get a chance to see what kind. Last year they were just majesties >I was really surprised by the Home Depot near me having all those palms (parlor, cat, and majesty) for the same price. From what I understand, majesties are really easy for sellers to grow, hence the low price compared to other palms. Too bad they make horrible houseplants. I think I got my current cat palm at Walmart.

I always look at palms, though I hardly ever buy, hehehe :)

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 6:12PM
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gtaylor123, a weekly misting of houseplants shows up the webs of spider mites and when followed by wiping down with a sponge, will reduce the insect problem and keep the plants clean.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 8:50PM
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