Palm is browning

amritabDecember 6, 2006

I bought what i think is an areca palm from home depot in the summer. it was doing very well until recently. as it started getting colder, i held back on the watering - i noticed that the leaves were turning brown and looking very dry. i mist the plant every few days and have recently watered it again. i've had to cut back the big stalks as all the leaf spikes turned brown and brittle. there are a few leafy spikes left and new ones have grown in the center - though they have yet to spread out. can anyone give me advice on this plant?

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Do a check for spider mites. They can quickly become a problem on indoor palms.

Make sure when you DO water your plant, that you do so properly. Plants need to be watered thoroughly when it's time to do so. Remove the excess so that it doesn't sit in water. I assume that you are not fertilizing throughout the winter season.

Misting doesn't accomplish much of anything, especially when done infrequently. As a matter of fact, the practice can help spread insects and fungal spores. If you are trying to increase humidity, better to invest in a small humidifier or a pebble tray.

Keep your palm away from hot and cold drafts.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 2:15PM
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Thanks for your message. i am not fertilizing and am watering the plant through till the water runs out and then emptying out the tray after 15 minutes or so. Any suggestions on when to know to water? I have a moisture meter but don't know how deep to insert it in the soil and in some places, it gives me a dry read and in others, an almost dry read

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 3:05PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Moisture meters are notorious for not working properly. They don't really measure water content in the soil, but the electrical (ionic) activity. You can stick the probe in a glass of distilled water and it will read DRY!

Have you gently dug around in the pot to make sure that dry pockets haven't formed? I have one large plant that water will run out of even if I give it a tablespoon! Thus, I know that the potting soil has far outlived its useful life and I'll take care of that in the spring. In truth, the plant requires a great deal of water in order to get the job done, so I have to take it to the tub every couple of weeks.

I often bring up the watering issue as I've observed that most of the commercially available potting mixes become hydrophobic over time, especially if they've been allowed to dry out. Once that happens, those permanently dry pockets form....roots will die inside those areas.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 4:27PM
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It is being watered too much for the fewer hours of light it's getting now (the fall), not not-enough. We have to compensate for seasonal changes and all my plants are getting it less often until Feb/March.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 9:47PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Lucy, though I appreciate the fact that you have your crystal ball in operation (lol), I think I would still like amritab to determine whether or not the soil has been watered PROPERLY. That has absolutely nothing to do with being watered too often or too frequently.

Let's not encourage someone to cut back (or increase) watering frequency until they've learned to 'read' what their potting soil is telling them. amritab needs to feel around with old fashioned fingers!

abritab, you can also stick a pencil, wooden chopstick, or wooden skewer deep into your pot, and then feel it when you pull it out. The wood will absorb some of the moisture, if there is any.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2006 at 12:56PM
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I will let the top inch or so get "close" to dry, then I'll water it.
I agree with Rhizo about those watering meters. To be accurate, I like to use my index finger, then you can really "feel" if the plant really does need any water or not.
Aside from over-fertilizing and/or not water correctly, wrong light, some of the more sensitive plants like palms can suffer from brown tips simply by using hard-water.

Billy Rae

Here is a link that might be useful: My Areca Palm

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 12:59AM
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thank you all for your input. i will try "reading" the plant more in terms of how much water it needs and will try using filtered water to eliminate the minerals and other things that the plant probably doesn't like! lets hope it turns around!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 9:25PM
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I have switched my water to filtered water but my plant is not doing any better - its getting worse. I don't know if i should just give up. the leaves keep browning, even though i cut off old brown areas. now some of the leaves on the palm are curling - i checked for spider mites but didn't find any. i have also placed bowls of water around the plant for moisture and have it near an east facing window for morning light. is there anything else i can do? at this point, the plant looks really weak - no big fronds, just 2 sickly ones and 2 new young leaves that haven't yet opened up. Any help would be appreciated!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 9:25PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)


Your palm looks like a Pygmy Date Palm, Phoenix roebellenii and a very nice one at that.


Areca palms, Chrysalidocarpus lutescens are not easy to grow as houseplants. They require very bright light and high humidity. It is not your fault. They are cheap and easy to grow in greenhouses or under shade cloth in Florida so every big box store has them but they are very frustrating for the folks who try to keep them healthy at home.

There are other palms, though more expensive, that make great houseplants.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 5:45PM
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