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How To Care For Your Sick Palm Tree

Updated: Apr 4, 2022

Sick Mexican Fan Palm Tree
Sick Mexican Fan Palm Tree

Is your palm tree sick and you're not sure what to do? This article will help you save your ill palm! But before getting to the saving part, you need to figure out exactly what is wrong with your true love.

There are many factors that could cause your palm tree to be sick. It could be climate, bugs, improper transplanting, watering issues, nutrient deficiencies, or something else. Most people start to panic and do things like water more, add more fertilizer, or even transplant the palm. In the end, this causes a lot of stress and is bad for your tree.

Newly planted palms can suffer from a lot more complications compared to more mature palms. It is very difficult to diagnose a problem from a computer, but it’s most likely one of the issues listed above, so be patient before diagnosing the issue.

Palm Tree Care Problems


The first sign of over-watering is usually yellow or brown leaves that fall off before drying. Palm trees like a damp, but quick draining soil. Just add 30% sand to the soil if you are having drainage issues, or if you see the water taking too long to seep into the ground. Palms can be watered 4 times a week in the hottest part of summer, and just once or twice a week in the cooler parts of winter depending on where you live.

Not enough water

The tips of the leaves will dry and start turning brown. It is hard to over-water most palm trees, so make sure to keep the soil moist. You can use a moisture gauge to stick in the soil to tell you when it is time to water if need be. Otherwise, just stick your finger in the dirt, and if the first 2 inches of soil is dry, then you know it is ok to water.

Over Fertilizing

Palm trees can suffer from too much fertilizer. It is like if you took 5 of the same vitamins at once, your body couldn't handle it or it would just be turned into waste. The same concept applies to palm trees. Make sure to spread a slow-release fertilizer around the base of the palm, making sure to keep a distance of around 2 feet away from the trunk. This will ensure that your palm does not over-dose on nutrients, but will still slowly get the fertilizer that it needs to grow strong and healthy. Usually, palm fronds will almost immediately start to turn yellow if too much fertilizer has been applied. Apply in early spring and again in early to mid-summer for best results.

Poor Soil

For a newly planted palm, you should make sure that your soil is exactly what your palm tree needs to establish itself. Use a soil with a sandy mix to make sure it drains properly, but always stays moist. Do NOT use a soil that already has fertilizer in it, this will burn your newly planted palm tree and cause stunted growth.


One of the most common mistakes a palm tree owner can make is over-trimming or over-pruning your palm. Unlike other species similar to palms, these trees get their energy to grow from their existing fronds. If you trim too many fronds at once, you will significantly slow down the growth of your tree by preventing it from receiving all of its necessary nutrients. It is tempting to trim your palm tree as soon as you see any brown or dying fronds, however, as a rule of thumb for most palms, you should wait until the frond is completely brown, or at least dropping to a 90-degree angle. Be sure to trim the fronds as close to the trunk as possible unless you are grooming the tree for a different, desired look.

Improper Planting Depth

Another very common issue that causes sick trees is improper planting or transplanting. You MUST make sure that when transplanting from a different location, or from a nursery pot, that you place the tree exactly as deep, or shallow as the tree was growing before. I like to take a permanent marker and make a line where the top of the soil ends and the trunk begins before transplanting. This way I can perfectly align the soil line with the area of trunk that is used to being above ground, making sure that the transplant goes as smoothly as possible.

Sun Requirements

Make sure that you acclimatize your palm tree ahead of time by placing it in the exact spot you plan on growing it while still potted. I recommend doing so 1 week before actually transplanting it there. This will help your tree adjust to different sunlight patterns that it wasn't used to before, helping to make the transplanting process as smooth as possible. Make sure to learn all about your palm trees sunlight requirements before placing them in your landscape. Too much sun will burn your palm, and not enough sun will cause it to slowly die, or grow un-naturally by making the fronds stretch out as if they are reaching for the sun.

Improper Climate

Make sure that the palm tree you own is being grown in the proper climate. Certain palm trees need specific temperatures to grow and maintain a healthy life-cycle. You can not grow a very cold hardy palm tree like the windmill palm in 90-degree weather every day. Just like you couldn't grow a coconut palm tree in cooler weather. Make sure to check your USDA hardiness zone before choosing the right palm tree for your home or business.

Cold Damage

If the last couple of years or even just the last season has been cold, you might have a damaged or sick palm tree. Some evidence of the cold damage might be the palm fronds are wilting, the crown is flopping over due to internal trunk rot, soft lesions on outside of the trunk, newly emerged leaves falling down around the trunk or discoloration of the fronds. Cold-damaged palm trees can become vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections. To protect them from bacteria and fungi, spray it with a copper fungicide to kill the germs. If the freeze was bad enough, there will not be anything that you can do to save your prized possession.

Dry season

If you are under-watering, the tips of your palm usually start to turn darker or even brown. Make sure to keep up with watering 3-4 times a week during the hottest days of summer. Also, make sure to choose a palm tree that is tolerant to dry conditions. You can use mulch around the base of your tree to help retain moisture.

Potassium Deficiency

On the off chance that the palm leaves have little yellow, orange, or bronze spots that spread practically whole sharp edge, it is an indication of potassium insufficiency. Get some moderate discharge potassium manure and furthermore comparative magnesium compost to evade deficiencies in the dirt.

Calcium Deficiency

The leaves may have all the earmarks of being hindered and disfigured if there is a calcium insufficiency. This issue is effectively reversed with Calcium Nitrate.

Magnesium Deficiency

Leaves could have yellow groups that kept running along the fringes of the leaves if there is a magnesium inadequacy. Use magnesium manure spikes to address the issue or any form of a magnesium supplement

Iron Deficiency

The indication of iron inadequacy is leaves with slender green veins, green spotting, and broken closures. This issue may be occurring because the palm was planted excessively deep. You can address this issue easily by applying iron manure. To fully fix this issue, you would have to re-plant your palm at the proper depth.

Check out the reasons why your palm tree fronds are turning yellow or brown.

16,572 views3 comments


Mandy Sharp
Mandy Sharp
Aug 26, 2022

We have a Hardy fan palm that was replanted about 3 years ago it was blooming until now its started going brown and we removed the dead leaves and new leave are coming through which are going brown before they have even fanned out please help


I have a mature palm probably 50 years old , 60 ft tall. part of the bark is peeling off and exposing the interior layers. Everyone says cut it down. Is this normal growth ? I don’t want to take it down unless there is no Hope in saving it.


What is going on with the palm tree shown in the photograph? This is exactly how two of my palm trees look. Thank you!

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