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Why Are My Palm Fronds/Leaves Turning Yellow/Brown?

Even though many people associate palm trees with beaches and sunny weather, they can

actually be grown in almost any part of the country. Palm trees are one type of tropical plant that can make a wonderful addition to most home or commercial landscaping. However, palm trees are beautiful on their own even without any landscaping. In this article, we will outline the reasons why your palms fronds are turning brown or yellow and hopefully, you can remedy the issue.

Reasons Why Your Palm's Fronds Are Turning Brown Or Yellow

Palm leaves turn brown or yellow for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it's normal; other times, it's a sign of trouble. Here are some of the main reasons why your palm's fronds are turning brown or yellow:

Normal Frond Aging

Palms regularly shed old fronds, which turn yellow and then brown before falling off. It's not a problem; it's just how palms work. If your palm is shedding only a few old fronds at a time, you don't need to do anything about it.


In this case, the palm trees are over water. Overwatering can happen when you have too much rain or too much water in the soil. When there is too much water, the roots of your plants can become saturated and unable to take up enough oxygen from the atmosphere.


This can happen if the soil has dried out too much. The roots cannot absorb enough oxygen for the plant to grow properly. If you think that this may be the problem, you should chat with your local garden center about whether it is time to remove your plants from the pot and put them in a larger container.

Root Distress

If the browning or yellowing is starting at the tips of the leaves, this indicates a problem with root damage. When palm fronds turn yellow and brown because of root damage, it's referred to as frond tip burn. The symptoms are most apparent in newly emerging leaves but eventually spread throughout the crowns of palms. Soil that is too wet can cause root damage, so make sure your palms are in well-draining soil and are not receiving too much water. You may need to amend your soil so that it drains more quickly, or hold off on watering until you notice that palm fronds do not feel firm when you touch them.

Nutritional Deficiencies

If the browning is occurring all over the palm frond, this indicates an issue with nutritional deficiencies. There are three main nutrients that have an impact on palms: nitrogen, potassium, and magnesium. When there is a shortage of one or more of these three nutrients, yellowing will occur across all leaves of a palm tree. If your palm trees have yellow leaves due to nutritional deficiencies, you will need to fertilize them with a fertilizer that contains nitrogen, potassium, and magnesium in order to restore them to health.


One of the most common reasons for palm leaves turning brown is a fungal infection. Palm diseases like fusarium wilt and rhizoctonia can cause the older leaves to turn brown while still attached to the tree. Cylindrocladium leaf spot may cause dark spots or holes in the fronds. Neoscytalidium leaf spot causes brown spots on the palms that may have yellow edges.

Bacterial Infections

Bacteria causes browning and yellowing of the palm fronds in one of two ways: through direct contact or through a secondary invasion after another condition has weakened the plant. The following conditions can make a palm tree vulnerable to bacterial infection: Water stress When a tree is exposed to drought or excessive soil moisture, it becomes susceptible to bacteria. Bacteria enter through wounds or cuts in the frond tissue and spread quickly, causing a rapid decline in health.

Bacterial cold injury occurs when temperatures drop below 32 F, causing lesions on the growing tips of the fronds. Bacteria enter through these lesions and spread throughout the tree tissue, killing the plant.

Fungal infections also create lesions on the fronds that provide entry for bacteria.


Palms may be attacked by a variety of insects, but the most common are scales, mealybugs, and mites. Scales can be found on the underside of leaves and appear as brown bumps. Mealybugs are white insects that tend to congregate on new growth. Spider mites cause stippling on the upper leaf surface (speckled appearance) and webbing underneath the leaves. If you see these insects, you should consult your local nursery or garden center for an appropriate pesticide. Here is some more info on those pesky bugs and how to cure your palms of bad insects.

Cold damage

During cold snaps, the low temperatures can cause a condition called "cold burn" on the fronds of your palms. The fronds will turn brown or yellow, and may also have white or grey speckled marks on them. This is caused by tiny ice crystals forming within the cells of the leaf, and rupturing them. As a result, the frond will eventually die and fall off the palm tree. This happens naturally as part of the palm tree's growth cycle. Some palms are hardier than others and don't need to worry about cold damage too often. Check out these tough, cold hardy palms for your area.

Why Is My Palm Tree Dying, Palm Tree Turning Yellow
Sick Palm Trees

Too much fertilizer

If there is too much nitrogen in the soil, old leaves will yellow and fall off. The yellowing of new fronds indicates that excess nitrogen is a serious issue. The main symptom of a palm that has been overfed with nitrogen is premature yellowing and falling off of old fronds (leaves). Sometimes, this can be seen only on older fronds, but if the problem persists, younger fronds also may turn yellow and fall off. If the problem becomes severe, the trunk of the palm will become stained with yellow or brown spots. Palms that are overfed with nitrogen develop an overall dark green color and may grow very rapidly.

Overfeeding is usually caused by using a general-purpose or lawn fertilizer that contains too much nitrogen. Never use lawn fertilizer on your palm; it will almost always contain far more nitrogen than your palm needs.


Apply a palm fertilizer containing no more than 8 percent nitrogen once or twice a year at recommended rates. Do not apply any other fertilizer to your palm unless it has been specifically formulated for palms and does not contain high levels of nitrogen.

Final Thoughts

Once you have determined the cause of an unhealthy palm frond (leaf) you will want to prune off the dead frond and in about three months new growth should appear. Unless infected with a horrible fungus or bugs, you want to only trim fronds once they are completely dead, and the new growth gets its' energy and nutrients from the existing fronds.

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