Causes of Majesty Palm Brown Tips and How To Fix It

Capable of growing up to 12 feet as a potted plant, the majesty palm can grow to be a very large houseplant with beautifully large leaves. Unfortunately, this means if your plant suffers from brown tips, it’ll be an easily visible sign of a neglected plant.

In the world of botany, brown tips can mean a lot of things, ranging from pests and diseases to mishandling the plant. Today, I’ll be taking a look at the most likely reasons why your Majesty palm has brown tips and offer advice on how to fix it and prevent it from reoccurring.

Why Is My Majesty Palm Getting Brown Tips?

There are different types of leaf browning in plants – in a huge majority of cases, it’s often connected to watering – either dehydration or a lack of moisture – too much sunlight (as some plants develop sunburn quickly), or a nutrient imbalance.

These aren’t the only issues, though. Below, we’ll separate these issues by category: browning, yellowing, and brown spots on leaves.

Majesty Palm Leaves Turning Brown at Tips

To elaborate further, the four most likely reasons behind the browning of majesty palm leaves are dehydration, lack of moisture, fertilization, and sunburn.

Dehydration

Majesty palms are native to the island of Madagascar, where they grow alongside rivers, streams, or shallow swamps. They have constant access to water 24 hours a day, 365 days a year through their root system and the high humidity level in the air.

Therefore it stands to reason that majesty palms require a lot of water on a daily basis, especially during spring and summer. There is, however, a stark difference between the watering requirements of outdoor plants in their natural habitat compared to indoor majesty palms.

Indoor plants are generally more susceptible to overwatering (which can cause leaves to die off, but more on that later). The restricted environment within a plant container or pot limits their ability to grow to huge sizes. Generally, when potted indoors they reach 8-12 feet tall. So they consequently have lower water requirements, when compared to growing wild where some varieties can reach up to 100 feet.

Owners often unknowingly underwater outdoor palms which leads to the tips browning. Majesty palms kept outdoors need daily watering throughout most of the year, with the exception being during winter.

Humidity

The natural growing regions of majesty palms have high humidity. It’s important to replicate these conditions when you’re growing them in your home. People often forget about keeping humidity high, focusing solely on watering instead, and that can often cause the downfall of healthy foliage.

It’s entirely possible for a healthy indoor, well-watered majesty palm to develop brown tips because the humidity level is too low.

Air conditioning, drafts, or central heating will all affect the airflow and therefore humidity of your home. Majesty Palm is not very tolerant when it comes to airflow. Keeping them in direct contact with a gust of air from your AC or an opened window can cause the browning of the leaves or lead to other complications. The AC essentially freezes the plant, while it also dries out the air.

Majesty palms need the air to be warm and wet, not cold and not too dry. If you are growing an indoor plant, then placing it near a bathroom or kitchen will improve humidity. Failing that be sure to mist the plant regularly. Majesty Palm requires a humidity level of 50% or higher. I would recommend purchasing a humidity meter to monitor the plant whilst it recovers.

Fertilization

Applying too much or too little fertilizer can lead to palm tips browning. Majesty palms need a good quality palm tree fertilizer, containing plenty of magnesium.

Growers often overlook trace nutrients and, focus solely on the NPK ratio. In addition to the NPK ratio (which ideally should have a higher ratio of phosphorus and potassium), fertilizer applied to your majesty palm should have at least 4% magnesium content.

Just like with any living being, if a majesty palm is starved of nutrients, that will become very visible on the surface. It can cause the drying of leaves, as well as browning and yellowing.

Having said that overfertilizing your plant can also cause fertilizer burn. This can be a similar symptom, but you can usually tell the difference as burning produces yellow and brown crisp edges on the plant’s leaves. It is better to fertilize a diluted concentration of fertilizer and apply it once a month during the growing season than to overfertilize and burn your plant’s leaves.

Sunburn

All plants are susceptible to sunburn, no matter how naturally tolerant they are. Of course, some plants will develop scorched foliage and stems if they spend more than three hours in direct sunlight daily. Others, like majesty palms (and the majority of cacti for that matter), have incredible tolerance to sunlight.

It’s possible for a majesty palm to develop sunburn, even if it is watered well. This is more common with outdoor plants, though, as indoor majesty palms usually get filtered sunlight which isn’t that dangerous.

A combination of underwatering and too much sunlight exposure is basically guaranteed to cause majesty palm brown tips.

Brown Tips on Outdoor Majesty Palms

Although they’ll thrive outdoors if you live in a warm and humid environment, a lot of people have trouble caring for their outdoor majesty palms. This is not without reason – they need more water, you can’t control the humidity, and they’re unprotected from the sunlight.

A combination of these three factors makes it much more likely for an outdoor majesty palm to develop brown tips. Since the plant is heating up more than indoor plants due to sunlight exposure, it’s burning through resources more quickly.

This leads to them needing more water, and when that water isn’t provided, brown tips appear. On top of that, unless the area you live in is naturally humid, there’s no way to ensure the high levels of humidity that these plants require.

People often plant them outdoors because they’re known to grow to massive sizes, but taking the amount of care they need into account, indoor majesty palms are probably the better choice.

Brown Tips and Yellow Leaves

Although similar, these two symptoms do not indicate the same problem. Brown leaves can be caused by all the things mentioned in the previous section, while yellow palm leaves can be caused by overwatering, underwatering, pests, lack of sunlight, or sunburn.

Brown Tips and Yellow Leaves

Sunburn and Lack of Sunlight

Majesty Palm can suffer from leaf scorch, which is caused by overexposure to strong direct sunlight with low levels of soil moisture. This problem often occurs or ends with the leaf having a dry crispy light brown tip.

The opposite can happen too! Majesty palms still require a lot of sunlight, preferably filtered light. If you don’t provide it, the leaves will start to yellow because the process of photosynthesis has stopped or at least slowed down to an unhealthy level.

Underwatering

The most likely culprit behind your majesty palm getting brown tips that can also lead to yellow leaves is underwatering. However, this usually develops slowly. 

You would have to be underwatering your plant for a prolonged period of time (let’s say a few weeks). However, this massively depends on the climate, soil, and nutrient uptake too in order for the leaves to start yellowing.

To this end, brown tips are the first symptom of underwatering, and yellow leaves will only develop if you don’t change anything after a few weeks.

Overwatering and Root Rot

Believe it or not, it’s possible to overwater a majesty palm, no matter how thirsty they are. Overwatering any plant can cause major issues, the most common one (and also the most dangerous one) being root rot.

This is more common with indoor plants than with outdoor plants. Water spreads over a wider, almost unlimited area outdoors, so it’s not likely that a palm will stay standing soaking in waterlogged soil.

Indoor majesty palms, however, can be overwatered as the water has nowhere to go. This is why choosing the right soil is so important, but more on that later.

Root rot is caused by the roots sitting in water. When they’re stuck in water, roots start rotting, while fungi develop too. 

Ironically, despite the abundance of water, this will actually dehydrate your plant as damaged roots are unable to absorb water efficiently.

You can treat root rot in most plants, especially larger varieties such as majesty palm. Not only do they have a large root system that will tolerate aggressive pruning to remove damaged roots, but their overall, robust stem and foliage structure mean they can recover better than smaller plant species.

An additional concern that often follows root rot is the development of pests and diseases.

Pests

Majesty palms are hardy plants that aren’t too prone to pests, but they do occur. If your plant has root rot, it will become more susceptible to pests and they’re more likely to develop.

Palm aphids are especially common with palm trees (although they’re not spread around the entire world). These bugs feed on tree sap, which causes the yellowing of leaves. While they can’t kill a palm tree, they can definitely make it look unappealing.

Spider mites can also occur, but they’re not common with well-watered palms. They prefer dry areas, so they stick to the dry fond of palm trees.

Majesty Palm Brown Spots

Brown spots can be caused by overwatering and root rot, but also by fungal infections, high temperatures (although this is rare), and the use of tap water. Fungal infections usually follow root rot – healthy palms aren’t prone to developing fungus.

When it comes to tapping water, some plants (such as palms and Calatheas) are sensitive to chlorine. This isn’t a major cause for concern, as you can’t kill the plant with tap water, but it can certainly diminish overall quality until the plant is established.

Adult plants are usually hardy and therefore less susceptible to the damage that can be caused by watering with tap water.

How to Fix Brown Tips on Majesty Palm

Now that you know all the possible reasons behind browning, yellowing, and brown spots, here are methods of avoiding those problems and recovering from existing damage.

Avoid Using Tap Water

This is especially important for young plants. A large, adult plant can be watered with tap water, but younger plants should be watered with distilled water. Distilled water doesn’t have chlorine and other, possibly harmful chemicals and your plant will be grateful for the investment.

When watering, keep in mind that both over and underwatering are dangerous practices for majesty palms and they’re the main culprits behind brown tips on palm plants, along with lack of humidity and sunlight. 

To keep track of watering, either uses a watering schedule or a moisture meter. Alternatively, test moisture levels in the soil with your fingers. When the top inch of soil is dry, it’s time to water your Majesty palm.

Check Water Temperature

You usually wouldn’t think twice about water temperature when watering a plant – as long as it’s not extremely cold or scalding hot, the plant will do just fine, right?

In their natural environment, majesty palms have access to slightly warm water (the climate in Madagascar is usually very hot). This doesn’t mean that you have to warm the water up, but make sure it’s not cold.

Increase Humidity Levels

Since their natural climate is highly humid, it’s important to replicate this in their adopted environment. This is impossible to do outdoors, so it’s recommended that you do not plant your majesty palm outdoors unless the climate is similar to that of Madagascar.

Humidity is almost as important as watering with majesty palms and if you leave it out to dry, literally, it will develop majesty palm brown tips.

Indoors, you’ll have to regulate humidity to keep the air warm and moist. The only way to do it is by misting it.

Misting

To keep the humidity at optimal levels, mist your palm tree foliage at least once a day. The misting water should be distilled, and preferably warm (to simulate the warm air conditions). 

Exposure to Sunlight & Position

Most indoor majesty palms do very well because of the filtered sunlight they receive. Regular glass windows already filter sunlight, but only slightly. Tinted windows or simple drapes are very effective at filtering sunlight.

Pull the drapes on the window next to the majesty palm and your plant will be just fine. Make sure that the drapes aren’t too thick, though.

Exposure to Sunlight & Position

Soil Conditions

On top of watering your Majesty palm carefully, investing in high-quality soil, and even more importantly; investing in the right type of soil will go a long way in preventing overwatering and root rot.

The best soil for majesty palms is quick-draining soil, often used for cacti and other succulents. This type of soil drains the water quickly, as the name suggests, so there’s no buildup of water.

Fertilizing Majesty Palm

Using regular palm fertilizer is fine for Majesty palms, but make sure that the fertilizer you’re choosing has high magnesium content (at least 4%). Apply the fertilizer at 50% of the manufacturer’s recommended levels to avoid fertilizer burn. You can then fertilize once per month throughout the growing season without the risk of damaging your plant.

Removing Brown Tips on Majesty Palms

I would wholeheartedly recommend solving the issue that caused the brown tips before removing the tips. Palms are hardy plants, and although they need a lot of water, not too much, and a lot of sunlight, but not too direct, which can confuse many owners – they’re still difficult to overwater and overheat.

Brown tips will appear slowly – it’s impossible for all leaves on the palm tree to become brown overnight.

Therefore, you should always identify the reason behind the browning first, rectify it, and only then cut the majesty palm brown tips off. If you simply cut the brown tips without removing the cause of the brown tips, your leaves will continue browning.

There’s nothing complicated about removing brown tips – simply cut them off with scissors, but make sure the scissors are clean. You’re essentially opening a wound on the leaf (or leaves) and you shouldn’t do that with dirty scissors.

Majesty Palm Brown Tips FAQ

Final Thoughts: Brown Tips on Majesty Palm

In most cases, brown tips of majesty palm plants are completely avoidable if you take good care of your plant. 

Keep a watering schedule to make sure you’re not overwatering or underwatering it. Make sure it’s not in direct sunlight for too long, but even more importantly, make sure it gets enough sunlight.

Choose the right fertilizer, mist the leaves on a daily basis, and pick quick-draining soil when you’re planting your majesty palm. Even if you messed up, your palm can recover if you start treating it right – these hardy plants are not that easy to kill.