Palm trees are some of the most iconic warm-weather vegetation with their distinctive trunks and gorgeous green foliage. Many people keep palm trees because they take root quickly, require little effort, and make a statement in any setting.
However, concerns arise when those gorgeous green fronds unexpectedly fade. Read on to learn everything you need to know about palm tree leaves turning yellow and how to fix it!
Palm trees are evergreens in zones 10 and 11, so seeing the leaves fade to yellow can be concerning. But yellowing leaves may be completely normal as part of the palm’s natural life cycle.
The evergreen label can be a bit confusing because it suggests that the plants are always green. However, many evergreens have leaves or needles that turn yellow, then brown as they age and dry up. It’s a normal process that allows mature fronds to fade and new ones to emerge.
There are, however, a few reasons why this yellow tone may appear that are not related to that natural process. Below, we will take a look at the reasons a palm tree’s leaves may turn yellow or even brown, so you can diagnose the problem and take action if needed.
Several external factors can cause palm tree leaves to turn yellow, including:
- Too much or too little water
- Nutrient deficiency
- Excessive fertilizer
- Cold or sun damage
- Pests, like spider mites and aphids
- The shock from a transplant
Thankfully, most of these situations are correctable. With a few minor adjustments and a little patience, your palm tree will have green leaves once again.
Indoor palm trees are a little different because they are more protected. That said, indoor palms can face many of the same issues as outdoor varieties. They still need sufficient food and water and can develop pests and diseases. Indoor palms can also be yellow if they don’t get enough sunlight, warmth, or humidity.
How do you know why your palm tree leaves are turning yellow? Some issues are apparent, like bone dry soil and pests, but others require a little more effort to diagnose, like a nutrient deficiency.
Palm trees love water and prefer moist soil, but not to the point where it’s drowning. It’s easy to tell if the soil is too dry because you’ll notice cracks in the ground around the tree. Keep the soil moist without creating mud or pools of water.
When you first transplant a palm, it’s important to water it every day for the first week or so and then back off.
Watering mature palms depends on the climate and how much rain you get. Drier areas might require daily watering to ensure your palm gets what it needs while humid, tropical climates might only require watering every few days.
If you’re struggling with determining whether or not your palm needs water, a soil probe might help you.
Applying too much fertilizer to palm trees can burn out and weaken the palm’s trunk. Not only does this cause the palm tree leaves to turn yellow, but it also leaves them susceptible to diseases and infestations.
Palms require a slow-release fertilizer during the growing season. Begin the first application in March and apply again every 2-3 months as the growing season progresses.
For steady growth and those all-important lush green fronds, ensure you use a fertilizer with a higher ratio of nitrogen and potassium compared to phosphorus.
Avoid spreading fertilizer within two feet of the trunk or you risk burning it and damaging the tree.
Nutrient deficiencies in the soil can wreak havoc on palm trees. The most critical nutrients for any plant are Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphate, but they also need sufficient Iron, Manganese, and Magnesium.
You will be able to tell which nutrient is deficient by the yellowing pattern on the fronds.
- Iron deficiency causes the leaves to yellow while retaining the green veins.
- Low Nitrogen leads to strange yellowish-green leaves.
- Magnesium deficiencies turn the fronds a bright yellow, mostly at the tips.
- Insufficient Potassium leaves yellow spots, usually on the oldest leaves.
- Manganese deficiencies alter the appearance of the new leaves and turn the older ones brown.
Unfortunately, Phosphorus deficiencies provide no obvious indications. Using a soil test kit might be the only way to diagnose a Phosphorus deficiency
While yellowing and browning leaves might look unsightly, your palm tree needs them for valuable nutrients. Continually pruning a palm tree or removing yellow leaves can make the situation worse.
- Removing discolored leaves deprives the palm of residual nutrients in those leaves and makes the situation worse.
- Attempting to cut out diseased leaves to eradicate the problem can actually cause it to spread.
- Over-pruning to leave only green leaves can send the palm into shock and even trigger a nutrient deficiency.
Once leaves completely dry out, they turn completely brown and are safe to remove. If you need to prune leaves, it’s best to wait for spring. The leaves offer protection from the hot summer sun and any unexpected cold patches during winter.
Some experts suggest never pruning a palm tree, while others support occasional pruning to address hazards, like blocking a walkway. Most professionals agree that yellow leaves are necessary to maintain a palm’s health.
Palm tree leaves turning yellow might be an unsightly spectacle that leaves you clambering to remove them, but it’s best to leave them in place. If they aren’t dying of natural causes, it’s necessary to figure out why the fronds are fading and resolve the underlying issue.
While palm trees don’t require extensive or specialized care, you might need to take some extra steps on occasion. Knowing when and how to remedy yellowing leaves will help you keep them healthy longer.