The Q&A Archives: Queen Palm Problem

Question: We have five Queen Palm trees. Four of them are about 15 ft. tall and one is about 20 ft. tall. The tallest tree had quite a few branches that were turning yellow and brown and drying up. We cut them off as they were near the lower end of the tree. The very top brances are green and there are several new ones growing from the top. We read your questions and answers regarding watering proceedures and I'm sure they will help. However, the area where the trees are is covered with Lava Rock (the previous owners did this) could that be a problem inhibiting the roots from getting the oxygen they need? We have a sprinkling system and are using Palm Tree food, 9-4-9, four to five cups per tree, three times a year and we are spreading it over the rocks and just letting work its way down to the roots. Any suggestions?

Answer: It's natural for Queen Palms to lose their lower leaves so I think your plants are behaving as they should. Sounds to me as though they're getting adequate food and water, inspite of the lava rock. Since lava rock is light and porous, I don't think having it under the trees will affect them in any way. You might want to check to make sure the rock wasn't placed over plastic (a common practice to keep weeds down). If there's plastic sheeting under the rock, it will definitely keep moisture from penetrating the soil and will keep air from the soil surface. If there's plastic under the lava rock, I'd remove and replace it with a poly-spun fabric weed barrier and then put the decorative rocks back.

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