The Q&A Archives: Yellowing Leaves On Potted Sago Palm (outdoors)

Question: The leaves on nearly the entire sago palm I have on my outdoor patio are turning yellow. It is in a terra cotta container which has been it's home for three years. I have had this plant for five years and can't afford to replace it. Help!!!!

Answer: Caryota, or Sago palms, are small to medium-sized palms that grow best in shady sites, in rich, moist soil. They should thrive in regular potting soil and the moisture you're giving them, so I'd suspect the site may be too sunny. Sago palms may or may not retain their old leaves, so what you've observed is normal for the plant. The leaves can be cut off if they're unattractive to you. It's not unusual for palms to have just one row of leaves at the top of the trunk. If your palm is acting differently than it has in the past, it may need to be fed, or it may need a deeper soaking than you've been giving them. Periodic deep soakings will also leach salts away from the roots. If you carefully inspect the leaves, you may find spider mites (look for webbing between the leaf fans and the stem). An infestation of spider mites can turn leaves brown prematurely. To avoid the problem, hose the foliage down every few weeks to remove the dust and any spider mites that might have taken up residence. If you want to feed your palm, you can spread several inches of organic matter over the roots so the nutrients released as the organic matter decomposes will trickle down into the soil, or you can broadcast an 8-8-8 complete fertilizer over the root zone. Palms are sensitive to salts, so don't apply any more fertilizer than the label recommends or you'll burn the roots. Your palm may not start growing again until next spring, but if you feed it, and water it regularly, it should perform well.

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