The Q&A Archives: Bonsai Pineapple Palm

Question: Hi,
I have a bonsai pineapple palm that we purchased in Florida in February for our garden window in Wisconsin. It was doing well for the first month or so and then started getting some yellowing in the center of the leaves. My husband tried to fertilize it hoping it would help and we believe it made the plant MUCH worse. In fact now all the palm leaves are VERY yellow, and drooping from the center to the leave out to now nearly the tips. Can you suggest some things to try to help rescue it. Suspect the initial yellowing was due to overwatering or the location in the window. Tried moving the plant to another location and watering less neither helped. When we tried to fertilize I think it took this sad little plant over the edge and actually

Answer: When leaves brown around the edges, the problem is often salt burn. Salts in the water and in fertilizer build up over time. Browning usually occurs on the old leaves first. This excess salt accumulates in the leaf edges, where it kills the tissue and the leaf dries out and turns brown. It's important to water deeply and slowly. At least once a month, water deeply enough to "leach" or push salts well below the root zone and out the drainage holes in the pot. Frequent, light "sprinklings" allow salts to accumulate in the top layers of soil, where the roots are, which is bad news. Similar symptoms occur when too much fertilizer has been applied. Always water plants thoroughly before and after applying fertilizer to help prevent burn. I'd start by flushing your plant with water under a hose or faucet and let the water run out the bottom to leach away possible salts. I'd hold off on fertilizer for a month to see if there's any improvement. Fertilizer "forces" a plant to grow, which can be stressful if the plant isn't healthy.

To address the initial yellowing, it's possible that the growing conditions in your home are quite different from the conditions your palm received before you purchased it. The symptoms might have indicated sunburn, or it may have been that the affected fronds were just about ready to die on their own. Palms usually produce one or two fronds per growing season. As the new ones begin to develop in the center of the plant, the oldest ones start to die off. It's a normal, natural process.

I'd protect the plant from direct sunshine, water deeply as described above, and hold off on fertilizer until new growth appears.

Best wishes with your pineapple palm!

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