The Q&A Archives: How can I save my indoor palm tree?

Question: Two years ago I purchased an indoor palm tree. I am unsure of the specific name; however, it is a rather tall palm of about 6 feet with very wavy branches and leaves. The palm grew so well that we were having trouble finding room for it. Slowly but surely it has begun to die. The branches turn brown and eventually I have to cut them out. The tree is now down to a few healthy branches. I have tried more water, less water, moving outdoors for more sunlight. What am I doing wrong?? This has been the best houseplant ever up until about 6 months ago! Help!

Answer: Palms may or may not retain their old leaves, so what you've observed may be normal for the plant. The fans 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 palms are acting differently than they have in the past, they may need to be fed, or they may need a deeper soaking than you are giving them. Periodic deep soakings will also leach salts away from the roots. If you 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 use a half-strength dilution of liquid fertilizer. Palms are sensitive to salts, so don't apply fertilizer more often than every 3-4 weeks 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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