The Q&A Archives: Our dwarf palm tree is dying!

Question: In our front office, we have a small palm tree in a planter that stands about 4'high, and it looks sickly!! It does get a lot of sun exposure in a room with a 24' window, and we water it whenever the base is dry (about 2 litres every other day). what are we doing wrong? can our tree be saved by adding any special plant food to the water? (we want to avoid relocating was purchased for that very spot in the front office).

Answer: There are a lot of potential problems for your palm, so let's go through them one at a time. If it doesn't apply, you can scratch it off the list. First, while palms like full sunshine outdoors, they won't like magnified sunshine such as they might get from at 24' window. If the window is tinted to exclude UV rays, it might be excluding some of the full light spectrum and your palm won't be getting the type of light it needs; if the window is not tinted, it may be getting far too much sunshine. Air near a window tends to get overheated and stagnant, which might also affect your palm. Another consideration is the location of air conditioner vents. Cold air blowing directly on the palm can also make it unhappy. If you can't relocate the palm, how about setting a fan near it to move the air? And, is there any way you can shield it from direct sunshine? There are some really attractive two- or three panel screens on the market - the kinds used in livingrooms. Setting a screen between your palm and the window would not only block direct sunshine, it would be an attractive backdrop to show your palm off.

Now, on to watering. Palms need a thorough soaking and then it's important to allow the top 1-2" of potting soil dry before watering thoroughly again. Sometimes containerized plants develop air pockets in the root mass so even though you think you are watering thoroughly because water is coming out of the drainage holes, there still might be pockets of air within the root mass that are remaining dry. (I do hope the container has drainage holes in it!) To counteract the formation of air pockets, you can set the container into a larger container of water and let it soak for 10-15 minutes (until no more air bubbles rise to the surface). Do this every 3-4 weeks and you'll be sure the roots of your palm are happy.

Hope this information helps you determine just why your palm is so unhappy!

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