The Q&A Archives: Palm Problems

Question: I did not know what kind of palm I got at Home Depot. It is a indoor palm. I live at Carol Stream city, IL. I think the problem was overwatering it (once a week), that caused the drying leaves, I already trimmed them. Feeding with Jobe's spikes 10-10-4 every 60 days. I've put some stones on the saucer with water water not touch the pot)to keep it humid. I stopped to water it and I noticed a good change, the soil started to dry, but the last monday I sprayed plant food on the leaves and soil (Miracle-gro houseplant food 8-7-6), the next day some leaves turned a light green color. So I put it on the tub and water it for 4 times to clean it. I would like to know the name of my palm, and what can I do for it? What cares would it need? Thanks.

Answer: Most palms need bright natural light year-round. Filtered light near a south-east-or west-facing window is suitable for most indoor palms.

Palms need to be kept moist. They should never be allowed to dry out or allowed to stand in water. Excessively wet soil can lead to root rot. Water thoroughly when the surface of the soil dries and discard the water in the saucer after the pot drains. Soil mixes for palms must be porous with plenty of organic matter to ensure both adequate moisture and excellent drainage.

Palms grow best with warmth. Protect them from drafts near doors, windows and air conditioning. Most palms prefer temperatures of 60 ? F at night and between 70 and 80 ? F during the day. Many palms will benefit from cooler temperatures of 55 to 60 ? F during the winter, when not actively growing.

Regularly rinse the foliage to clean the leaves and leach excess fertilizer salts from the soil. Wash the plant with a hard, fine spray of lukewarm water in your shower, or outside during warm weather, to keep insects such as scale, thrips and mites under control. Also, set plants outside during summer rainstorms to rinse the foliage.

Palms, like many houseplants, benefit immensely from spending the summer outside. When they are moved outside for the summer, gradually accustom them to higher light levels. Indoor palms should not be placed in direct sun while outside.

Fertilize either with a dilute liquid fertilizer or use a slow-release fertilizer in the container. Fertilize only while the plant is actively growing. Excess fertilizer can be harmful to palms.

Palms do best when their roots are confined and may only need re-potting every two to three years, if roots fill the pot. Repot when needed in spring or early summer. Most palms are propagated from seed. Some can be divided to create new plants.

Do not use any of the leaf shining products on palms as they can severely injure the foliage.

Here are descriptions of the most commonly grown indoor palms. Perhaps these descriptions will help you identify your palm:
Parlor Palms (Chamaedorea species): These graceful palms are frequently grown as houseplants. Parlor palms have thin stems and large, elegant feathered leaves. Their spread is quite wide, making them suitable for large spaces. These are the classic palms that graced Victorian parlors. They need a minimum winter temperature of 60 ? F. Parlor palms tolerate lower light levels well. They prefer high to moderate humidity, but are adaptable.

Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea erumpens): Tall plants form clumps of stems that are smooth, slender and green. The long, arching leaves are held in upright clusters on the stems. Individual leaflets are short, broad and curving. This palm has a narrow growth habit that is appropriate for most homes.

Parlor Palm or Neanthe Palm (Chamaedorea elegans): This is a small indoor palm, often with several single stems per pot that do not form clumps. The foliage is similar to that of bamboo palm.

Grass-leafed Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii): Their clustered, slender, cane-like stems with long narrow leaflets, grow to 8 to 10 feet tall.

Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelinii): The pygmy date palm is a miniature of the palm grown throughout the Middle East for its fruit. It can eventually become a 12-foot tree, but takes many years before it begins to form a trunk. The arching, feather-shaped fronds are quite fine in texture. They grow up to 3 feet long in a thick crown.

Pygmy date palms are adaptable and easy indoor plants. This palm grows best in bright indirect sunlight, ideally from an east window with morning sun. Keep the soil moist at all times, but do not let the pots stand in water.

European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis): European fan palms are dependable palms for indoor use. Fan-shaped fronds are carried on 4-foot high stems. Each leaf is about 2 feet across, gray-green and deeply cut.

Fan palms need three to four hours of direct sunlight daily Normal room temperatures with a winter rest period at 55 to 60 ? F are preferred.

Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens): This very popular palm grows 6 to 7 feet tall indoors. The fronds are long, feather-shaped, and arching with narrow leaflets. The light green fronds are borne on slender, clumping, yellow-orange stalks. Arecas grow 6 to 10 inches a year and often outgrow their alloted space. Give them plenty of room.

Areca palms do best in bright indirect sunlight. Place them near an east-west-or south-facing window. Temperatures at night of 65? to 70? and 75? to 85? during the day are ideal.

Kentia or Thatch Leaf Palms (Howea forsteriana): The kentia palm has a slender trunk and a graceful crown of dark-green, drooping, feather-shaped fronds. They will grow slowly in a tub for many years. This is one of the most tolerant and adaptable indoor palms.

Kentias will tolerate relatively low light and humidity, but they grow best with bright light and regular care. Water kentia palms abundantly in the summer but only when their potting mix is dry during winter.

Burmese Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis): The large pinnate leaves have individual leaflets that are triangular with a wavy edge. They look very much like fishtails and give this palm a unique texture. This interesting palm grows 6 to 10 feet tall indoors and arches 3 to 6 feet wide. This palm grows 6 to 8 inches a year.

Fishtail palms do best in bright indirect sunlight. Plants need a minimum temperature of 60 ? F. Night temperatures of 65 to 70 ?F and day temperatures of 75 to 85 ?F are ideal. Keep their soil moist at all times. Fishtail palms are prone to spider mites, so watch carefully for them.

Lady Palms (Rhapis species): These multi-stemmed fan palms are quite adaptable and easy to grow, if given excellent care and good-quality water. Lady palms have large, thick, shiny leaves with blunt tips. Their sturdy clumping stems are covered with dark brown fiber that appears woven. This is the only palm species that has cultivars in green and variegated forms. The variegated Rhapis are slower-growing than green forms and need less fertilizer and lower light levels.

Most lady palms grow best in bright, indirect light near a window or skylight. Large lady palm is the most adaptable to low light areas. Thailand lady palm must be kept constantly moist. The other lady palms should be allowed to become somewhat dry between thorough waterings. Heavily and repeatedly drench lady palms with water twice a year to leach excess fertilizer salts from their potting mix.

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