The Q&A Archives: Sago Palm Browning

Question: My Sago Palm is turning brown, like it is drying up. I recently moved it outside, maybe not getting enough sunlight? I only water it once a week. Maybe it is bug infested? I don't see anything moving around. It is still in a pot big enough to support root ball and room to grow.

Answer: Changes in location can shock plants, with the effect showing up as yellowing or browning. So moving it outdoors, into too much sunlight or perhaps cold temperatures, could be a factor. Sago palms grow best in shady sites, in rich, moist soil. Sago palms may or may not retain their old leaves. What you're seeing could indicate too much sunlight, soil that's too dry, or over-fertilization. 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 it. 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. I hope this info helps.

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