The Q&A Archives: Palm Trees

Question: I have 2 pygmy palm clusters and after the extreme heat in July, my leaves are rust colored. Are they scorched? I also have a mediteranian palm and it looks pretty yellow now. I did put palm fertilizer stakes in all of them when I planted them this past May. I have a drip system and I have it set to water the trees everyday for 1/2 hr. (1 gal drip on each of them).

Answer: Often times with drip systems, they are not timed to run long enough to provide a slow, deep watering. When leaves brown around the edges, the problem is often salt burn. This is common in our area with low rainfall, alkaline soil and water high in salts. 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, slowly and usually infrequently. With a young tree, you should water once a week, and make sure the water penetrates 2-3 feet deep. Use a pointed stick or piece of metal to push in the soil. It will move easily through moist soil and stop at dry soil. At least once a month, water deeply enough to "leach" or push salts well below the root zone. Frequent, light "sprinklings" or short time spans with drip irrigation, 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. It's generally not advisable to fertilize landscape plants in our summer heat. Plant roots often "burn." Our soil is quite alkaline which can lock up nutrients and make them unavailable to plant roots. Ironite applied every 4 months helps palms green up. Be sure to use in amounts as recommended on the label. I hope this information helps!

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