The Q&A Archives: Indoor Palms

Question: We have a number of Cardboard Palms (Zombia furfuracea) and really enjoy them. However, recently some seem to not be doing too well; the leaves are turning brown. Could you please give me some detailed care information? Watering, fertilizer, light?

Answer: Zombia palms are native to Haiti, and called Cardboard palms because of the plants habit of retaining fibrous matting along the trunks. It's natural for the lowest leaves to droop and turn brown. Simply remove them by cutting. If leaves all over are turning brown, the problem may be overwatering. Here are some general guidelines for growing palms indoors: Give average household temperatures, with a minimum of 50F in the winter. Most palms will thrive in moderate to low light conditions, and should be shaded from direct sunlight. Palms require good drainage. Provide enough water to keep the soil moist during the spring and summer months, but allow the top of the soil to dry out slightly between waterings in the winter time. If the room is heated, mist the leaves occasionally to compensate for the dry air. Misting or sponging helps keep dust off the leaves, as well. Palms are not heavy feeders, but appreciate one spring and one summer feeding with a half-strength solution of liquid fertilizer in place of regular watering. It's difficult to explain low to moderate lighting conditions, but the light will be right if the plant is within 5-8 feet of a sunlit window, or if you can read newspaper print while standing in the spot. Hope this information helps!

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