Ask a Question forum: Kentia Palm struggles...please help!!!

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Nov 18, 2015 4:41 PM CST
I take care of all the plants for a four star hotel and the new Kentia Palm trees we got for the swimming pool room are proving to be very challenging.
I've been an avid gardener and had house plants for my whole life with a very green thumb but it doesn't seem to be helping.
The first two we received had some white scaly looking stuff on stalks, but not exactly the same as the scale pictures I found. There was a watery white residue on the leaves as well... But I've not dealt with these plants before so I didn't know if all of this was normal.
I set them up, watered them, and told my boss they needed leaf polish.
I watered them the next week and they generally looked ok but a couple fronds had gotten brown so I trimmed them off thinking they needed to get used to the spot.
I came back the next week to water and found them almost dead!!
Two thirds of the fronds were crunchy brown and the base of the stalks were cracked and browning. There were small black spots on the parts where the scaly stuff was and it was worse too.
I'd never seen anything like it!
The supplier claimed I hadn't watered them enough and did not issue a penny of credit.
These palms came straight from Florida to Colorado and it got very cold a couple of nights. They are right by a door that goes out to the patio and we were suspicious of the night cleaning crew opening doors and freezing them.
We purchased new palms a couple of weeks ago and I have babied them like crazy... But they are looking sick already. I watered them after we had them a week and the top layer of soil had dried out. I checked them every day and misted them and they were looking good. So I didn't check on them for a few days...
I went in on the seventh day to water and they were losing fronds! Brown and shriveled just like the last ones did... With more yellowing and heading to brown.
They were dried out more than I expected for only a week of no water so I gave them an extra good drink until some came out the bottom and misting. Two days later five more fronds on each looked bad.
I have no idea what to do.
Here are the things I think may be problems:
One is right by the exterior door. It looked worse.
The other is a bit further from the door, but sustains constant wind blowing from ventilation system of exercise room.
The air is extremely chlorinated from pool and especially hot tub near by.
The wall of windows they are by is south west facing and very direct sun for the second part of the day.
My main concern is that my boss says she had palms of some sort in this very spot for 10 years without trouble so she is blaming me for the issue... Even though the palms that were there when I took the position 6 months ago were sick from the start and nothing I did helped.
The other concern is that now the hotel is questioning my abilities because these cost $225 wholesale each and I'm sure they paid plenty for them.
Please please any advice would be so appreciated!!!
Thanks for reading my very long post!!!

Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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Nov 18, 2015 6:20 PM CST
I don't know much about palm trees but I cannot stand being around chlorine. This link is to an article about the effects of chlorine on palms...but I think having the palms indoors would increase the negative effects of the chlorine.

Also, is the tap water at the hotel chlorinated? Do you use that water on the palms?

I'm sure some palm experts will be along soon with a better answer.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
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Nov 18, 2015 7:12 PM CST
These are also pretty finicky palms. We planted a bunch at our Botanical Garden last November and have had to replace several already.

Nov 18, 2015 11:33 PM CST
Thank you both very much for your information and thoughts!
I just heard from one of the maintenance guys at the hotel that the air circulation system for the pool room is out of service.... Not sure when that happened. So they have been opening the windows across the room to ventilate the fumes! Also there were leaves on the floor and in the pot of the Palm by the door indicating that this door was open today as well. Our high temp today was 52, but it was just above freezing this morning...
So the extra chlorine and cold draft could not have done them any good either!
Still love to hear any more ideas/ advice on what has gone wrong over the past month and a half and if there is any hope for improving the situation for these poor 8 foot beauties!!
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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Nov 19, 2015 8:50 AM CST
With these palms dying off so very fast, I can't see how they can possibly blame you. There's definitely something wrong with the plants or environment. Check in the crowns of the dead ones for any sign of palm weevils (they are really large, and can kill a huge palm very quickly - they devour the growing tip). I'd be inclined to visit the supplier's location to check out what he's got going on there - if you see any palms with the same symptoms, you're off the hook!

Cold air, drafts, sudden low humidity (from the outside air), chlorine fumes from the pool - all those things are bad for potted palms that have up until now lived in a humid, temperature controlled greenhouse. It's possible that just the air circulation problem is the key. You need to visit more often than once a week to get a handle on what's happening, though.

Also, what you noted at the beginning - the white, scaly looking stuff is most likely an insect infestation of some sort, but wouldn't account for the palms dying quite so fast. They may already be stressed from that, though. I'd spray them all with an insecticide treatment as soon as you get them - one of the sprays with Spinosad is a good, organic approved remedy. Do that before they're delivered. Maybe make the supplier keep the palms for a week or so before you take delivery? It's possible his handling of them before you got them has stressed them even more, on top of the transition from greenhouse to pool area. Can you make sure he delivers them on a warm day, not at 8am in a snowstorm?

I'd also ask your boss what kind of palms she had growing there for 10 years, and why they aren't still there? Did something kill them too? As Hetty mentioned, Kentia palms are finicky even in a good environment so you should probably try another type, one of the ones that will grow in the desert? Pygmy date palms? (although they're thorny so you'd be constantly having to prune off the thorns).

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

Nov 19, 2015 9:59 AM CST
I really appreciate your insight and expertise!!
It makes me feel better as someone that has never struggled to care for plants to know that I haven't suddenly gotten a brown thumb!
I never expected such a swift change in the plants from looking ok to terrible in the first two... Or I certainly would have been monitoring them more closely!
The second set I was checking daily and then every couple, then let the six or seven days go by thinking they were ok when I discovered they were quickly taking a turn.
It has been very discouraging to get the finger pointing in my direction over the past few weeks so thanks again for alleviating some of that pressure! Now that the palms have been purchased and we cannot return them I guess the next best thing to do is try to keep them as healthy as I can given the circumstances. The distributor is the one that suggested these palms in the first place for the location so it seems they would have some obligation to take them back... But I have not really seen the best results so far...
Name: Lin
Florida Zone 9b, 10a

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Nov 19, 2015 11:24 AM CST
I wonder if they are actually Kentia Palms which are not usually seen as an indoor plant as I mentioned on Watergirl's other thread here: The thread "Kentia Palm troubles! Please help!" in Houseplants forum

and, I forgot to say @watergirl Welcome! to All Things Plants!
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Nov 19, 2015 2:17 PM CST
Hello plantladylin!
I wondered the same thing about the palms initially, but it seems there are the large trees at the beach that are Kentia and then there are the indoor house plant variety... Maybe when they're outdoors over time they would mature into the other look?
I'm new at indoor palms so I'm not entirely sure.
Here are some photos I took earlier today of damaged fronds... I clipped most off already to make them look better but maybe it'll help figure out the problem!
I also discovered the stalks of the fronds are developing the same black speckles that the first ones that died already had when we got them.
Not sure what that is either...
Thumb of 2015-11-19/Watergirl/70a3bf
Thumb of 2015-11-19/Watergirl/92a043
Thumb of 2015-11-19/Watergirl/317da1
Thumb of 2015-11-19/Watergirl/af09db
Thank You!

Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
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Nov 19, 2015 4:02 PM CST
That does look like cold damage to me. The dark spots are definitely something that I see on my outdoor palms when the weather gets cold. They won't go away, but will not hurt the plant long term unless the exposure to cold continues.

Maybe check with the maintenance people at the hotel about the doors being left open, and ask if the palms can be moved away from the cold air if/when they need to air out the place? At high altitude, like most of Colorado, the air is also even more dry than lower down, because the thinner air can hold a lot less moisture. So while the doors are closed, the pool is probably keeping the area fairly humid, when they air out the enclosure, suddenly your palms are exposed not only to cold, but also to very dry air.

(I lived in Utah for 21 years, skiing there is very thirsty exercise!)

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

Nov 19, 2015 5:20 PM CST
Thank you for your palm tree advice!
I'm so glad I found this forum... I wasn't sure where to go for answers!

We are in communication with the hotel now... So hopefully we can get the message to all the night crews to take the necessary precautions when working near the trees.

I'm still surprised any Palm was able to withstand the unfavorable environment there previously.

Perhaps they had had time to adapt to the location before wintry weather arrived allowing them to overcome the stress of the move more gracefully in the past.
Name: aud/odd
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
Nov 22, 2015 7:15 PM CST
I left you some thoughts on the "houseplant forum" side.

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