Houseplants forum→Underwatering?

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Mar 12, 2018 6:14 PM CST
Hello everyone!

I seem to be having issues with my plants lately and this is my most recent. I removed some brown leaves (below is a picture of one I removed that was completely brown and crunchy- the picture does not reflect the brown as much) and there are still a few more that are crunchy-feeling and some have brown near the tips. 1- is this due to underwatering (my apartment is very hot) and 2- is it okay to remove completely brown leaf sections if they are easy to remove? I am hoping to avoid another plant causality by assuming what is wrong with it and doing something incorrectly 😔 There are some new leaves growing in the centers of each stalk.

Thank you in advance!

Thumb of 2018-03-13/Giomt123/59f160

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Name: Will Creed
Prof. plant consultant & educator
Mar 12, 2018 7:18 PM CST
The problem is in the way that it is potted. That is a lovely planter, but it would have been much better for the Parlor Palm if you had left it in its plastic pot and put that inside the bucket and then covered it over lightly with Spanish moss.

I cannot see inside the bucket well enough to see how it was potted. That said, my guess is that it has been overwatered and water may be sitting in the bottom of the bucket. Or perhaps the outer part of the rootball has been exposed to the air.

The brown fronds can be removed without harm to the plant.

There is not much left to your plant. If possible, put the original rootball back into a pot that is just large enough to fit the rootball into snugly.

It may be that the issues you have been having with your plants are related to your repotting them.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Mar 12, 2018 7:43 PM CST

Thank you for your response. Unfortunately, it was gifted to me in this pot over three years ago. Do you think it can continue to stay alive as is (even if it does not grow) or has it been overwatered to the point of no return? It has remained around the same size all these years. I am really struggling with knowing how much to water the few plants I have had over the years.
Name: Will Creed
Prof. plant consultant & educator
Mar 13, 2018 5:51 PM CST
It is very difficult to water plants when they are repotted unnecessarily or put in unorthodox planters. When kept in their plastic nursery pots, it is a simple matter of letting the top surface of the soil get appropriately dry and then adding enough water so that a bit trickles through the drain holes.

With your Parlor Palm, I cannot see how it is potted nor tell how long the soil is retaining moisture, so I cannot advise you on proper watering. Try a light watering once per week and see how that goes. It may or may not make it depending on the condition of the roots.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Mar 13, 2018 6:14 PM CST
My first thought from the photos is that the cause of your plants stress was from under watering but it is difficult to know for sure without seeing the plant in person.

New leaves sprouting tell me that your Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) is not a total goner but I don't see any soil in your photo; only what appears to be dried moss (or what reminds me of grapevine wreath material) and it looks very dry. I'd remove all of the brown, crispy stems/leaves and if the container has no drainage holes, I'd soak the medium once a week, being sure to tip the container each time to allow any excess water to be removed; otherwise the plant will be sitting in water, rotting the roots.

Good luck with your little Palm, I wish you the best with it and your other plants.
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Name: Carter Mayer
Houston, TX (Zone 9b)
Tropicals Adeniums Plant Identifier
Mar 13, 2018 8:21 PM CST
I think when palms die from overwatering/root rot (at least some of them, anyway), they tend to die from the inside out, as in roots rot causing the "heart" and crown to die first, then any new emerging fronds will die, and finally the outer older fronds die last.

With the outer/older fronds dieing, but new growth still being ok, that indicates some other issue to me. Underwatering could be an issue, but you'd have to be letting it get really dry in between waterings for that to be the problem. Humidity (lack of) could also be an issue causing the older leaves to die sooner than they normally would. It could be a combination of the two. If you Mass. apt is very hot at this time of year, that means you must be running the heat a lot. While the palm will appreciate the warmth, it won't appreciate the excessively dry air caused by the heating. Lighting could also be an issue if it's not kept in strong enough light.

Try watering so that the soil stays slightly moist, but not wet. You can let the soil get almost dry before watering, but not completely dry. As for humidity, you could try misting or spritzing the fronds with a spray bottle at least several times a day. I've heard conflicting stories on how well that works, but I would imagine it would be beneficial if you did it enough times throughout the day.
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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Mar 15, 2018 5:27 PM CST
After 3 years, the soil has long lost anything it had to offer in the way of nutrients, and room for roots to grow, & if tap water has been used, the PH could be wildly out of the plant's preferred range. Having not grown any larger in that time is evidence toward these things.

If it was my plant, I would take it out of the pot, rinse the old soil off, and put it in a nice, new pot with a hole in the bottom, as suggested above. Each stem is a separate palm tree, so they may fall apart from each other when the soil is removed. In the new pot, the soil should be at the same level on each stem as it is now.
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