Ask a Question forum: Indoor Rhapis excelsa browning

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Chicago, IL
Lr0901
May 22, 2018 10:35 PM CST
Hi all,

I just bought my first large houseplant, a lady palm, and I've noticed that some leaves on one specific frond are turning brown. I know that brown tips aren't unusual but these leaves are browning In a more unusual pattern. They are located near the top of of the palm, which is about 3 feet tall.

I've had the plant about two weeks and have watered it once (it was freshly watered when we got it). The soil is still damp to the touch at the top so I haven't watered it again.

I live in a basement apartment and am worried it's not getting enough sun, especially because it's been rainy for several days here in Chicago. I have it in an East facing sun room with four small windows. I also have several LED string lights in that room that I typically keep on on the evening after it gets dark. I'm not sure I'd those do anything to help though.
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Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
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sallyg
May 23, 2018 5:09 AM CST
don't panic, doesn't look major, and hasn't had enough time to really suffer from anything you're doing. But it will need some light, and yes the LED strings aren't doing anything for it. The east facing sunroom may be fine. Especially as we are heading into summer long days. Four dim days does not cause leaf browning. Lack of light takes longer to show effects.
Carry on. Thumbs up
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Profess plant consultant & educator
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WillC
May 23, 2018 2:43 PM CST
A photo that shows the entire Lady Palm, including its pot, would be helpful in diagnosing the problem. One discolored frond is not normally a cause for concern. However, discoloration of newly emerged leaves is often a sign of a root problem. Depending on the pot and plant size, weekly watering may or may not be adequate.

The basement apartments I am familiar with rarely have much light, even right at the window. A photo of the window might also be helpful.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Chicago, IL
Lr0901
May 23, 2018 2:58 PM CST
Here's the only picture I have right now of the room (on a particularly sunny morning). It's sitting on our dining table at the moment because I don't know where else to put it to get it enough sun. We'll be moving in 6 months to a better lit apartment so I just need to keep it alive until then! I'll post some additional pictures later.
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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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plantladylin
May 23, 2018 3:06 PM CST
I've never tried growing Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) indoors; they grow as landscape plants here in Florida. The plants growing in my garden sometimes get brown leaves as they age which is normal; they eventually turn brown from the stem out and I just prune them off at the base. I did keep a Lady Palm for a few years as a container plant on my screened porch where it got very bright, indirect light all day. Full, intense sun will scorch the foliage of Lady Palms but I don't know if string lights would be able to provide enough light and I don't think they will thrive for very long when grown in extremely low light situations. If you can place your plant in front of your brightest window, that will probably be the best location.

Does your container have adequate drainage holes in the bottom? If you've watered once in two weeks and the soil still feels quite damp at the top, there might possibly be a drainage issue.

I agree with WillC, a photo of the entire plant showing the container it's growing in will better help determine what the problem might be or if the browning fronds are just a normal occurrence.
~ I'm an old gal who still loves playing in the dirt!
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot!


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!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
Image
plantladylin
May 23, 2018 3:10 PM CST
It's a lovely plant ... I am curious about the container though. Is it potted in a plastic nursery pot that's sitting down inside the pretty container? That's fine if it is; I use pretty containers as "cache" pots for my plants all the time so if that's the case, just be sure to empty the outer container after watering to make sure no water remains in the outer pot which will cause the soil to be saturated at root level and can cause root rot.
~ I'm an old gal who still loves playing in the dirt!
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot!


Chicago, IL
Lr0901
May 23, 2018 3:17 PM CST
I'd initially read that the Lady Palm is a low-light plant (often found in malls etc.) but some additional research revealed that it's more of a medium light plant that will tolerate low light. I think in my excitement to buy a plant I may have jumped the gun a little bit.

I have cats and it's one of the few larger houseplants that isn't toxic to cats so I'm hoping I can make it work! I may be able to place it outside on my apartment porch in the summer when the weather is consistently warmer here.

I'll post pictures of the pot when I'm home tonight. I bought it from a pretty reputable place so I assumed it was potted correctly but maybe not!

And, now that I think about it, I've actually only had it a week and a half (not two weeks), and it was freshly watered when I got it.
Chicago, IL
Lr0901
May 23, 2018 3:19 PM CST
plantladylin said:It's a lovely plant ... I am curious about the container though. Is it potted in a plastic nursery pot that's sitting down inside the pretty container? That's fine if it is; I use pretty containers as "cache" pots for my plants all the time so if that's the case, just be sure to empty the outer container after watering to make sure no water remains in the outer pot which will cause the soil to be saturated at root level and can cause root rot.


Yes, it's in a plastic nursery pot in a larger container Smiling the one time I watered it I was sure to remove water from the "cache" container immediately afterwards

Name: Will Creed
NYC
Profess plant consultant & educator
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WillC
May 24, 2018 5:07 AM CST
In the photo you provided, it looks like your Lady Palm is getting adequate light. When used indoors it does best in low-medium light, such as you get right in a north or east window. If you move it outside, and I don't think that is necessary, keep it in shade at all times.

There is nothing in the photo that is particularly concerning. Rhapis Palms are quite hardy as long as the soil remains moist. It is good that you are checking to make sure it is not sitting on water. Water the soil thoroughly as soon as the soil feels barely damp or not quite dry.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Chicago, IL
Lr0901
May 26, 2018 1:02 PM CST
Thanks everyone! Here are some more pictures for reference. I need to get a different outer container because the one I have right now is huge haha.



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[Last edited by Lr0901 - May 26, 2018 1:04 PM (+)]
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Profess plant consultant & educator
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WillC
May 26, 2018 5:00 PM CST
I think your Rhapis Palm is fine. The light is a bit less than ideal, but adequate as long as the window is kept completely uncovered during the daylight hours.

Likewise, the pot is fine. Because it is tightly potted there is little risk of over watering as long as it doesn't sit in water for more than a half day.

Do expect to get some occasional browning of leaf tips and loss of some older, lower leaves.
Thumbs up
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Vegetable Grower Region: Maryland Composter Region: Mid-Atlantic Native Plants and Wildflowers
Keeper of Poultry Region: United States of America Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds
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sallyg
May 26, 2018 5:20 PM CST
Pot is bit big in scale, but overall, very nice plant area Thumbs up
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Profess plant consultant & educator
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WillC
May 27, 2018 9:09 AM CST
If you don't want to replace the oversized planter, you could spread Spanish moss over the surface to make it look better.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Chicago, IL
Lr0901
Jul 9, 2018 8:09 PM CST
I just came back from vacation and noticed my plant is very droopy. Any idea what would cause that? I read it might be overwatering or root rot but I'm not sure.

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Name: Carol
Santa Ana, ca
Sunset zone 22, USDA zone 10 A.
Charter ATP Member Bookworm Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Orchids Region: California
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ctcarol
Jul 9, 2018 8:18 PM CST
I don't do house plants, but you do need to provide more information. How long were you gone...was anyone else taking care of it. I see that it is in the nursery pot, in a cache pot. was water left in the bottom of the cache pot?
Chicago, IL
Lr0901
Jul 9, 2018 9:31 PM CST
I was gone for a week and watered it before I left. I never leave water in the bottom of the cache pot. I think it was drooping before I left but I didn't really notice it until I came back.
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Profess plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jul 10, 2018 9:56 AM CST
It is drooping due to lack of water. Rhapis Palms do not tolerate dryness around their roots at all. Give it a good soak, even letting the pot sit in water for an hour or so to make sure it is completely rewetted.

Any fronds that remain wilted or discolored after watering it, will not recover and can be trimmed off.

If you need to leave it unattended for a week again in the future, it is okay to leave it sitting in a reservoir of water so it gets enough to last. As long as it doesn't sit in water for more than a few days, it should be fine.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Chicago, IL
Lr0901
Jul 10, 2018 9:58 AM CST
The soil is still damp except the upper half inch or so... Is it still not getting enough water?
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Profess plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jul 10, 2018 10:07 AM CST
The soil should be damp from the surface on down.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Chicago, IL
Lr0901
Jul 10, 2018 6:19 PM CST
So I just got home and event though the top is still damp, I felt the bottom dirt through the bottom of the container and it was completely dry 🤦 I'm assuming I wasn't giving it enough water to fully soak the soil, even though it was running out the bottom. I'm giving it a good watering and we'll see what happens!
[Last edited by Lr0901 - Jul 10, 2018 6:25 PM (+)]
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