A dying indoor palm tree is usually because of root rot due to overwatering and poor drainage, which causes the leaves to turn yellow with a drooping, dying appearance. Low humidity and dry soil around the root ball causes the palm tree’s leaf tips to turn brown and droop, with a dying appearance.
Indoor palms need to grow in bright, indirect light as the leaves can turn scorch yellow and brown if they are in too much direct sunlight.
Indoor palms need soil that is well-draining and evenly moist. The leaves can turn yellow and brown as a result of both dry soils due to underwatering and boggy soil overwatering.
To revive a dying indoor palm tree, it is important to recreate the conditions of the palm native environment by increasing the humidity with regular misting of the leaves, watering the soil thoroughly every 7 days, locating the palm tree in bright, indirect sunlight rather than direct sunlight and maintaining a temperature range of 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 23ºC).
All the popular indoor palm tree species (Parlor palms, Areca palms, Kentia palms, Majesty Palms, Ponytail palms, etc.) are from humid tropical climates and require the same conditions when grown indoors.
The bottom leaves of indoor palm trees can turn yellow or brown as the plant matures, even if the plant is healthy.
Keep reading for how to save your dying indoor palm tree…
Indoor Palm Tree Leaf Tips Turning Brown
- Symptoms. Leaf tips turning brown, dried out, and crispy.
- Causes. Low humidity, underwatering, high temperatures, and too much fertilizer.
The reason for indoor palm tree leaf tips turning brown is because of low humidity and underwatering. Indoor palm trees require the soil to be evenly and consistently moist and prefer high humidity. Low humidity saps moisture from the leaves quicker than the roots can draw up water causing the leaf tips to turn brown.
Most indoor palm tree species are native to tropical climates where they grow with high levels of humidity.
The air indoors is usually much dryer which saps moisture from the leaves causing the leaf tips to turn brown, dried out and crispy.
Humidity can also significantly decrease due to indoor heating and draughts from forced air or air conditioning which results in brown leaf tips.
Palm plants require evenly moist, yet well-draining potting soil to maintain a healthy appearance with green leaves.
If the soil around the root ball dries out, then this can also be the cause of dying, dried-out, brown leaf tips.
Indoor palm plants usually require watering with a thorough soaking every 7 days in the Spring and Summer during active growth and every 10-14 days in Winter when the palm is dormant.
It is important to water generously so that excess water trickles from the drainage holes in the base of the pot to ensure that the water is infiltrating the soil and reaching the roots where it is required.
If you are watering less often then this or watering too lightly then this is likely the cause of your indoor palm leaves turning brown.
Whilst indoor palm plants are native to tropical climates, the leaves can turn brown if they are located too close to indoor heating, as high temperatures increase evaporation and dry out the potting soil too quickly for the palm’s roots to draw up enough moisture, causing the leaf tips to turn brown.
Sometimes the combination of underwatering, high temperatures, and low humidity can cause the potting soil to bake hard and become hydrophobic (repels water) which causes water to trickle off the surface of the soil, down the side of the pot and out through the drainage holes without absorbing properly, which means the roots cannot access the moisture they require.
This of course causes drought stress and is often the reason for indoor palm leaves turning brown starting at the tips.
Indoor palms are relatively sensitive to, too much fertilizer which can cause the leaf tips to turn brown.
Whilst it is best practice to use a fertilizer for indoor palm plants, it is important to use a specific palm tree fertilizer, (rather then a general fertilizer) as a specific product, contains all the nutrients and indoor palm tree needs at the right concentration to keep the tree healthy and avoid the leaf tips turning brown.
How to Revive an Indoor Palm With Brown Leaf Tips
To revive a palm tree with dying brown leaves, increase the humidity by misting the plant regularly. Give the soil a thorough watering, keep the temperature between 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 23ºC), and snip back brown dying leaves to stimulate the growth of new green healthy leaves.
- Place the palm’s pot in a basin of water for 10 minutes or so, and ensure that the root ball is fully submerged. If water is running off the surface of the soil and your indoor palm is chronically underwatered, this is the best water to hydrate the soil, so that the roots can access the water they need. Once the soil has been soaked properly, it should be able to absorb water at the next bout of watering if you are consistent.
- Always water indoor palms every 7 days with a generous soak. Water too lightly only moistens the top inch or so of the soil whereas the roots are much further down in the soil and therefore cannot access the moisture, so always water until you see excess water trickling from the base of the pot, to ensure the soil is evenly moist. Watering every 7 days ensures the right balance of soil moisture to keep the palm hydrated and healthy without risking root rot (water every 10-14 days in Winter).
- Mist the leaves every other day to increase humidity. Misting the palm’s leaves helps to create a humid micro-climate that emulates the humid conditions of the palm’s native environment. This reduces water loss from the leaves and prevents the leaves from turning brown.
- Keep indoor palm trees in a temperature range of 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 23ºC) with around 10 degrees cooler at night. This is typically the preferred temperature range of indoor palms and the stable temperature ensures soil moisture is consistent. Keep indoor palms away from air currents (from air conditions and forced air) and away from any sources of indoor heating which can cause the temperature to fluctuate at night unfavorably.
- If you have been applying fertilizer too often or in too high a concentration then give the soil a generous soak. Water the soil thoroughly to help dissolve any excess salts that can build up due to excess fertilizer. Do not apply any more fertilizer until the following Spring. Always use a specific fertilizer for indoor palm trees as they contain all the nutrients that the palm tree requires at the right concentration to keep the indoor palm leaves healthy and avoid brown leaf tips.
Should I Cut Away Brown Palm Leaves?
Cut back any brown palm leaves back to healthy green growth. The brown leaves do not restore their appearance and turn green again, so cut the brown leaves back which helps to stimulate the growth of new healthy green leaves.
Indoor Palm Tree Leaves Turning Brown
- Symptoms. Entire leaves turn brown and die. Sometimes just the lower leaves turn brown with a dying appearance. Leaves can turn brown and yellow.
- Causes. Lack of light, too much light, dry conditions, and palm leaves turn brown with a dying appearance as the plant matures. Overwatering and damp soil.
Indoor palm trees are most often tropical varieties that grow in the understory of a tree canopy, growing in bright light, but protected from direct sunlight.
Therefore palm trees grow best with lots of bright, indirect light when indoors.
If they do not have enough light then the leaves can start to turn brown. If the palm is in too much direct sunlight, it typically turns yellow but may also turn brown depending on the specific species of palm.
If the just the lower leaves of the indoor palm are turning brown, this is usually because of the natural process of the plant as it matures.
As the palm tree grows, it redirects its energy and resources into growing the leaves at the top of the tree.
This is because palm trees grow their leaves closer to the source of light to gain a competitive advantage over other plants in their native environment.
As the palm tree matures, it invests less energy in sustaining the leaves at the bottom which typically is in less light, causing the dying leaves to turn brown.
If just the lower leaves are turn brown then this does not indicate the plant as a whole is dying and is a natural part of the palm’s growing cycle.
Dry conditions caused by high temperatures, underwatering, and low humidity, typically turn the leaf tips brown, but all can contribute to the palm’s leaves turning brown and dying.
If the soil is too damp then this promotes the conditions for fungal disease which can also turn indoor palm leaves brown with a drooping, dying appearance.
Boggy soil can be caused by overwatering, poor drainage, pots without drainage holes in the base, and saucers, trays, or decorative pots that cause water to pool around the base of the pot.
How to Revive an Indoor Palm with Brown Leaves
- Locate your indoor palm in a room with bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight. Bright indirect light is the optimal balance for indoor palms so that they have enough energy from growth and do not get scorched by the sun. If the room is somewhat low light (due to a north-facing window) then move the palm to a brighter room.
- Increase the humidity with regular misting of the leaves, water the soil every 7 days during active growth, and maintain a temperature range of 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 23ºC) with 10 degrees cooler at night. All these factors help to replicate the conditions of the palm tree’s native environment to alleviate the stress that is causing the leaves to turn brown.
- If the lower leaves a turning brown and dying then there is likely nothing wrong with your indoor palm. As the palm tree matures, it prioritizes new growth rather than sustaining the older leaves lower down the tree, causing them to turn brown.
If low light or dry conditions have caused your indoor palm to turn brown, then once you have improved the conditions indoors, so that they emulate some of the characteristics of the palm tree’s native environment (high humidity, evenly moist soil, etc.) the palm tree leaves should stop turning brown.
Brown leaves do not turn green again, so snip back any dying brown palm tree leaves to improve the appearance of the plant and to help stimulate new growth.
However, if the indoor palm tree is turning brown due to damp soil then this is due to fungal disease, at which point it can be very difficult to save your indoor palm:
- Scale back the watering. Indoor palms need evenly moist soil rather than saturated soil. Water every 7 days during active growth during Spring and Summer and every 10-14 in Fall and Winter.
- Plant indoor palms in regular potting soil amended with grit or perlite to improve drainage. This helps to recreate the well-draining soil conditions of the palm tree’s native environment and mitigates the risk of root rot.
- Plant indoor palms in pots with drainage holes in the base and empty saucers, trays, or decorative outer pots regularly to prevent water from pooling around the base of the pot.
Healthy roots are white with a firm texture. If most of the roots are brown, mushy with a rotten appearance and foul smell then this indicates fungal disease it can be too difficult to save the palm tree, particularly if all the leaves have turned brown.
However, if there is only limited damage to the roots then snip back any roots that appear diseased, back to healthy growth with a sharp pair of pruners.
Use a cloth soaked in disinfectant to wipe the blades of the pruners between each cut to prevent spreading fungal disease pathogens from diseased roots to otherwise healthy roots.
Repot the palm tree in new soil of 2/3’s potting soil to 1/3 grit or perlite, water the palm thoroughly, mist the leaves regularly and the palm may recover depending on the extent of the root damage.
Indoor Palm Tree Leaves Turning Yellow
- Symptoms. Leaves turning yellow and dying back
- Causes. The bottom leaves can turn yellow due to age. Overwatering, underwatering, poor drainage, too much direct sunlight, or low nutrients can all cause yellowing leaves.
The most common reason for indoor palms turning yellow is because of overwatering and poor drainage. Indoor palm trees need well-draining soil conditions and do not tolerate boggy soil around the roots. Damp soil promotes the conditions for root rot, which turns the palm tree’s leaves yellow with a dying appearance.
Indoor palm trees require soil that is well-draining, porous, and aerated yet consistently moist.
If the potting soil is too damp, then this exudes oxygen from the soil and prevents root respiration, which interferes with the plant’s ability to draw up moisture and nutrients. If the palm cannot uptake water and nutrients the leaves turn yellow as a sign of stress.
Keep in mind that overwatering may not be the reason the soil is too damp (and therefore turning the leaves yellow). The soil may be too damp because of:
- Compacted soil drains much more slowly, causing boggy conditions.
- Pots without drainage holes in the base, cause water to pool around the palm’s roots.
- Saucers, trays, and decorative outer pots, underneath the palm trees pot, can cause water to pool around the base of the pot which keeps the soil too damp.
However, if the soil around the roots dries out completely during active growth due to underwatering, then the roots cannot uptake enough moisture to sustain the leaves, which also causes the leaves to turn yellow (and brown depending on the severity of drought stress and the species of palm).
The species of palm trees that are commonly grown indoors are tropical plants that grow in the understory of the forest, protected from direct sunlight by a tree canopy overhead (indoor palms prefer bright, indirect light).
Therefore their leaves are very sensitive to direct sunlight which can cause the leaves to yellow and brown.
Indoor palm leaves can also turn yellow due to a lack of nutrients in the soil. This is most common for larger palms which have been in the same pot for a long time as the roots can exhaust the soil of nutrients during active growth.
It is best practice to use a palm tree specific fertilizer twice a year to prevent the leaves turning yellow due to a lack of nutrients.
For some species of indoor palms, the lower leaves may turn yellow due to age. This indicates that the palm tree is redirecting it energy from sustaining the larger lower leaves to growing new leaves at the top of the plant which are more lightly to have access to brighter light.
This is a natural process as the palm tree matures and does not indicate that the plant is dying.
How to Revive Indoor Palm Trees with Yellow Leaves
Overwatering and underwatering are the most common reasons for indoor palm trees turning yellow. To determine whether it is a watering problem that is causing your palm tree to turn yellow, feel the soil at the fingers depth at the top of the pot and feel the soil at the base of the pot through the drainage holes.
The soil should feel evenly moist. If it feels dry then drought stress, is the cause of the yellowing leaves, whereas if the soil feels damp or boggy then overwatering is the causing the leaves to turn yellow.
If dry soil is causing your palm tree to turn yellow then:
- Place the palm tree’s pot in a basin of water for 10 minutes, ensuring the root ball is submerged. This ensures water absorbs into the soil and reaches the roots where it is required to alleviate the drought stress.
- Mist the palm tree’s leaves every other day. Misting the leaves creates a humid micro-climate which emulates the humid tropical conditions of the palm tree’s native environment. This helps to counteract dry air that can sap moisture from the leaves.
- Keep the palm out of the direct path of air currents from air conditioning and away from sources of indoor heating which can dry the leaves and potting soil too quickly. Palms prefer a temperature range of 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 23ºC) with 10 degrees cooler at night. Air currents lower humidity too much, which can contribute to the leaves turning yellow.
- Water your palm tree every 7 days during active growth and every 10-14 days in Fall and Winter with a generous soak. Always water thoroughly, so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot to ensure that the water is infiltrated the soil and reaches the roots, where it is required. This helps to create the optimal balance of soil moisture (evenly moist, but not boggy) that indoor palms need to stay healthy.
Once you correct the drought conditions, so that they are more favorable for your indoor palm, then you should see some signs of recovery in the following weeks. If some individual leaves turn brown and yellow to brown and crispy then snip them back to healthy growth with a sharp pair of pruners.
If your indoor palm leaves are turning yellow due to boggy soil, then:
- Scale back the watering to once a week. If you are watering your indoor palms more often than once a week, this is probably the reason for the leaves turning yellow. Water every 7 days during active growth and every 10- 14 days in Winter.
- If the soil is compacted and draining slowly, then replace the potting soil. Indoor palms need porous, aerated potting soil rather than compacted soil so take the palm out of the pot and amend the soil with around 30% horticultural grit or perlite to help recreate the well-draining soil conditions that palm trees prefer in their native environment.
- When removing the palm from its pot inspect its roots for signs of disease. Healthy palm roots are white and feel firm. If the roots are diseased, then they are usually brown in color with a rotten appearance a mushy texture, and have a bad smell. If all of the roots are diseased then the palm does not revive.
- If only some of the roots are rotting then trim back any diseased roots with a sharp pair of pruner back to healthy growth. Wipe the blades of the pruners with a cloth soaked in disinfectant to prevent spreading fungal pathogens from diseased roots to otherwise healthy growth. Re-pot the palm in new potting soil (amended with grit for drainage) and water the plant thoroughly.
- Ensure that the palm is planted in a pot with drainage holes in the base and empty any saucers, trays, or decorative outer pots of water regularly, to prevent excess water from pooling around the potting of the pot, causing root rot.
It is far more difficult to save an overwatered indoor palm than an underwatered palm, particularly if there is significant root rot.
However indoor palms do recover well from overwatering as long as the roots are intact and the drainage conditions are improved.
Indoor palms can also turn yellow due to too much direct sunlight or because the roots have exhausted the soil of nutrients (which is common during active growth in Spring and Summer), in which case:
- Locate the indoor palm tree in bright, indirect, avoiding any direct sunlight. Brightly lit rooms provide the palm tree with enough energy to grow without scorching the leaves with direct sunlight. mist the leaves and water once a week. Eventually new growth green should emerge in the following weeks, after which you can trim back (with a sharp pair of pruners) any yellow parts of the palm that do not recover, as this should stimulate further growth so the plant can recover.
- Use a palm-specific fertilizer once in the Spring and Summer to prevent yellowing leaves due to low nutrients. If the palm is yellow and has been in the same pot for a long time then low nutrients are likely the cause of the yellowing leaves. A specific palm tree fertilizer contains all the nutrients the palm requires at the right concentration. Indoor palm trees with yellowing leaves often recover well after an application of fertilizer and the palm should recover well.
Indoor Palm Tree Drooping
- Symptoms. Indoor palm leaves drooping or wilting. Leaves can also turn yellow or brown.
- Causes. Underwatering, overwatering, low light, temperature too hot or cold, low humidity.
The most common reasons for indoor palm drooping are because of drought stress due to underwatering, and low humidity. Drooping leaves are the first indication that the soil around the roots is too dry or the humidity causing the leaves to lose too much moisture which results in a drooping, wilting appearance.
If the leaf tips are also turning brown as well as an overall drooping appearance, then this is symptomatic of low humidity which saps too much moisture from the leaves at a faster rate than the roots can draw up moisture.
Indoor palm trees also require the soil to be evenly moist. If the soil is start to dry around the roots then the first sign of stress is drooping leaves. If the soil dries out completely then the leaves also turn brown in as well as wilting.
The preferred temperature range for indoor palms is 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 23ºC) with around 10 degrees cooler at night. If the temperature significantly exceeds 75ºF then the soil dries out too quickly, and the roots cannot uptake the water required to prevent the leaves from drooping.
All the common species of indoor palm trees are native to tropical climates. Excessively cold temperatures can stress an indoor palm and result in a drooping appearance.
If the soil is saturated or too compacted. then this can exclude oxygen from the soil and prevent root respiration which interferes with the root’s ability to draw up moisture and nutrients which results in drooping leaves that can turn yellow or brown.
Boggy soil also promotes the conditions for fungal diseases such as root rot, which also causes leaves to droop.
Indoor palms require bright, indirect light. If the light is too low for the indoor palm tree then it does not have enough energy to support the leaves and stems and causes a drooping appearance.
How to Revive a Drooping Indoor Palm Tree
To revive a drooping indoor palm, ensure the potting soil is evenly moist, mist the leaves to increase humidity and maintain a temperature range of between 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 23ºC), and locate the palm in bright light and the leaves should recover.
- Mist the leaves every other day to increase the humidity. Indoor palm trees are all native to humid tropical climates, so misting the leaves regularly helps to create a humid micro-climate that emulates the palm’s native environment. This slows down water loss from the leaves and alleviates the drought stress that has caused the drooping leaves.
- If the soil feels dry, place the indoor palm in a basin of water for 10 minutes, ensuring the root ball is submerged. Potting soil can often bake hard and become hydrophobic (repels water) if it has dried out, therefore it is best to soak the root ball for some time to ensure the water has absorbed properly. Water indoor palms every 7 days in Spring and Summer and every 10-14 days in Winter to ensure consistently moist soil and prevent drooping due to drought stress.
- Indoor palms prefer a temperature range of 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 23ºC) and 10 degrees cooler at night to prevent drooping. Keep your indoor palm tree away from sources of indoor heat and out of any direct air currents from air conditioning, forced air, or draught areas which can sap moisture from the leaves and cause unfavorable temperature fluctuations.
- Locate indoor palms in bright, indirect (rather than low light). A brighter room replicates the typical light levels of a forest under-story, with protection from harsh direct sunlight whilst still being bright enough so that the palm has enough energy to grow and remain healthy. A drooping indoor palm should perk up once the light levels are more favorable.
Indoor palm trees usually recover well from drought stress and the drooping leaves should recover in the following days, as long as the conditions are adjusted to the preference of the indoor palm tree.
- If the soil feels saturated then this is the reason for the drooping leaves. Feel the palm’s soil to a fingers depth and the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage holes in the base to detect whether the soil feels boggy, rather than just evenly moist. If the soil is draining slowly due to compaction, take the palm out of the pot and amend the soil with around 1/3 horticultural grit or perlite to increase drainage.
- Scale back the watering. Only water indoor palms every 7 days during Spring and Summer with a good soak and every 10-14 days in Fall and Winter. This ensures the right balance of moisture and drainage so that the roots can function properly which alleviates the stress that caused the leaves to droop.
- Ensure the indoor palm is planted in a pot with drainage holes in the base and empty any saucers, trays, and decorative pots of excess water to ensure that water can drain freely without pooling around the base of the pot (which causes the soil to remain saturated).
Once you have improved the drainage conditions and water the indoor palm in a cycle that replicates the typical levels of moisture in the palm’s native environment then the palm should be able to recover from its drooping appearance.
However, if the indoor palm has drooping, yellowing, or brown leaves then the root rot or fungal disease may be severe in which case it can be difficult to save the palm tree.
(Read my article, How to Care for an Indoor Potted Palm Tree).
- The reason for a dying indoor palm tree is usually because of low humidity, dry soil, and high temperatures which cause the leaves to turn brown with a drooping, dying appearance. Indoor palm trees are tropical plants that need humid conditions, evenly moist soil, and temperatures between 65ºF and 75ºF to stay alive.
- The reason indoor palm tree leaves turn yellow is because of too much direct sunlight, overwatering, and poor drainage or due to low-nutrient soil. Indoor palm trees need bright indirect light and well-draining draining soil. Damp soil causes root rot which turns the leaves yellow with a drooping appearance.
- The reason indoor palm leaf tips turn brown is because of low humidity due to air conditioning or indoor heating. Indoor palm trees are native to humid tropical climates. Low humidity indoors saps moisture from the leaves causing the tips to dry out and turn brown.
- Indoor palm tree leaves turn brown and yellow with a drooping, dying appearance because of overwatering and poor drainage. Indoor palm trees need well-draining soil. If the soil is saturated then this causes root rot which causes the leaves to to turn yellow and brown and droop.