How to Revive a Dying Majesty Palm


How to revive a dying majesty palm plant

I love my majesty palm plants as they are elegant and can grow well indoors. So I can fully understand your distress if yours is dying! Fortunately, I have cultivated many indoor palm plants in my job as a commercial supplier to garden centers, and I have a host of tips, tricks, and hacks to save your majesty palm if it is looking unwell.

In this article, I share with you the knowledge that I have acquired working alongside expert growers who not only know the ideal conditions for your majesty palm tree but have also revived many a dying palm tree…

Usually, the reasons for Majesty palms dying are because of low humidity, underwatering, or overwatering. Majesty palms are native to humid climates and grow in moist soil with good drainage. Low humidity and underwatering cause leaf tips to turn brown and crispy. Overwatering turns leaves yellow and brown with a dying appearance.

Majesty palms prefer to grow in bright, indirect light, so if yours is turning a scorched yellow then it could be that it is in too much direct sunlight.

For us to save our dying plants, it is helpful if we understand how they grow in the wild, so that we can replicate some of these conditions in our homes…

Majesty palms grow along river banks in their native environment and prefer high humidity with evenly moist soil.

If the soil around the root ball dries out and the humidity is too low, the majesty palm leaves dry out and turn brown.

To revive a dying majesty palm, I emulate the conditions of its natural environment by misting the leaves to increase humidity, watering every 7 days so the soil is evenly moist, maintaining a temperature range of 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 23ºC), and cutting back any brown, dying leaves to stimulate new growth.

Keep reading for how to save your dying majesty palm (Ravenea rivularis)…

Why are My Majesty Palm Leaves Turning Brown?

Majesty palm leaves turning brown due to low humidity and underwatering.
Majesty palm leaves turning brown due to low humidity and underwatering.
  • Symptoms. Leaf tips are turning brown, drying out, and turning crispy. Leaves can also turn yellow and brown or have brown spots.
  • Causes. Low humidity, dry soil, too much fertilizer, excessively high or low temperatures, overwatering. Older leaves turn brown as the plant matures.

From what I have seen, majesty palm trees turn brown because of low humidity and dry soil. Majesty palm is adapted to living in humid climates with evenly moist soil. If the humidity is too low and the soil dries out around the palm’s root ball, the leaf tips turn brown, dried out, and crispy, with a dying appearance.

Majesty palms are native to Madagascar, where they grow around lagoons and riverbanks with moist yet well-draining soil and high humidity.

The typical level of humidity indoors is around 10%, whereas the majesty palm prefers the humidity at around 40%.

Low humidity is often exacerbated by indoor heating or air conditioning which saps moisture from the majesty palm’s leaves causing the leaf tips to turn brown and crispy.

I see this happen to my own indoor palm trees in winter when I have to turn on the heating, and when I lived in Arizona, I had to use the air conditioner, which also dried the leaves.

Majesty palms grow in well-draining soil that needs to be consistently moist around the root ball.

Typically, a majesty palm should be watered once a week with a thorough watering, so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot, to ensure the moisture has reached the roots where it is required.

If a majesty palm is not watered often enough or watered too lightly then the leaves start to dry out and turn brown with a crispy appearance.

The leaf tips can also turn brown if fertilizer has been applied too often or in too high a concentration.

Pro tip: I asked some specialist growers about this, and they all told me that majesty palms are quite particularly about fertilizer (more so than most palm trees), and according to the experts, it is best practice to use about 2 applications of palm plant-specific fertilizer in the Spring and Summer. Ordinary house plant fertilizer can contribute to the leaf tips turning brown.

Palm plants also prefer a temperature range of between 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 23ºC) with 10 degrees cooler in the evening, avoiding temperatures lower than 55ºF (12ºC).

If you have had a heat wave and the temperature is too high, then this can sap moisture from the leaves, causing them to turn brown, or it can dry the soil out too quickly, causing drought stress and resulting in brown leaves. (This used to happen to me frequently during Arizona Summers).

Once, I made the mistake of having my majesty palm located too near a window, and the leaves were in contact with the glass, and this was the reason for the leaf tips turning brown.

Glass is often significantly colder than the room temperature (particularly at night during Winter), and the cold stress can turn the leaves brown.

The leaves may turn yellow and brown due to fungal disease if the soil is saturated. Majesty palms prefer moist yet well-draining soil and do not tolerate boggy soil.

If the soil is too damp, then this excludes oxygen from the soil, which prevents root respiration and interferes with the root’s ability to draw up moisture and nutrients to transport to the leaves, which causes the Majesty’s palm’s leaves to turn yellow and brown with a dying appearance.

If the soil is too damp in general, then this promotes the conditions for root rot and other fungal diseases.

It should be noted that the lower, older leaves of the majesty palm often turn brown and dry out as the plant matures. (This happens to my plant all the time, and I can assure you that it is nothing to worry about).

As the palm grows, it redirects its energy to growing new leaves at the top of the plant as they are more likely to receive light.

This is a normal part of the majesty palm’s life cycle and does not indicate the plant is dying.

My Tips for Reviving Your Majesty Palm Plant with Brown Leaves

  • If the majesty palm is suffering from drought stress, then I recommend submerging the root ball in a basin of water for 10 minutes. Sometimes, when the soil dries out completely, it becomes hydrophobic (repels water), and the water just runs off the surface without infiltrating the soil and reaching the roots. This is why I submerge the root ball as this allows the water to absorb into the soil and reach the roots.
  • Always water the majesty palm with a generous soak (around once a week) so that excess water trickles from the pot’s base. If it is watered too lightly, then only the top inch or so of the soil becomes moist, and the water does not reach the roots where it is required.
  • I mist the leaves every other day or use a plant humidifier. Misting the leaves helps to create a humid micro-climate that emulates the humidity of the majesty palm’s native environment and prevents the leaves from turning brown. I used to use a humidifier in Winter as I found this was even more effective at counteracting dry air from indoor heating and air conditioning.
  • Ensure the temperature stays in the range of 65ºF and 75ºF and 10ºF degrees cooler at night. This temperature range mimics the climate in the Majesty Palms native environment. Keep the palm away from any sources of heat which can dry out the soil too quickly and cause the leaves to turn brown and crispy. Practically speaking, this means moving your palm to the other side of the room from a radiator or forced air.
  • Do not apply ordinary fertilizer to Majesty palms, and always follow the instructions to prevent the leaf tips from turning brown. It is best practice to apply fertilizer but only use a specific palm fertilizer to avoid harming the plant and use only twice per year in the Spring and Summer.
  • I would ensure that the majesty palm’s leaves are not in contact with windows. This ensures that the leaves do not turn brown due to cold stress.
  • If the leaves are turning yellow and brown, this indicates overwatering or poor drainage. If you are watering your Majesty palm more than once a week, then this is most likely the cause of the leaves turning yellow and brown. Scale back the watering to once a week, ensure the pot has drainage holes in the base, and empty any saucers, trays, or decorative outer pots of excess water to allow water to drain properly so the soil does not become boggy.

Pro tip: A great tip that I learned from my experiences was to move my majesty palm to the bathroom so it can enjoy the naturally higher humidity whilst it recovers.

Should I cut back Brown Majesty Palm Leaves?

Yes! Cut back any brown leaves or leaf tips back to healthy green growth with a sharp pair of pruners. Once the leaves turn brown and crispy, they do not restore their color and turn green again. Cutting brown leaves back stimulates new growth of healthy green leaves.

Why Are My Leaves Turning Yellow and Dying?

  • Symptoms. Leaves turning yellow and brown and dying. Sun-damaged leaves fade yellow and brown with a scorched and sometimes crispy appearance.
  • Causes. Too much sunlight, not enough sunlight, not enough fertilizer, underwatering, overwatering, poor drainage.

Usually, the reason for yellowing and dying leaves is too much sunlight or overwatering.

Majesty palms need bright, indirect light rather than direct sunlight. If the leaves are in full sun, then they turn yellow with a scorched appearance. Overwatering turns leaves yellow and brown with a dying appearance.

Majesty palms grow along river banks and around lagoons in their native habitat in Madagascar, under a canopy, usually with filtered light or bright, indirect light rather than direct sunlight.

Due to their adaptations growing as an under-story plant out of direct sunlight, the leaves can be very sensitive to too much sunlight.

When I see a majesty palm that has been in too much sun, the leaves look washed out and scorched yellow often with some brown leaves.

Suppose you are unsure about what is causing the yellowing. In that case, my best way to establish the cause of yellowing majesty palm leaves, specifically due to sun damage, is if the side of the majesty palm that faces the sun has turned yellow and faded, more so than the shaded side of the plant (which may stay somewhat green) then sun damage is responsible rather then overwatering.

It should also be noted that majesty palm leaves can turn yellow if they are in too much shade. Bright, indirect light is optimal for majesty palm plants.

However, I have seen cases of majestic palms turning yellow due to a lack of fertilizer, as it is best practice to use fertilizer to ensure good growth and green leaves.

During the growing months in the Spring and Summer the majesty palms as the roots can exhaust the pot of available nutrients. I don’t usually see this in smaller trees but in the more mature specimens that have been in the same pot for a long time.

A nutrient deficit in the soil causes the majesty palm to grow slowly or stop growing, and the leaves turn yellow.

Whilst Majesty palms prefer high humidity and moist soil, it is also essential that the soil is well-drained around the root ball.

If the potting soil is consistently damp, then this prevents root respiration and promotes the conditions for root rot and fungal diseases, which can turn the leaves yellow and brown with a dying appearance.

Majesty palm leaves turning yellow due to damp soil can be caused by overwatering, compacted, slow-draining soils, pots without drainage holes in the base, or decorative pots, saucers, and trays underneath the pot, causing water to pool around the base of the pot resulting in boggy soil.

It should be noted that the risk of the leaves turning yellow due to overwatering increases in the Winter.

During the Winter months, the majesty palm slows down growth in response to fewer hours of daylight, therefore the roots draw up less moisture from the soil as the plant is not actively growing.

With a lower demand for moisture, the potting soil can stay damp for longer, which promotes the conditions for root rot, which turns the leaves yellow and brown with a dying appearance.

If the palm is slightly drought-stressed from underwatering or watering too lightly, the palm leaves can start to turn yellow.

My Tips for Reviving Majesty Palms with Yellow Leaves

  • Locate your majesty palm in an area of bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight. If the sun has scorched the leaves yellow, the majesty palm should survive but the individual leaves do not recover their appearance. New green growth should emerge as long as the palm is protected from direct sunlight and the conditions are favorable.
  • I would cut back any leaves that are severely scorched and faded yellow or brown. If the leaves are severely sun burnt, then these leaves do not recover and return to a green appearance. Snip back the damaged yellow leaves with a sharp pair of pruners, as they can no longer photosynthesize, and pruning helps to stimulate new healthy green growth.
  • If the soil feels damp and leaves turn yellow and brown, scale back the watering. I always feel the soil through the drainage hole at the pot’s base. The soil should feel evenly moist rather than damp and boggy. Through my experiments, I have found that it is best to only water once a week during the Spring and Summer (with a generous soak) and once every 10-14 days in Fall and Winter when the plant is not actively growing.
  • Ensure the potting soil isn’t compacted, as this can interfere with drainage. If the soil is compacted then all the oxygen is pushed out of the soil, which prevents root respiration and turns the leaves yellow with a dying appearance. I would encourage you to re-pot the palm plant if the soil appears to be compacted and draining slowly. My favorite potting mix is using normal potting soil amended with around 30% perlite to help improve the soil structure, increase drainage, and aerate the soil.
  • Always plant majesty palms in pots with drainage holes in the base and empty saucers and trays regularly. Water should be able to flow freely from the base of the pot rather than pool around the roots. Good drainage is essential to mitigate the risk of root rot.
  • I apply a fertilizer twice a year to revive yellowing majesty palm leaves. If you are following the best practices of care in terms of watering, drainage, and sunlight then the reason for your majesty palm leaves turn yellow is likely because the soil is low in nutrients. Palm plants do not like to be repotted too often, so instead of replacing the soil, apply a fertilizer that is specifically made for palm plants, as they contain the right balance of nutrients at the right concentration to turn the leaves green and promote healthy growth.

From experience, majesty palms that have sun brunt leaves can recover once the palm has been moved to an area of bright indirect light and the damaged leaves have been pruned back to healthy growth.

Green healthy leaves should emerge during the growing season and the majesty palm can quickly restore its appearance.

What I have found is that yellow majesty palm leaves also recover well after an application of fertilizer, if the cause of the yellowing leaves is because the plant has exhausted all the available nutrients in the potting soil.

However, if the majesty palms roots have been sat in boggy soil for a long time, then root rot and other fungal diseases can be the cause of a dying plant and it can be very difficult to revive the plant.

Can Yellow Palm Leaves Turn Green Again?

If the palm leaves have been sunburnt or the palm is suffering from a fungal disease then the affected leaves do not turn green again. However, if the leaves are turning yellow because the soil is low in nutrients, then the leaves can turn green again if you apply fertilizer.

I always cut back any yellow leaves back to healthy growth as they do not turn green again unless the palm leaves are turning yellow due to underwatering or low nutrients, in which case the leaves can sometimes restore their appearance once the conditions that cause the yellowing have been amended.

Why is My Majesty Palm Drying Out?

  • Symptoms. Majesty leaves drying out and turning brown or a faded yellow. Often the tips and margins of the leaves dry out and turn brown and crispy.
  • Causes. Low humidity, dry soil, high temperatures, and too much sunlight.

The reason I see most often for majesty leaves drying out is because of low humidity. Majesty palms are native to tropical climates and are adapted to environments with high humidity. The humidity indoors is much lower than the majesty palms native environment, which saps moisture from the leaves causing them to dry out and turn crispy.

As I stated, Majesty palms are adapted to growing along river banks and near lagoons in Madagascar, with consistently high humidity of at least 40%.

The air indoors is usually around 10% humidity, but personally, the humidity in my house can decrease even further in Winter due to indoor heating and due to air conditioning in Summer.

This difference in the levels of humidity causes the majesty palm to lose too much moisture through the leaves quicker than the plant can draw up water at the roots, resulting in the leaves drying out and turning brown and crispy.

Whilst low humidity is the most common cause of a majesty palm drying out, dry soil is also a significant contributing factor.

Majesty palms grow in well-draining yet consistently moist soil in their native environment.

If the soil around the root ball dries out completely due to not watering often enough and watering the soil too lightly then the majesty palms leaves dry out, turning brown and crispy.

Sometimes, the potting soil becomes hydrophobic (repels water) if it dries out completely, which causes it to run off the surface of the soil and not infiltrate properly to reach the roots, resulting in a drought-stressed majesty palm with dried-out leaves.

Other contributing factors can also be high temperatures in Summer (and often in Winter if you use indoor heating like me) and too much sunlight, both of which can dry out the soil and create adverse conditions that turn the Majesty palm’s leaves crispy and dried out.

Expert Tips for Reviving a Palm That is Drying out

To revive a dying majesty palm with dried-out leaves, I adjust the conditions by misting the leaves to increase the humidity, soaking the root ball in a basin of water, locating the palm in indirect light rather than direct sunlight, and trim back any dried leaves to stimulate new growth.

  • Soak the root ball in a basin of water for 10 minutes, ensuring the root ball is submerged. Often, I find if a plant is underwater, the soil dries out and bakes hard and does not absorb water properly, if the majesty palm leaves are drying out due to underwatering, then submerging the root ball is the most effective of reviving the plant as this ensures the water reaches the roots, where it is required.
  • I water the majesty palm every 7 days with a generous soak so that excess water trickles from the drainage holes at the base of the pot. I recommend watering thoroughly every 7 days to ensure the potting soil is evenly moist so that the roots have access to the moisture they require. Water the palm every 10-14 days in Winter as the plant is not actively growing.
  • Mist the leaves every day whilst the plant recovers. Misting the leaves creates a humid micro-climate that emulates the majesty palm’s tropical native environment and counteracts the effects of dry indoor air. Misting the leaves reduces the rate of water loss from the leaves which creates more favorable conditions for your majesty’s palm and mitigates the risk of the leaves drying out and turning brown and crispy.
  • Maintain a temperature range of between 65º and 75º and around 10 degrees cooler at night. High temperatures dry out the soil and sap moisture from the leaves, so keep the majesty palm away from any sources of indoor heating. Cooler temperatures replicate the conditions of its native environment, which should help the palm recover. From research, I learned that a 10 degree F drop is critical to keeping your majesty palm healthy.
  • Place the majesty palm in an area of bright, indirect light rather than direct sunlight. Too much sun is often a contributing cause to the leaves drying out and fading yellow. Bright, indirect provides the majesty palm with the energy to grow, and it is still protected from direct sunlight which can burn the leaves.
  • I would snip back any dried-out leaves with a sharp pair of pruners. Once the leaves have dried out and turned crispy, they do not restore their original green appearance. Snip the leaves back to healthy growth, which tidies up the plant’s appearance and stimulates new healthy growth.

If your leaves have scorched yellow in the sun, then a great trick I use is to have a sheer curtain in any room that gets lots of direct sunlight. The sheer curtain helps to diffuse the light to create the optimal conditions for your majesty palm to thrive.

I really like Majesty palms as I have seen specimens with dried-out leaves typically recover really well once the conditions have been adjusted so that they emulate some of the characteristics of their native environment (more humidity and evenly moist soil).

If you trim back the dried-out leaves during active growth in the Spring and Summer the majesty palm should revive its appearance in the following weeks.

Why is My Majesty Palm Leaning?

  • Symptoms. Majesty palm plant leaves and stems leaning over to one side.
  • Causes. Low levels of light and not turning the palm around often enough so that each side faces the light.

The most common reason I have observed a majesty palm leaning is that the leaves and branches are growing toward the strongest light source. Majesty palms need bright light to grow to their best. If they are in low light, the palm leans towards the light to attain brighter light.

In their native environment, majesty palms are found naturally in the understory of a forest under the canopy, where they have lots of bright light, but they are protected from harsh direct sunlight.

Whilst majesty palms can grow in relatively low light conditions compared to some houseplants, they often grow much slower, and the leaves and stems lean towards the light, creating an unbalanced appearance.

I can assure you this is a relatively easy fix…

The way to revive a leaning majesty palm is to move the plant to a brighter room and rotate the palm a quarter each time your water (which should be around every 7 days in Spring and Summer and every 10-14 days in the Fall and Winter).

We used this very tactic when I used to grow them for sale at garden centers.

This ensures that the majesty palm leaves, stem and trunk grow in a more uniform, straight manner rather than a leaning appearance.

(Read my article, How to Care for a Potted Indoor Palm Tree).

Key Takeaways:

  • A dying majesty palm is usually because of low humidity, underwatering, or overwatering. Majesty palms need high humidity and evenly moist soil. If the soil dries out and the humidity is low, the leaves dry out and turn brown. If the soil is too damp from overwatering, the leaves turn yellow and brown with a dying appearance.
  • The lower leaves of majesty palms turn brown, dried out, and crispy, with a dying appearance as the plant matures. As the plant grows, it redirects energy to growing newer leaves at the top of it as they receive more light, causing the dying older leaves to lower and turn brown and crispy.
  • Majesty palm plants turn yellow because of too much direct sunlight, poor drainage, or overwatering. Majesty palms grow naturally under a canopy, protected from sunlight. If the leaves are in full sun they turn yellow and with a scorched appearance. Too much moisture around the roots causes turns the leaves yellow due to root rot.
  • The reason for Majesty’s palm leaves drying out is because of low humidity and dry soil from underwatering. Low humidity saps moisture from the majesty leaves quicker than the roots can draw up water, causing the leaves to dry out and turn brown and crispy.
  • The reason for majesty palm plants leaning is usually because it is in too much shade or the plant is growing towards the strongest source of light. Majesty palms prefer bright, indirect light and the pot should be turned 45 degrees every time you water to help the palm grow straight rather than leaning.
  • To revive a dying majesty palm, replicate their preferred natural conditions by misting the leaves to increase the humidity, watering with a generous soak every 7 days, and maintaining a temperature range of 65ºF and 75ºF. Snip off any brown, dying leaves to stimulate healthy green growth.

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