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A palm tree with yellow leaves and brown tips is not in the best condition. A detailed analysis only reveals what causes these damage patterns. Failures in care are just as much a trigger as diseases or pests. Only knowledge of the actual cause enables effective countermeasures to save the suffering palm tree. This guide addresses common causes and provides practical tips for solving the problem.


root cause

  • unsuitable location


  • relocation

Improper site selection is one of the most common causes of brown leaf tips and yellow leaves. Take a look at palm tree habitats, these are regions where shade and cool temperatures are a rarity.

When there is a lack of light, the sun-hungry houseplants reduce photosynthesis. As a result, the fronds turn yellow in the early stages, only to die off from the tips later on. The immediate change to a location with the following framework conditions can solve the problem.

How to do it:

  • Sunny to shady location with at least 4 hours of sunshine daily
  • from May to September on the south-facing balcony or in a sun-drenched spot in the garden
  • in winter at the south-facing window in full sun, in the bright conservatory or in the bright stairwell
  • not below the minimum temperature of 15 degrees Celsius all year round

If a sunny location is not available during the dark season due to a lack of space, a daylight lamp compensates for the lack of light. The minimum temperature of 15 degrees Celsius applies to all indoor palms. Hardy species such as the needle palm or the dwarf palm can withstand frost down to -13 degrees Celsius or colder. The need for a sunny location remains unchanged.

Phoenix canariensis, Canary Island Date Palm

increase humidity

root cause

  • dry heating air


  • increase humidity

Palm trees have adapted very well to the lower humidity in the Central European climate. It becomes precarious for tropical and subtopic ornamental leaf plants if they are exposed to dry heating air for a long period of time in winter. The palm trees react to this stress with brown leaf tips. At the first sign of this effect, the humidity should be increased.

How to do it:

  • Spray fronds and leaves daily on the top and bottom
  • primarily use lime-free, room-warm water
  • additionally fill the coaster with water and expanded clay balls or grit

So that the decorative palm leaves are not spoiled by brown tips in the first place, the humidity in living and working rooms is optimized at the beginning of the heating season. Air humidifiers from specialist shops, an indoor fountain, an aquarium or water evaporators for radiators are perfectly suitable.

change water supply

root cause

  • imbalanced water balance


  • Modify water supply

The vast majority of indoor palms prefer a periodically moist substrate. Specifically, this requirement implies that the root ball should neither dry out nor stand in water. If there is an imbalance in the water balance, yellow leaves and brown tips are inevitable. Fatally, these damage patterns occur in both dry and waterlogged conditions.

Dry roots are naturally not able to transport water into the palm leaves. If the root strands are softened by excess water, the feed also comes to a standstill. In order to bring the water supply back on track, your gardening instinct is required.

How to do it right:

  • water only when the palm soil has dried 2-4 cm deep
  • let the lime-free water run onto the root disc until the saucer fills up
  • pour out the coaster after 20 minutes, unless it is filled with pebbles or expanded clay

The actual water requirement depends on a variety of factors. These include the type of palm tree, season, size of the tub, substrate structure and the light and temperature conditions at the location. Therefore, please check regularly by thumb test whether there is a current need for watering. During hot summer periods this may be necessary every 2 days, whereas during the winter the watering can only be used every 1 to 2 weeks.

Trachycarpus fortunei, Chinese Hemp Palm

Fertilize properly

root cause

  • imbalance in the nutrient balance


  • Fertilize properly

The large family of palm trees gives us a large number of different species that come with individual requirements for nutrient supply. A fast-growing petticoat palm (Washingtonia robusta) requires a higher fertilizer concentration than, for example, the extremely slow-growing needle palm species Rhapidophyllum hystrix. The affected palm responds to an overdose or underdose of fertilizer with brown leaf tips or yellow leaves. Therefore, put the nutrient supply to the test to what extent the following basic requirements are met.

How to do it:

  • Fertilize palm trees organically or mineral-organically during the growing season from April to September
  • Fertilize small and slow-growing palm species in half the concentration
  • Stop nutrient supply from October to March

Despite their tropical and subtropical origins, palms require a balanced formulation of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) just like any other indoor greenery. You are of course free to administer a special, expensive palm fertilizer.

A commercially available green plant fertilizer, on the other hand, also covers the need. Please use a liquid fertilizer that you add to the irrigation water. It is important to note that you never put fertilizer on dry substrate. The salts it contains damage the roots, causing brown leaf tips to form. Pour clear water before and after, avoid this problem.

change substrate

root cause

  • compacted earth


  • Repot in palm suitable substrate

Palm trees are equipped with deep taproots and a close-meshed system of fine roots. Accordingly, the substrate should be loose and permeable so that the countless adventitious and hairy roots do not come under pressure.

Under the influence of compacted soil, the supply of the palm fronds comes to a standstill, whereupon yellow discoloration and brown leaf tips develop. If you can identify this cause as the trigger for the damage, the problem can be solved by immediately repotting it in fresh soil.

Here's how to do it:

  • repot the palm to clean the root ball of old substrate
  • create a water-bearing layer of potsherds on the bottom of the pot
  • Enrich high-quality potting soil to a third with leaf or coniferous compost and coconut fibers
  • alternatively, as a substrate, a mix of 1 part loam and leaf compost, enriched with horn shavings and perlite
  • pot the palm tree in such a way that the previous planting depth remains unchanged
  • pour thoroughly with soft water
  • allow to regenerate for 8 to 10 days in a semi-shady, warm location

Conventional potting soil is not suitable for your palm tree. Such substrate is not structurally stable due to the high peat content and tends to compact. Furthermore, there is a lack of sufficient air supply in normal potting soil, which the fine roots in particular are absolutely dependent on.

If you do not want to mix the appropriate substrate yourself, you can use special palm soil from specialist shops. Good quality products are already complete with additives for a structurally stable permeability and a sufficient supply of fertilizer for 2 to 4 months.

Trachycarpus fortunei, Chinese Hemp Palm

lime-free water

root cause

  • Leaf chlorosis due to excess lime


  • Use lime-free water and administer iron fertilizer

Only a few palm trees can get along with a calcareous substrate. As a rule, an acidic, lime-free soil is preferred. If mainly hard tap water is used for the water supply in the watering can, excess lime builds up in the substrate. As a result, vital nutrients are fixed.

First and foremost, iron and magnesium no longer reach the palm fronds, although they are present in sufficient quantities as microelements in the substrate. A typical symptom of this deficiency is yellow leaves with green veins sticking out.

To restore balance:

  • Water the palm immediately with boiled tap water or collected rainwater
  • compensate for the iron deficiency with a special iron chelate fertilizer (without iron II sulfate)
  • remedy the magnesium deficiency with pH-neutral kieserite or Epsom salt
  • dissolve the fertilizer in lime-free water and apply as a foliar fertilizer

It takes some time for the nutrient deficiency to be corrected. For the affected leaves, the measures come too late if the leaf chlorosis is already well advanced. However, do not cut off the fronds, because every cut further weakens the already stressed palm tree. Wait until a palm leaf has completely died and then pull it off the trunk.

Putting in and clearing out

root cause

  • frostbite


  • Put in and clear out in good time

Indoor palms love it when they can spend the summer on the sunny, warm balcony. However, the exotic pieces of jewelry have not learned to deal with cool temperatures or even frost. If you move your palm too late in the spring or if you don't bring it indoors in time in the fall, this will result in brown leaf tips. If the root ball freezes partially or completely, the leaves turn yellow and die.

How to work around the problem:

  • Give indoor palms with the first signs of brown leaf tips immediately
  • set up in sunny, bright winter quarters at 18 to 20 degrees Celsius
  • Cover garden palms with light- and air-permeable fleece
  • place the bucket on wood and wrap it with bubble wrap

The brown tips of the leaves disturb the exotic appearance of a palm tree. You can cut off the damaged areas, leaving a small edge of the brown plant tissue. Please do not cut into healthy, green leaf tissue, as this will also turn brown.

Chamaedorea, mountain palm


root cause

  • sunburn


  • acclimatize

Palm trees are among the sun worshipers among indoor plants. However, they can suffer from sunburn if they are suddenly exposed to direct sunlight in spring. As a visible sign, the leaves turn yellow or brown leaf tips form. To prevent this from happening in the first place, harden the palm trees for 8 to 14 days in a semi-shady, warm location on the balcony or in the garden. Only then does the plant take its final place in the sunny location.

Yellow leaves can also appear on the south-facing window sill of living and working spaces as a result of sunburn. If you bought a palm tree in a garden center, it was rarely in full sun. Allocate your new roommates a place by the partially shaded west window for 14 days to acclimatize.

fight pests

root cause

  • pests


  • fight ecologically

In a sheltered living room or conservatory, palm trees are by no means safe from pests. It is mainly spider mites that use the dry heating air during the winter to attack the leaves. The drama begins on the underside of the page.

This is where the first colonies settle, which can be seen in some species of white webs. Spider mites pierce the leaf tissue and extract the plant sap and thus the green color. If the yellow discoloration catches the eye, the infestation is already well advanced.

How to fight the plague with ecological means:

  • isolate a palm tree infested with spider mites from other houseplants
  • pack the bucket in a waterproof cover to give the leaves a good shower
  • then wipe the fronds with a cloth soaked in alcohol
  • dab hard-to-reach leaf axils with cotton swabs previously dipped in alcohol
  • fight stubborn infestations with a biological insecticide based on rapeseed oil or neem

The classic soft soap solution has proven itself as a household remedy. Make this as a mix of 1 liter of boiled water, 1 to 2 tablespoons of pure soft soap and 15 ml of spirit. Spray the undersides and tops of the leaves every 2 to 3 days.

If your palm has not yet reached majestic dimensions, there is an option that is as uncomplicated as it is effective. Spray the entire plant with soft water. Then put a transparent plastic bag over her. Under the influence of high humidity and a lack of oxygen supply, the spider mites die within a few days.

Phoenix canariensis, Canary Island Date Palm


root cause

  • natural growing cycle


  • Wait

If only the lower palm fronds turn yellow while a new leaf thrives in the treetop at the same time, no special measures are required. In this case, it is a completely normal process in the vegetation cycle. Ideally, be patient until the palm releases the yellowed leaf by itself. Simply pull the frond from the trunk to avoid cutting it.

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