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A coconut palm is mainly cultivated in tubs in Central Europe because it does not survive cold winters outdoors. It is one of the most popular exotic plants because it conjures up a South Seas feeling in gardens, living rooms and balconies like no other palm tree. But often brown leaves form, which make for an unsightly sight. The reasons for this can be based on different factors. These need to be found out in order to ideally prevent death.


nutrient deficiency

A Cocos nucifera is grown from a coconut. If the roots multiply rapidly, a pot/bucket will quickly become too small. The nutrient requirements of coconut palms can no longer be adequately covered and the leaves react with a brown colouration. At the latest when roots grow out of the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot, it is time to transplant into a larger bucket/pot with fresh, nutrient-rich substrate.

damaged roots

Roots can quickly be damaged when transplanting/repotting. These are also often the reason when a Cocos nucifera turns brown shortly after purchase. Especially in mass production, they are occasionally carelessly repotted in sales pots, breaking off or tearing roots. This is how it happens supply disruptions and the leaves respond with a brown leaf coloration. It is helpful to carefully lift the root out of the ground and shorten it altogether. While this will slow growth and continue to weaken initially, there's a good chance it will bounce back.


Coconut palms need relatively high humidity for healthy, vigorous growth. Ideally, this is over 70 percent. If the humidity does not reach this value, the risk of brown leaf discoloration increases with decreasing humidity levels. The following measures solve the problem:

  • Cut off the brown leaf
  • Spray palm trees daily with lime-free water, especially at high temperatures and low humidity
  • Keep the soil/ substrate slightly moist at all times
  • Never let the soil dry out
  • If necessary, move to a damp location, such as the bathroom

lack of water

In addition to high humidity, improper watering can also lead to brown leaves, which is caused by under-watering, while over-watering causes the foliage to turn yellow. When watering, it is important to ensure that the soil is kept evenly moist without overwetting the palm tree or waterlogging to provoke. The optimal watering time can be easily determined with the thumb test:

  • The surface of the soil can be pressed in more than two centimeters with the thumb: do not water
  • The surface of the earth can be pressed in with the thumb less than two centimeters: Time to water

tip: Coconut palms are used to heavy downpours from their countries of origin as well as long periods of drought. For this reason, they should be watered less, but vigorously, than more often with small amounts.

lighting conditions

The Cocos nucifera needs a lot of light to thrive. If it lacks it, it reacts with a brown leaf coloration and drying off. In this case, the coconut palm should be moved immediately to a location where it can get a lot of sun for a few hours. Twelve hours of full light are appropriate even in winter. If gray rainy days last longer, a plant lamp provides compensation.


A coconut palm should never be colder than 20 °C. She likes best full sun and the warmth that comes with it. Cold drafts and cool winds can quickly turn the foliage brown. It is therefore important to ensure that it gets a warm location and spends the winter in a heated room. A conservatory offers a Cocos nucifera optimal site conditions, as long as it has at least 20 °C.


Above all, when temperatures are 27 °C and more, the supply through the roots is in full swing. The nutrients in the soil are quickly used up, especially with potted plants. Fertilizing is therefore essential. If this does not happen, brown spots usually form on the leaves of the coconut palm. If these have already formed, they must be cut off. The administration of a vital and nutrient-rich fertilizer compensates for the lack of nutrients in the soil and the palm tree continues to grow healthily in a strong shade of green. For prevention should adhere to the following fertilizer schedule being held:

  • Apply nutrient fertilizer every two weeks from spring to fall (April to September)
  • Strictly follow the manufacturer's recommended dose to avoid over-fertilization (which causes yellow leaves)
  • The use of green plant or special palm fertilizer is ideal
  • Give fertilizer with irrigation water so that it reaches the root ends
  • Do not fertilize in winter
  • Do not fertilize young plants in the first two years

Compacted substrate

Over time, the quality of the soil and substrate will deteriorate. This means that the risk of soil compaction increases with age. This can be seen when rainwater or irrigation water accumulates on the surface of the earth for a longer period of time instead of moving quickly into the soil/substrate. Adequate water permeability is no longer given. In the worst case, the water no longer reaches the ends of the roots, which then dry up or become brittle root rot forms. Both lead to the roots no longer absorbing nutrients. Usually the first sign of damage is the formation of brown leaf tips.

treatment and prevention

The soil/substrate must be replaced immediately with fresh, permeable, loose soil. Regular repotting every three years prevents soil compaction and browning of the leaves or leaf tips.

Tip: Only high-quality substrate should be used, since inferior and mostly cheap products compact much faster and mold can form quickly. Additional admixtures of perlite and/or fine gravel promote longer water permeability of the soil/substrate.

growth disorders

If a coconut palm is prevented from growing, for example, by a bucket that is too small, it often reacts by turning the leaves brown. If the Cocos nucifera is not given more space in the bucket in a timely manner, this can lead to the death of the plant. Repotting it into a larger pot/tub allows it to grow undisturbed again and it forms new, green leaves. Alternatively, the roots can be shortened. This can be useful if the growth height is to be kept under control. You have to be extremely careful here and only cut a little from the roots, as they are very sensitive to a root cut. If this can be avoided, it should be avoided.

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