Cat Palm Problems-Yellow Leaves and Mealy Bugs

Hi Judy! My Cat Palm Problems have been causing my plant to gradually die, one leaf at a time. Today when cutting off a dead part, I noticed white on the stem bottom and think it’s mealy bugs. There is some white on the leaves also. I really love the plant and want it to live and thrive!

Hi Laura,

In order to see your Cat Palm Problems, I blew up your picture. The white marks under the brownish stem covering at the bottom of the stems is definitely mealy bugs. Spray with a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 alcohol. The white marks on the leaves are also mealy bugs. However, you cannot use anything containing alcohol on the leaves themselves since alcohol damages palm leaves. Spray all leaves, both sides, with a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 liquid biodegradable soap like Ivory. Stop spraying the leaves with water; many times encourages plant pests and fungal and bacterial plant diseases.

Fronds turning yellow: As cat palms mature it is natural that some of the bottom fronds turn yellow and fall off. Remove yellow fronds quickly, not waiting for them to drop off on their own.

However, there are other reasons why this yellowing problem can occur.

Fertilizer: Are you feeding the plant? If so, what type of plant food are you using and how often are you feeding the plant. If there is not enough nitrogen or magnesium in the soil, the plant may turn yellow and the growth will be slow. Be sure your fertilizer has nitrogen and also contains magnesium.

Watering: Cat palms like to have moist but not soggy soil. Fronds turn yellow if the soil gets too dry. Over- watering causes entire fronds to turn brown. Salty water or water containing chemicals such as fluoride causes leaf tip burn. When your palm is in a 6″ or 8″ pot, water when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch. When the palm is in a 10″ or larger pot, wait until the top 2″-3″ of soil is dry before watering. When you do water, water well enough so that the water drains out of the drip holes in the bottom of the pot. Do not allow the plant to sit in this excess water for more than 15 minutes.

Spider Mites: Spider mites love Cat Palms. Check carefully for spider mites, especially on the underside of the yellowing fronds. I sometimes use a magnifying glass since the webbing is often difficult to see and the mites themselves almost impossible to see. If you find spider mites, spray the plant with a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 biodegradable liquid soap like ivory.