Why Do Leaves on Palm Plants Turn Brown?

I have an indoor palm tree that is having (so far) minor issues with the tips of the fronds turning brown. What causes this and how do I fix/prevent it?



Hi Kyle,

In general, brown leaf tips on an indoor palm are usually the result of a watering issue. Allow the top 1/3 of the soil of a palm to dry out before watering. Indoor palms like barely moist but never soggy soil. Never allow a palm to sit in the excess water that drains out the drip holes in the bottom of the pot. Do not use water that has passed through a softener because the high salt content damages the tips of the leaves. New growth and leaf tips turn brown when a palm is under-watered also. The confusing thing is that leaves can be damaged when the plant is over or under- watered, so you need to check the soil as far down as you can to know if the plant needs water.

Too much fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small. can also cause brown leaf tips. Feed a palm monthly in the spring and summer with a plant food high in nitrogen diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. Do not feed a palm if it is not actively growing or if the soil is very dry.