Why Is Your Potted Palm Dying? Causes and Solutions

Your potted palm was a beautiful addition to your home, but it is starting to look sad. The leaves are turning yellow and brown, and the tree is losing height. What could be causing this, and more importantly, how can you save your potted palm?

The main cause of death for potted palms is root rot. This happens when the plant roots sit in water for too long. The roots start to break down and can no longer absorb nutrients from the soil. This causes the leaves to turn yellow and brown as the tree slowly starves to death. 

This article will further explain some of the most common causes of potted palm death and provide solutions to help revive your tree! Read on to learn what you can do if your potted palm is dying.

1. Overwatering

Many people think that if a little bit of water is good for their potted palm, a lot must be even better. However, overwatering is one of the most common mistakes when caring for these plants.

Overwatering is harmful to potted palms because it leads to root rot. A water build-up causes root rot in the potting mix around the plant’s roots. This water build-up prevents oxygen from reaching the roots, causing them to suffocate and die. A sure sign that your potted palm has root rot is brown or yellow leaves.

Potted palms need well-drained soil and should only be watered when the top inch of soil is dry. If the plant is kept in moist conditions, it will quickly develop root rot, eventually killing it.

How to Check if You Are Overwatering Your Palm

Overwatering is one of the quickest ways to kill your palm. So how can you tell if you’re giving your palm too much water? One way to check is to feel the soil. If it’s soggy or waterlogged, that’s a sign that your palm is getting too much water.


The main key to watering a potted palm is to let the topsoil dry out completely between watering. This allows the roots to get the air they need to stay healthy.

To avoid overwatering your potted palm, follow these tips:

  1. Check the moisture levels of your potting mix before watering. The potting mix should be moist but not soggy. If it feels dry to the touch, it’s time for more water. 
  2. Water your palm in the morning. So that any excess moisture can evaporate before evening. 
  3. Let the water seep out of the drainage before stopping. This will ensure that the roots get enough water without being overwatered. 
  4. Reduce watering during winter. Potted palms go into semi-dormancy during winter and don’t need as much water as at other times. 
  5. If you think your palm may be overwatered, stop watering it until you see new growth. New growth is a good sign that the plant is recovering from overwatering and that it’s safe to start watering again. 
  6. If your palm is starting to yellow or brown, it is probably getting too much water. Cutting back on watering will help to save your plant.

2. Underwatering

These tropical plants need a lot of water to thrive, and if they don’t get enough, they will quickly show signs of stress. If you are not careful, you may underwater your potted palm and cause it to die.

When it comes to potted palms, underwatering is often more of a problem than overwatering. Without enough water, the palm will wilt, and the leaves will turn brown and crispy. In extreme cases, the entire plant can die. 

They think that since it is in a pot, they can just water it when they remember. But that is not the case. Palms need a lot of water, and if you do not give it to them, they will start to suffer.

Signs of Underwatering

  • One of the most common signs that your potted palm is underwatered is yellowing or browning leaves. This is caused by a lack of chlorophyll, essential for photosynthesis, which helps plants produce food.
  • Another sign is to take a look at the leaves. Are they drooping or wilting? If so, that’s a good indication that the plant isn’t getting enough water.
  • Another way to check is to feel the soil. Is it dry or crumbly? If it is, that’s another indication that your plant needs more water. 


The good news is that if you think your potted palm is being underwatered, there’s an easy solution–give it more water!

Ensure to water deeply and regularly, so the soil stays moist but not soggy. Now allow the top layer of soil to dry out slightly between watering, and be sure to empty any drainage tray after each watering.

Using a moisture meter to regularly check the soil’s moisture levels is also a good idea. These simple tips can help ensure that your potted palm plant stays healthy and happy.

If you’re unsure whether you’re under or overwatering your potted plant, I recommend my other guide. I’ll cover the telltale signs plants display when they are underwatered and overwatered and also discuss some things you can do to help remedy the situation: Overwatering vs. Underwatering Plants (Signs and Fixes)

3. Not Enough Humidity

Potted palms face one of the most common problems: not enough humidity. Not enough humidity can cause your potted palm to die. The palm leaves will begin to turn brown and crisp, and eventually, the whole plant will wither. If you notice that your potted palm is starting to look unhealthy, it is important to take action immediately.

How to Check if Your Plant Is Getting Enough Humidity

There are a few different ways that you can check the humidity around your palm:

  • One way is to use a hygrometer. These devices measure the amount of water vapor in the air and can be found at most home improvement stores.
  • Another way to check the humidity is to simply feel the leaves of your palm. If they feel dry or crispy, that’s an indication that the air around your plant is too dry. 


The best way to increase humidity around your palm is by using a humidifier. Place the humidifier near your plant and turn it on to emit a fine mist into the air. You should start seeing an improvement in your palm’s condition within a few days. 

Additionally, you can regularly mist the palm tree’s leaves with a spray bottle filled with distilled water. Try placing other plants nearby to increase the humidity around your potted palm. The added plants will help to absorb the water vapor, creating an even more humid environment.

Not only will this be beneficial for your potted palm, but it can also help to prevent other plants from drying out. So if you’re looking for a way to increase the humidity in your home, consider keeping other plants nearby your potted palm.

4. Insufficient Light Indoors

If a potted palm does not receive enough light, it will gradually die. The leaves will turn yellow and brown, and the plant will eventually stop growing. In some cases, the palm may even produce new leaves that are smaller than the old ones. If you notice your potted palm dying, try moving it to a brighter spot.

Direct Sunlight Isn’t Good

When most people think of potted palms, they envision them placed near a sunny window where they will receive plenty of light. However, many people don’t realize that potted palms prefer indirect light and can suffer if placed in a too sunny spot.

If you notice that your potted palm is starting to turn yellow or brown, it is likely a sign that it is not getting enough light. If you don’t correct the problem, the palm will eventually die. So, if you have a potted palm that you want to keep alive and healthy, make sure to give it the right amount of light.

5. Too Much Fertilizer Use

If you’re an avid gardener, you know that using fertilizer is essential to keeping your plants healthy and strong. But did you know that too much fertilizer can be detrimental to your plants?

What Is Over-Fertilizing?

Over-fertilizing occurs when you apply too much fertilizer to your plants. This can happen if you use too much fertilizer per application or fertilize too often. When you over-fertilize, the excess fertilizer salts build up in the soil and can burn your plants’ roots. This can damage or kill your plants. 

Symptoms of Over-Fertilizing

If you suspect that you may have over-fertilized your plants, there are several telltale signs to look for.

These include: 

  • Wilting leaves 
  • Brittle leaves 
  • Browning leaves 
  • Stunted growth
  • Excessively quick growth 

If you see any of these symptoms, it’s important to take action immediately. The longer you wait, the more damage will be done. 

How To Avoid Over-Fertilizing

The best way to avoid over-fertilizing is to diligently follow the manufacturer’s instructions. This means not using more fertilizer than is recommended and not fertilizing more often than is recommended.

If in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and use less rather than more. You can always fertilize more if needed but can’t undo the damage caused by over-fertilizing. 

Tip: It is wise to use fertilizer once every three months for potted palms.

6. Hard Water Use

If you live in an area with hard water, you may have noticed that your potted palms aren’t looking so great. The leaves are yellow, the branches are drooping, and the overall plant looks unhealthy. Unfortunately, this is a common problem for palm owners in hard water areas. 

The Problem With Hard Water

Hard water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. These minerals can build up on the leaves of potted palms, causing them to turn yellow and eventually die.

In addition, hard water can also clog the pores of the leaves, preventing the plant from getting the oxygen it needs to survive. 


Reverse osmosis is a process that eliminates minerals from water using a semi-permeable membrane. This process can be done at home using a reverse osmosis filtration system. Reverse osmosis filtration systems are inexpensive and can be found at most home improvement stores. 

Installing a reverse osmosis filtration system is a simple process. First, you’ll need to find a spot for the filtration system close to a water source and has access to an outlet.

Next, follow the instructions included with your filtration system to install it. Once the system is installed, simply connect it to your water source and let it do its job! 

After a few days of using reverse osmosis filtered water for your potted palm, you should notice an improvement in your plant’s health. The leaves will be brighter green, and the plant will look healthier overall.

In addition, you may also notice that your plant grows faster and produces more fruit when watered with reverse osmosis filtered water. 

AC Water Is Also Good

Did you know that you can use AC water for your potted palm? AC water is perfect for watering potted plants because it is already at an optimal temperature. That’s right–next time your air conditioner runs, don’t let that cool water go to waste!

Your potted palms will thank you for the refreshing drink. Plus, it is free of chemicals and minerals that can build up in tap water over time and harm your plants. To use AC water, simply collect it in a bucket when your air conditioner is running and water your plants as usual.

7. Too Much Use of Insecticides

One of the most important things to remember is that too much insecticide can cause damage. Insecticides kill insects but can also harm a palm’s leaves and roots.

If you notice that your palm is starting to look yellow or brown, it may be a sign that you are using too much insecticide. If you think your palm might be suffering from insecticide damage, stop using the products and see if the plant recovers. If the damage is severe, you may need to replace the palm.


Insecticides can be a gardener’s best friend when combating pests, but it’s important to use them wisely. When using insecticides on potted palms, follow the label instructions carefully.

Using the right kind of insecticide and applying it correctly can keep your potted palm alive and healthy for years to come. So, which one should you use? And how much should you apply?

Which Insecticide To Use?

Two main insecticides can be used to prevent the early death of your potted palm: systemic and contact.

Systemic insecticides are absorbed into the plant, whereas contact insecticides only kill insects that come into direct contact with them. Which one you use will depend on the insect infestation you’re dealing with. 

If your potted palm is infested with scale insects, mealybugs, or whiteflies, then a systemic insecticide is your best bet. However, a contact insecticide will do the trick if your palm is infested with aphids or mites. 

How Much To Apply?

Now that you know which kind of insecticide to use, it’s time to figure out how much to apply. As a general rule, you should apply one teaspoon (3–5ml) of insecticide depending on your plant height. Bigger plants may need a bigger dose, so make sure you check the label for the correct dosage.

When applying insecticide to a potted palm, direct the spray onto the leaves and stems rather than the potting mix.

Tip: Avoid systemic insecticides, as they can be absorbed by the plant and may cause leaf scorching or other damage.

Some Other Important Hacks

Use Epsom Salts

Epsom salts are a great way to keep your potted palm healthy. Adding a tablespoon of Epsom salts to your potting soil can help keep your palm tree healthy. The Epsom salts will help absorb water and nutrients, keeping your palm tree healthy and preventing it from getting dried out.

Another benefit of using Epsom salts is that they can help promote growth. Putting these salts can help encourage new growth on your palm tree. This is especially beneficial if you live in an area with a lot of sun exposure. The added nutrients in the Epsom salts will help your tree to grow faster and stronger.

  • Frequency. Once every three months is optimal.
  • How much. One teaspoon in about a liter of water.

Regular Cut the Damaged Leaves and Stems

Regularly cutting damaged leaves and stems from your potted palm helps to keep it healthy. This is because damaged leaves and stems can harbor disease, spreading to the rest of the plant.

In addition, damaged leaves and stems are more likely to attract pests, which can also cause problems for your palm. Removing these damaged parts of the plant will help keep your palm healthy and free from problems.


The most common causes are overwatering, underwatering, poor drainage, and pests.

Solutions to these problems include adding perlite to the soil to improve drainage and using a pot with a hole in the bottom for better drainage. Watering only when the top inch of soil is dry and spraying plants with insecticides to keep pests at bay.

If you’re having trouble identifying or correcting the problem on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to a local nursery for help. You can have that potted palm looking lush and healthy again with some detective work and some corrective action.

If you found this guide helpful, I recommend my other article on whether your brown indoor palm leaves will turn green again. I’ll explain why it’s impossible for brown palm leaves to turn green again and what you can do to revive your plant: Can Brown Indoor Palm Leaves Turn Green Again?

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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