Indoor palm trees are attractive plants for the interior landscape, offering graceful forms, a variety of leaf shapes and sizes and various plant heights. Palm trees can be difficult to care for. Gardeners can better diagnose and treat problems by being familiar with common ailments of indoor palm trees.
Root rot occurs when the soil of a plant is saturated with water, leaving no room for oxygen. Water-absorbing roots die, and plants suffer decline and possible death. Palms prefer consistently moist soil. Water thoroughly when the top of the soil dries and discard the water that runs off. Choosing a well-drained soil and not allowing palms to stand in water will help prevent root rot.
Spider mites pierce leaves and feed on plants' sap, causing yellow flecking on the leaf surface. Spider mites are too small to see without a hand lens, but their presence can be detected if webbing is found. Spider mites are difficult to control, and preventing infestations is key. Stressed plants are more susceptible to mite infestations, and good health can be promoted by keeping palms moist, increasing humidity levels and avoiding exposure to direct sun. Plants with serious infestations should be disposed of. Spraying palms often with a weak soap and water mixture can also help control spider mite infestations.
Signs of scale infestations include leaf spots, branch dieback and stunting of growth. Scale insects often appear as small bumps on branches and along midribs of leaves. Adult scale insects are immobile and encase themselves in a waxy coating. Juvenile scale insects, also referred to as crawlers, are mobile, but are too small to see with the naked eye. Scale insects are difficult to control because juveniles are to small to see and adults are protected from insecticides by their waxy covering. Spraying plants off with water to remove crawlers and pruning infested palm branches populated with adults can help control infestations.
Mealybugs are soft-bodied insects that are visible to the naked eye and often appear as white, cottony masses. Mealybugs use piercing mouthparts to suck sap from plant tissue. They secrete a fluffy-white wax that gives them their cottony appearance. They are often found in groups on the lower side of leaves and points where branches meet the trunk of the palm. Infestations can cause yellowing of leaves, leaf drop and poor growth. Spraying large groups with a mixture of alcohol and water and physically removing them can aid in control. A cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol is useful when targeting single insects for removal.