Tips for a Household Palm With Brown Leaves

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Healthy palms have foliage with deep green color and little browning.
Healthy palms have foliage with deep green color and little browning. (Image: Siede Preis/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Potted palm trees provide a tropical touch to indoor areas. Most palms require minimal care as houseplants as long as they are provided with water, light and fertilizer. Although some leaf death is natural, browning of the foliage on the entire plant may signify a problem that could kill the palm if the issue isn't remedied.

Provide Proper Lighting

Sunlight needs vary among different potted palm varieties. Palms that require indirect light become sunburned when supplied with too much direct sunlight. Browning may cover the whole leaf or just affect the tips. When palms that need plenty of bright light receive too little, they begin to yellow and brown. Always verify the light needs for your specific palm variety to avoid browning leaves.

Cold Injury

Household palms usually receive warmth year-round, but plants placed near winter windows or in drafty areas may still experience some cold damage -- especially if the leaves are touching the cold window pane. Cold and freeze damage appears as reddish-brown spots on the affected foliage. Browning may not appear until a few days after the damage occurs. Place palms where they don't touch cold glass, and keep them away from drafty areas and air conditioner vents to prevent damage.

Over-Fertilization

While potted palms require some fertilization, using too much causes the tips of the leaves to turn brown and can eventually lead to complete foliage die back. Too much iron fertilizer causes brown speckles to form on the leaves. Use fertilizers formulated for potted palms and avoid applying more than the recommended amount. More fertilizer isn't better for palm plants.

Water Damage

Both too much water and too little water lead to brown palm foliage. Overly wet soil may cause root rot, which causes leaves to yellow and brown as the plant begins to die. Drought stress from dry soil causes leaf tips and margins to brown and become brittle. Keep soil moist but not soggy, and only water when the top inch of soil begins to feel dry.

Natural Browning

Palm leaves eventually brown and die back on their own as the leaves become old. These naturally brown leaves eventually fall off and are replaced by new, healthy leaves. Do not remove the brown leaves until they have completely browned, as they are still supplying nutrients to the plant as long as there is some green on them.

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