Can Indoor Palm Trees Come Back to Life?


Can Indoor Palm Trees come back to life? Anya from IndoorPlantsforBeginners.com watering an indoor palm tree

Your indoor palm tree is looking a little worse for wear, and now you’re wondering if there’s a way to bring it back to life. After all, you loved the tropical feel it gave you, even when at home or in the office, but the plant seems well and dead. Should you get a new one or can you save yours? We did research to bring you the answer.

Can indoor palm trees come back to life? Yes, you can bring an indoor palm tree back to life.

Here’s how:

  • Changing the sunlight in your home or office
  • Providing adequate nutrients
  • Checking your depth when planting
  • Pruning selectively
  • Choosing the right soil
  • Fertilizing when necessary
  • Watering in the right quantities

In this article, we will expand on all the above points so you can begin to nurse your indoor palm tree back to health. We’ll also talk about the no-nos when growing an indoor palm tree so you don’t make the same mistakes twice. Let’s begin.

Methods for Restoring Your Indoor Palm Tree

Your indoor palm tree may have lost a lot of leaves or fronds. Perhaps these stay on the tree but look misshapen. That’s just as bad.

One common palm tree affliction is what’s known as frizzle top. With this, the leaves turn withered and feel very dry to the touch. Some gardeners even describe the leaves as crispy. If the fronds grow, it’s often minimally. You sadly end up with a fried-looking or frizzled tree.

Whether it’s frizzle top or another issue afflicting your indoor palm tree, you’re going to want to know how to fix the problem ASAP. This section is for you.

Managing Sunlight

The younger your palm tree is, the more you have to be careful of how much light it receives. It’s possible for direct sunlight to sunburn your palm tree, but this likely won’t happen in an indoor environment like a home or office.

Just because too much sunlight can hurt your tree doesn’t mean you should hide it from the world. If you do, you may notice leaf browning. While indoor palms can adjust to shade, it’s better to give them a good source of light, just one that’s not too intense.

Providing Adequate Nutrients

Like any indoor plant you may decide to grow and nurture, your palm tree needs nutrients. Deficiencies can otherwise occur. We’ll talk more about nutrient deficiencies in the next section, but for now, just make sure you give your indoor palm the right amount of iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

Managing Planting Depth

You don’t need to bury an indoor palm tree too deep into the soil. Instead, you want to use its root ball as a measuring point. The root ball is the cluster of roots beneath the tree. It has that name because of its circular shape.

Make sure the root ball has a nice perimeter of soil, but don’t plant too much deeper than that. The only exception would be the Mexican fan palm. Increase the planting depth for this tree by another four or five inches past its root ball.

Pruning Rarely

Do you prune every time you assume the fronds have gotten too long? You’re making a major mistake that could hurt the long-term health of your indoor palm tree. Once the fronds have died or are dying, then you can prune. Otherwise, leave the tree alone.

Giving the Tree the Right Soil

You need soil that has good drainage for an indoor palm tree. This lets the water seep through to the root ball and keep the tree healthy. The soil should also be relatively moist but not excessively so.

Fertilizing Using Only High-Quality Stuff

Besides just getting quality soil for your tree, you need good fertilizer as well. If it doesn’t have the above-mentioned nutrients in it, then you want to keep shopping around until you find one that does.

You also want to limit how close to the roots you add the fertilizer. Stick to a distance of at least two inches or else you risk burning the tree’s roots.

Once this happens, you put the indoor palm at a higher risk of developing diseases, fungi, and insect infestations.

Avoiding Overwatering and Underwatering

Not every plant needs frequent watering or large quantities of water, as we’ve proved on this blog. Overwatering an indoor palm tree, like with many other plants, will hurt it.

If you’re the type who often overwaters plants, first of all, congratulations on identifying this habit. That’s the first step to changing it. Secondly, make sure you mix some sand with the soil until the composition is about 30 percent sand. This enhances drainage.

You must also watch how seldom you water your indoor palm. Yes, it doesn’t like too much water, but too little can also be detrimental.

If the soil feels very dry, then it’s more than time for a watering. Invest in a soil meter so you never underwater again.

Depending on the time of year, you may need to make alterations to the indoor palm tree watering schedule. In the summertime, increase how often you water the tree, especially if it gets a lot of sun (not too much!).

Once winter arrives, you can probably get away with watering the tree less. Make sure you still check your soil meter so you don’t accidentally deprive your plant of water.

What Kills an Indoor Palm Tree?

As promised, let’s cover what can kill or at least severely hurt your indoor palm tree. Sometimes avoidance is the best cure. If you get out of the following habits, you might never have to try the above quick-fix methods.

Too Much Sunlight

As we said before, palm trees could get sunburn from the sun, just like we people can. To reiterate, this is much less of a problem for indoor plants, but you still want to ensure your tree isn’t soaking up too much sun.

Too Little Sunlight

If you’ve noticed brown palm fronds, then you’ve kept your indoor tree in the dark for too long. Take it out of the shade and give it some light to get it looking healthier, as we’ve said.

Pruning Too Often

Certain plant species require regular pruning, but indoor palm trees are not one of them. Palm trees are known as monocots in that they have but a single seed leaf.

Other trees, referred to as dicots, have two. As monocots, there’s a terminal growth bud where the palm tree fronds sprout if your palm has one trunk.

When a palm tree’s frond dies, it can become problematic. That’s because the fresh fronds grow in at the stem’s top and are unable to replace the area where the old frond had died.

When you cut the fronds too often then, you can limit where future fronds can grow.

Overwatering

Speaking of killing the fronds, overwatering is one great way to do it. Palm trees can develop root rot like many other indoor plants.

They can also get an infection of fungi, typically Armillaria and/or Phytophthora. The latter fungus creates an odor when it infects your palm.

You’ll also notice the stem turns a different color, young leaves die, and other leaves become brown.

Underwatering

Brown leaves are also a symptom of an underwatered indoor palm. These leaves become dry as well. They don’t have frizzle top, though.

Starving the Tree of Nutrients

Instead, frizzle top occurs when your indoor palm tree doesn’t get enough manganese. This deficiency affects the fronds, as we mentioned, making them withered and dried.

The young leaves will exhibit symptoms first. They may not develop leaf tips fully.

Then you’ll notice the older fronds seem weak. They’ll also have streaks of yellow throughout.

This streaking quickly becomes necrotic, spreading to the rest of the fronds. They lose their tips, curl up, and change shape.

Frizzle top isn’t the only nutrient deficiency an indoor palm tree can experience, but it’s one of the bigger ones. To stay on the safe side, make sure you use slow-release fertilizer for your tree.

This will keep water from flushing out the nutrients before they reach the plant.

Related Questions

Do palm trees grow back when cut?

Whether palm trees grow back when cut admittedly depends on where you cut the tree as well as the type of tree. If yours has a single trunk, then chopping it at the crownshaft or the tip where it grows will kill it.

That’s not true with palms with more than one trunk. These trees will survive, developing root stems. However, the original trunk doesn’t come back.  

Should I cut off brown palm leaves?

You may decide to remove the tips of the fronds if they’ve become brown. Do know that the same issue will affect the other fronds if you don’t identify what’s causing it.

It could be that your indoor palm hasn’t gotten enough sunlight. Underwatering your tree can also lead to leaf browning. Make sure you fix whatever bad behavior has made the leaves brown and you shouldn’t have to prune them so much.

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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