There are a few easy steps to revive a dying palm tree. Planting potted palm trees in clean pots with new potting soil, watering them with dilute nitrogen fertilizer and covering them with new bark mulch gives the plant the best chance of recovery. Regular water will also help the palm tree to grow new leaves.
Palm trees will go dormant over the cooler months so if you are coming into winter you may need to wait for new palm fronds (leaves) to appear. My golden cane palms have gone dormant over winter and are now sending up new fronds as the weather has just started to warm in spring.
Steps to revive a dying palm tree
Palm trees that are suffering can be revived by following these steps.
1. Remove the palm from its current pot
For potted palms, first remove them from their current pot, clean the pot if you want to plant them back into the same pot. Follow my guide here on how to disinfect plant pots without using bleach.
2. Replace the soil with new potting mix
Remove the excess soil from the bottom of the palm gently with your fingers. Don’t disturb the roots too much but remove enough soil to make room for it in the pot.
3. Add mulch
The next step for both potted and palms planted in the ground is to add a layer of new mulch. Old mulch can be removed and put in your compost bin and new bark mulch can be added around the base of the palm. This will help the roots to recover, keeping them moist for longer and protecting the soil.
This will also reduce weed competition and allow the palm to absorb the nutrients it needs to grow new leaves and recover.
4. Remove old leaves
Removing old, damaged leaves from the palm will help it to recover and grow new leaves. This will open up the palm, allowing more sunlight to the new leaves and stem. Old, damaged leaves will not regrow so can be removed with sharp secateurs.
If frost was the cause of the leaf damage then it is best to leave old leaves on until the frosts have passed. Many palms are sensitive to frosts so leaving old, damaged leaves on can protect the new leaves. Once the risk of frost has passed the old leaves can then be trimmed off.
5. Add natural fertilizer
Water a dying palm well with fish emulsion or dilute nitrogen fertilizer to help the plant to recover. Natural liquid fertilizers like fish emulsion are perfect as they are mild and contain a natural mix of nutrients.
Add in some seaweed solution to help the roots to recover. This will also feed the soil and encourage worms to tunnel up from the deeper soil.
6. Move it into a part shade position
For potted palm trees it can be best to move them into a part shade position to recover. Sunburn can damage the leaves so while the palm is recovering you can move it into a space to avoid the afternoon sun.
What causes a palm tree to die
There are many reasons why palm trees may die but here are the top problems and how you can solve them for a healthy palm.
Too much water
Indoor palm trees that are planted in pots are prone to overwatering. While it seems that palms might love a lot of water as they are a tropical plant it is very easy to overwater one planted indoors. You will notice that a palm is overwatered when it develops black tips on the end of its leaves.
Make sure that the palm is not sitting in water in a pot tray after you have watered. Instead place the pot in your sink or outdoors and allow the excess water to drain out.
Palms will only need to be watered up to 2 times per week in summer. Palms have a wide root system that is made to tolerate dry spells but absorb water quickly when it rains. Only add water when the top 2 inches of soil has dried out and allow the palm a few days in between watering.
Not enough sun
Palms can die if they are not getting enough sunlight. Many palms can tolerate shade but if they are kept indoors in a dark position they can die quickly. For indoor palms place them near a bright window to allow the leaves to get bright light and photosynthesize.
Not enough water
Palms that are left to dry out too much can die over time. A palm that is underwatered will turn brown on the tips which will extend through to the stem. Do not confuse this with the natural replacement of old palm leaves which will turn brown and drop off as they are replaced with new leaves.
A dying palm tree that is not getting enough water will have many leaves that turn brown including new leaves.
A palm that is dying from not enough water can be revived with regular water and a dose of seaweed solution. I like to mix a dash of seaweed solution into my watering can and water the plant every 2 days for the next 1-2 weeks.
You should see new leaves start to appear in the center of the palm. You can then reduce the watering back to once or twice per week. The old leaves can then be trimmed off once new leaves appear.
How to revive a dying palm tree | Summary
Dying palm trees can be saved by first working out what the problem is and then treating it. The most common reasons a palm tree will die is underwatering and not enough light. Overwatering is common for indoor palms as they will not drain as well as those planted in the ground.
I am growing a range of palm trees including golden cane palms, bamboo palms and kentia palms. All of these palms grow happily outside in our subtropical climate. All palms can be tidied up by removing old leaves that are replaced with new ones.
This will give you a neat, tidy palm which will look great in any garden.
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I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.