Overwatered palm trees can quickly droop and die in pots or in the ground. An overwatered palm tree can have drooping leaves, black spots on their leaves and stems, brown leaf tips, brown stems, have mold on the soil and black roots due to root rot.
There are some fantastic ways to solve the problem of an overwatered palm tree. This article will explore all the signs of overwatering to look out for and how you can solve this problem.
Top 8 signs of an overwatered palm tree
Here are the top 8 signs of an overwatered palm tree to look out for. These can occur on indoor palms, outdoor palms, those growing in pots, raised garden beds or in the ground.
1. Drooping leaves
One of the first signs of an overwatered palm tree are drooping leaves. As the palm absorbs too much water the leaves will flop and droop down. This can be confusing as you can sometimes think this is related to underwatering. The difference is usually that the soil will look damp rather than dry.
2. Black spots on leaves and stems
The next sign that you will notice that will show that your palm is being overwatered is black spots on stems and leaves. The cells of the leaves will be damaged and the green pigment, chlorophyll will be lost form the leaves. This prevents this part of the leaf from photosynthesizing and making food for the plant.
It is easy to do this on an indoor palm in a pot without drainage holes. I did this when I got my first parlor palm and loved it too much. I was watering it everyday as it sat in my kitchen and was easy to water. After a few weeks the leaves drooped and started to grow black.
From a large, multi-stemmed parlor palm I ended up with a single stem (but it is was saved!).
3. Yellowing leaves
Another sign of an overwatered palm is yellowing leaves. As palms are given lots of water the nitrogen will be washed out of the soil and this can cause a deficiency in the plant. A lack of nitrogen can cause yellowing leaves as nitrogen is needed for the development of green chlorophyll in the leaves.
4. Browning leaf tips
Browning leaf tips is the next sign that a palm is overwatered. After the leaves turn yellow or black, the tips can then turn brown as the leaf begins to die. This will spread further if its not addressed but the browning usually starts at the tips of the leaf.
5. Browning stems
Browning stems is usually a later sign of an overwatered palm tree. These stems will start to die off after the end of the leaf have browned and die. This is usually a hard point from which to bring your palm back to life.
6. Mold on the surface of the soil
Another sign of an overwatered palm is mold growing on the surface of the soil. A white or green mold can start to grow on very wet soil and is usually a sign you are getting too much water. Most palms prefer to dry out between watering so you should see the surface of the soil dry between each time you water.
7. Water sitting in the bottom of the pot tray
Another sign that can show that a palm is overwatered is excess water sitting in the bottom of a pot tray or inside the outer pot. If you water an indoor palm tree while it is sitting on a pot tray the tray will capture extra water. This extra water will sit at the bottom of the palm and can keep the soil and roots wet for too long and cause overwatering.
8. Black roots
The final sign that can show an overwatered palm tree are black rotting roots on the bottom. If you slip your palm out of the pot you can see dark, black roots which means they have died. Rotting roots will look black and the soil could also start to smell if it is growing mold.
These are the top 8 ways to tell that your palm tree is overwatered. The next part of this article will explore how to save your overwatered palm tree.
How to save an overwatered palm tree
Here are my top 5 tips to save an overwatered palm tree. Once you have worked out that overwatering is the problem, here is what you can do next.
1. Take the inner pot out
Take the inner palm tree pot with drainage holes out of the outer pot or off the pot tray. Empty out any excess water and make sure that the bottom of the pot is not sitting in any water. This will help the palm tree to start to dry out and avoid any further root rot.
2. Place near a bright window
For indoor palms place them near a bright window that get morning light at least. This will help the soil to gradually dry out. A palm tree that is hidden in a very shady spot can take too long to dry out and the roots can absorb too much water.
3. Stop watering for a week
Take a break from watering your palm and allow it time to dry out a little and absorb the water it has in the soil. Allow time before you water again and let your palm have a water break.
4. Test the soil first
Before you water your palm again, stick your finger in the soil or move the soil to see if it is dry 2 inches below the surface. If you see that the soil has dried out you can add more water and allow the palm to drain out.
I like to take the inner pot out and place it in my sink or outside. I then water the palm and allow the extra water to drain out for at least 10 minutes. This avoids extra water sitting in the bottom of the pot or pot tray.
5. Dilute dose of nitrogen fertilizer or repot the palm
After around 2 weeks you can give your palm a dose of dilute nitrogen fertilizer. This can help to give extra nitrogen to the plant to help it to recover. You can then add some slow release fertilizer to feed the palm for longer.
If you think the soil is destroyed, too soggy, moldy or looks unhealth you may be best to repot your palm. Take the palm out of the pot, gently remove any extra soil and move it to a new, clean pot or return it into its pot with new potting soil.
It is important to clean and sterilize the pot before planting the palm inside. I would wash the pot with warm soapy water and let it dry in the sun.
Those are my top tips to save an overwatered palm tree.
Overwatered Palm Trees | Summary
Palm trees can become overwatered if you get carried away, if they are getting excessive rain or if they are sitting in a non-draining pot or tray. Always check the soil moisture level before adding more water. Palms can generally survive on less water than you think.
I only water my palms indoors and outdoors at a maximum of once per week and over winter every 2 weeks. Look out for the 8 signs of an overwatered palm and act quickly to save yours.
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.