Palm Tree Problems

Palm tree problems are something you want to solve as early as possible. It's not fun to worry that something is threatening your palm! Especially after investing money in its purchase and ongoing care.

They face Attacks by Diseases, by Insects, & from Weather. There may be other concerns you have for dealing with some problems with palm trees.

We'll check into the various problems palm trees may run into. Move along through our page to see them. Or Click Below to Check for your concern...

Symptom Diagnosis For Palm Tree Problems

Using visible symptoms to diagnose palm tree problems you see is not always reliable. Many symptoms are caused by multiple possibilities. Yet it is the quickest, cheapest way to get to the possible problem.

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What you can do is look at the symptom, and see which problems for palm trees might suit the situation. Getting help from Palm Horticulture Books is quite helpful, too.

One we really like is called Ornamental Palm Horticulture. It's very useful for learning so much about palm trees. Plus it has lots of good photographs for added assistance to help diagnose problems.

If need be, then you can get professional help. Meanwhile, we have hints to get you started:

  • WILTING - Possible problems: watering too much OR too little, root rot, or nutrient deficiency.
  • FRONDS WITH BROWN SPOTS - Potential sign for fungal problem, nutrient deficiency, or pest attack. You'd want to get right to knowing the Palm Tree Care for Brown Leaves! Freezing Cold Damage also causes this problem.
  • LEAF YELLOWING - Common symptom for many palm tree problems. Called chlorosis. Could be nutrient deficiency, overwatering, or problem pests.
Palm leaves are browning because of some problem.Browning Frond Leaflets Indicate Problems
A problem is causing these palm fronds to turn yellow.Chlorosis is leaf yellowing, as seen in this Palm Frond.
  • TRUNK/STEM CRACKS/HOLES - Cracks can happen in old age, or with wind damage. But pests can do this damage. Especially Scale or Borers can drill holes.
  • SAGGING FRONDS - Remember some fronds naturally limp downward. But if it's a change, it could be from too little or too much water, or a serious nutritional need.
  • DEAD/DYING LEAF PARTS - It naturally happens with old fronds. But also with over/under watering, or with various pest infestations.

Palm Tree Pests and Diseases

Nothing throws a loop into your palmy heart like finding something wrong with your palm tree. Teeny bugs crawling around, or odd colors on the fronds. Or things oozing out, reminding you of some horror end-of-the-world film!

We'll look at the most common palm tree problems caused by Palm Pests and Diseases for ornamental palms you'd be growing yourself.


These pests damage palms in various ways. By carrying disease germs, chewing into fronds, feeding on palm sap, or by tunneling into essential Palm Parts.

INSECTS - Scientifically classified as Insecta.

  • Scales - Tiny squooshy bugs that cover themselves in waxy brown, gray or white disguises. Their true color underneath is brighter. They harm plants by sucking out juices or cell contents.
  • Mealybugs - Very small, with oblong shape. White waxy covering with wax projections are all over their bodies. Usually found near the leaf base. They like sweet plant juices.
Infestation of mealybugs on plant leavesInfestation of Mealybugs
  • Weevils - Small snout beetles. Name describes them well. Antennae on either side of their snout.
Red Palm Weevil next to a twig
  • Thrips - Teeniest narrow winged pest. Nymphs & adults do the damage. Roughing up the underneath surfaces of palm fronds. Feed on the oozing sap.
Thrips Feeding On Fungi Of Dead and Dying PlantsThrips, scientifically named Ecacanthothrips tibialis, Feed on Fungi of Dead & Dying Plant Matter
  • Spider Mites - Another insect that sucks out palm sap. Robbing palm plants of their "life blood." Tiny white webbing areas hint that they're a problem. Injured fronds show spots. They can be a problem for Potted Palm Plants. Inspect the underside of indoor palms regularly.


Wormy looking parasites, in the scientific Phylum Nematoda. Often called roundworms because of their appearance.

  • Most commonly carried by Palm Weevils, especially Rhynchophorus palmarum.
  • Other vector carriers are Burrowing, Root-rot, Reniform, Lesion, Spiral & Stunt Nematodes.


ALGAE DISEASES - Shady humid areas with lots of moisture promote these. Most algae are harmless. If unsightly can be wiped away from attacked leaves.

Filamentous green algae is the rare type that can cause frond destruction.

OOMYCOTA DISEASE - Only from the Genus Phytophthora.

  • Sometimes seen are Spot & Blight diseases. Also Container Root & Petiole Rots, and Damping-off.
  • But the most common is Lethal Bud Rot.
Bud rot killed a coconut palm treeWhen the Palm Bud Dies, the Palm Tree Dies!

FUNGAL DISEASE - Many afflict Types of Potted Palms. Although some fungal species affect outdoor landscape palms.

Multiple species can be affected, but more susceptible for Damping-Off with young palms.

A Palm Tree Fungus Spray is often a solution.


Possible Fungal Diseases:

  • Root & Pink Rot - Common for Container Palms without good drainage. Symptomatic wilting or pink coloration are indications.
Rot fungus disease on palm stemsYoung Palms in Pots Lined With Plastic Sheeting
Allowing No Soil Drainage, Giving Rise to Rot Fungus
  • Trunk Rot - Specifically a Palm Tree Trunk Fungus. Two pathogen species hit palms. Attacking lignin, the rebar-like strength fibers within a trunk. 
  1. First symptoms are white lumpy bumps (conks) growing from the trunk's bottom, which enlarge & turn brownish.
  2. Spores can contaminate other palms.
  3. Trunk bottom will soften from the inside, eventually falling over.
Fungus attacking a palm tree trunk
  • Leaf Spots - Multiple species around to cause these palm tree problems. Watch for yellow (chlorotic) areas. Then turning brown & developing a dark ring around the edge.
Leaf Spot Fungal Disease on a Fan PalmLeaf Spot Fungus - Possibly Caused by a Bipolaris Species
  • Blights - Affect Specific Parts of Fronds, the rachis or petiole. Typically not deadly, but doesn't look very nice! Because blight turns leaflets, segments & stems brownish.
Fan Palm with Blight ProblemFan Palm With Leaf Blight From the Pathogen Bipolaris incurvata
  • Fusarium Wilt - Four pathogens that block water flow within a palm. It causes death, as you can imagine. Initial symptoms can look like blight. 
  1. But fronds usually begin to die, from the canopy's bottom, then upward.
  2. Distinctively, feather fronds fully brown on one side of the rachis.

VIRAL DISEASE - Because of regulations, so far restricted to South American palm oil production facilities, Southeast Asia & South Pacific Countries. Two disease strains. Haven't been problematic to Ornamental Palms.

PROTOZOAN DISEASE - Carried by a True Bug vector in Central & South American tropics. Causes lethal wilts.

PHYTOPLASMA DISEASE - Problematic bacteria with no cell wall. Carried mostly by these vectors from the order Hemiptera: leafhoppers, planthoppers or psyllids. Primarily causes Lethal Yellowing. Mostly seen in the Southeastern US & Caribbean.

OTHER BACTERIAL DISEASES - Uncommonly seen, causing Bud Rot.

Nutritional Palm Tree Problems

Nutrients are essential to palm health. Some deficiencies are deadly. Palms have need for macronutrients & trace nutrients.

After symptom check, & if needed, along with Your Local Soil Analysis, you can check into adequate Palm Fertilization Needs.

Many deficiency symptoms are similar. So we recommend getting professional diagnosis from a local Certified Arborist near you. Preferably who specializes in palms.


  • Nitrogen - First fronds lighten to the lightest green, then turn yellow, finally to white. 
  1. Growth stops. 
  2. Important to use the proper proportion with N. Don't use lawn fertilizer to solve this problem.
Nitrogen Deficiency in a Potted Palm outside a college credit unionPotted Palm Showing Nitrogen Deficiency
  • Calcium - Very rare for outdoor palms. Sometimes occurs with potted palms. New leaves are underdeveloped, with dead sections. Add dolomite to potting soil to avoid.
  • Sulfur - Has happened locally in Florida, Madagascar & Papua New Guinea. Organic mulches provide this element. Youngest leaves appear chlorotic. Then also are dwarfed, & get brown/black tips.
  • Magnesium - Often happens outdoors in sandy soils or potted palms. Older leaves/leaflets show yellow stripes near the edges. Tips eventually die.
Palm trees in front of apartment complex show beginning signs of magnesium defecitMagnesium Deficiency Symptoms Have Begun to Show on Older Bottle Palm Fronds
The Tips Turn Yellow Gold Along the Margins
  • Phosphorus - Symptoms similar to N-deficiency, beginning with oldest fronds. Palms in tropical acidic soils can face this problem.
  • Potassium - Likely most common deficit for Outdoor Palms. Especially in the tropics. If not solved, can be deadly. Symptoms may be confusing as they're not always uniform. Mostly leaves get a chlorotic see-through appearance. With spotting throughout the oldest fronds.
Palm leaves showing deficiency of potassiumChlorosis Throughout the Frond


  • Manganese - More common in palms planted in sandy ground. New leaves abnormally small & yellow with brownish/black streaks. Finally frond/leaflet ends curl up wrinkly, described as "frizzletop."
  • Zinc & Molybdenum - Never seen, but has been induced in the lab.
  • Iron - Somewhat common for indoor palms. Occasional with outdoor palm trees. Emerging leaves/leaflets can be stunted. New fronds show interveinal yellowing. 
Palm with iron deficiency symptomsIron Deficiency Symptoms - chlorosis between the green veins
In This Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis)
  • Copper - Rarely seen. And then only in Malaysia & Sumatra.
  • Boron - Occurs in palms from varied climates: tropical wetlands to deserts. New frond leaflets don't fully separate from each other after the leaf unfurls. Making the frond distorted & showing wrinkles. Eventually affecting palm growth. Untreated, it leads to death.
Boron Deficiency symptoms on a Queen PalmScrawny fronds from Boron Deficiency
In this Syagrus romanzoffianum - a Queen Palm
Boron Deficiency causing Apical Deformity of Leaf TwistingBoron Deficiency Causing Apical Growth Deformity.
Fronds All Twisted Up!

Physiological Palm Tree Problems

What do we mean by physiological palm problems?

They're conditions that are harmful to palms which aren't caused by germs, fungai, insects, etc. They're often preventable.

Especially if you use Advance Landscape Plans when planting a palm for yourself. Or if you're Purchasing a Palm to keep indoors for potting.

It's knowing the palm you have that's best to avoid this situation. Think of these possibilities:

  • Inappropriate lighting.
  1. Most Palms Need Full Sun
  2. But some are Palms that shouldn't get continual sun. Their Native Growth is in a forest's understory. Like a rainforest. Those could be dangerously sunburned!
Too Much summer sun beating downSooo Sunny! Can the Palm take it??
  • Adverse weather, like flooding or drought. Giving the palm too little water and maybe more hot sun than it likes. Or gives a palm too much water, keeping its roots soggy.
Palms in a drought and palms in a flooding rain

Freezing weather, that can cause Cold Damage on Palms.

Fan palm covered in winter frostFrosty the Fan Palm! Is that a contradiction in lifestyle?
  • Continual overwatering, causing the soil to be water-logged. Multiple sources:
  1. Could be from misjudging how much water the palm needs.
  2. Letting the sprinkler system go on schedule, no matter how much rain there's been.
  3. Planting the palm where the drainage is poor. 
  4. Watering a Desert Palm Tree too much.
overwatered palm treeNot Good - Palm Overwhelmed by Water!
  • Toxic substances, like too much fertilizer. Or the wrong kind of fertilizer. Or leaching of some type of poisonous substance, like weed killer, etc., into the Palm Root System's area.
  • Nutritional deficiency of Macro/Micro Nutrients because of Not Pruning Correctly

Symptoms of physiological problems can be confusing. Because they're the same as many diseases. Some may be easily solved, because you can change the causing situations.

When your palm plant shows symptoms its growth will already be affected in some way. At least temporarily, until you solve the physiological problem. But if you can resolve the problem, your palm can likely recover.

Are These Palm Tree Problems?

Have you heard rumors about palms causing some problems? Or they've seen palms that bring up a question of why it looks that way, or how it got that way. Is that normal?

See if we've answered what you were wondering about. (If not, you can always try Asking Us - Just Message Us Here - and we'll see if we can help you figure it out!


Some palms have irritating areas. For instance the Clustering Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis) is unique looking, nice as a hedge palm & pretty easily grown. Yet when it starts fruiting don't run to grab some. It's very irritating to skin.


Other palms with similar toxic areas exist. But not deadly unless possibly you have an anaphylactic reaction from an allergy.

The rumor has it that a Parlor Palm is Toxic to Cats. It's not totally true. That talk began because of the fruit. It's a skin irritant for humans. And can cause problems for cats or dogs.

Yes, there are Plants That are Toxic to Cats. You'll want to avoid them if you're a pet lover.

One prevention is by not allowing it to get to the fruiting stage. Trim the inflorescence away when the flowers are finished.

House Cat looking at a potted Parlor PalmPet Cat VS. a Parlor Palm!

Painted Palm Trunks

Have you been to places where they Paint Palm a Tree Trunk? But only on the bottom. Many wonder why that's done & if it's necessary. It historically began with fruit trees. To keep away insect pests.

When people began Growing Their Own Palms, they did the same. Using the same "bug prevention" technique.

White Paint at the bottom of the Trunk of a PalmIs There a Problem Causing People to Paint a Palm's Trunk White?

Common Palms With Problems

Some palms seem to attract questions about problems more than others. Here are two that immediately come to mind:

Queen Palm Problems - Syagrus romanzoffiana has some concerns. They're grown in many Southern California & Florida cities. 

  • It's fussy for nutrients.
  • Fruit dropping is quite messy. 
  • Roots are kind-of weakly entrenched in the ground. With storms, it's in danger of blowing over.

Sylvester Palm Problems - Phoenix sylvestris is a nice durable palm. So what could be wrong?

  • Beware of spiny spikes on the leaflets!
  • It also can get False Smut Disease! Yikes, what is that? A kind of fungus. No problem in an arid climes. But in humid areas, it's not good. Yet it can be managed & contained.


Some palms suddenly start to show their roots above the ground. Particularly if you've had it a long time. If you thought that was a root problem, don't worry! Types of Date Palms do that.

It's because of the way palm roots grow, with adventitious roots. This should help:

Takeaways for palm tree problems

Having palm trees in your landscaping helps surround your home with calm beauty. But they have a variety of problems some types of palms are prone to get.

Learning something about the pests & disease issues that could affect the health of your palm trees is wise. Good preparation for their care. So you're proactive with keeping your palms thriving all year round.

We hope we gave you some guidance to get you started on the most common palm tree problems. And being prepared with preventative tips for solutions.

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