Parlor Palm Brown Tips

Worried about parlor palm brown tips? You're not alone. Many indoor gardeners love the tropical style of this plant & can have this issue.

But is it a problem? Or is it just a normal part of your palm's life cycle? We've researched this issue to help you find out.

Parlor Palm Brown Tips are a Problem 

If you've begun seeing brown tips on your parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans), your plant does have a problem. Your parlor palm dry brown leaves at the frond tips should be given attention. Because dying, necrotic areas will typically spread.

Palm with scattered brown leavesBrown on leaves isn't a normal part of the life cycle. It's good to be concerned.

Years ago we had indoor plants in our home. Some were given as gifts. Yet I was never very good at attending to their needs, or figuring out if something was wrong. I'd had numerous potted palms die on me! I'd always been too distracted with our outdoor plantings. So I gave up on trying any indoors.

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But by helping others, I learned more. Discovering this problem is usually fixable. So don't panic!  We'll go into Possibilities Causing This, and how to Solve This Parlor Palm Problem. And going how to Prevent It, going forward.

Here's a safety precaution, if you're not yet aware of this.

  • All Chamaedorea species have calcium oxylate crystals in fruit & sap. Be Cautious of Your Pets getting into it.
  • It's recommended using Rubber Gloves if your investigation of parlor palm brown tips leads you to handle the Parlor Palm. Do NOT use latex gloves, oxalate can penetrate them.
  • C.elegans has moderate concentrations of oxylate, which may cause skin irritation for many. Use Cortisone Lotion to help the burning if you get any on you.

Check Your Parlor Palm's Needs

Lighting

Exposure to direct sunlight can cause your parlor palm's leaf browning. Their native outdoor environment is in rain forests of Central America & Southern Mexico. Growing beneath much taller plants that shade them.

Mapping the areas where the Parlor Palm originated Chamaedorea elegans native areas: Southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala

The leaves can get scorching sunburn. You'll notice the brown tipped fronds.

Parlor Palms are best with a light strength of 25-50 Light Candles. It's using low-level, indirect light when indoors.  

Watering

Probably the most common reason for parlor palm brown tips is overwatering. They like regular moisture, but not so much they're waterlogged.

Overwatering can cause roots to rot, leading to browning frond tips. If your watering schedule isn't just right, these may attack:

  • Nalanthamala vermoesenii, known as Pink Rot. Beginning with pink fungal spores. If ignored it can spread to the heart, leading to plant death.
  1. Avoid placement near cold air coming from air-conditioning outlets.
  2. If it's just started, remove those few affected fronds. If more than a few, (Emergency!) then rotate treatment with Interiorscape Broad-Spectrum Fungicides.
Palm Pink Rot on a Palm Tree
  • Phytophthora rot happens much less often. Mostly to young plants.
  1. Unlikely if potting soil is documented pathogen-free & designed for good drainage.
  2. Treat with Appropriate Fungicide Application.

Humidity Needs

Low humidity isn't a common cause of parlor palm brown tips. Even though they're native to tropical rain forests, where it's highly humid. Parlor Palms are easygoing in regular home conditions.

The main problem is low humidity attracts spider mites to indoor palms.

Nutritional Needs From Soil

Due to Nutrient Deficiency? Although generally a rare problem, it's more common than diseases. If your Parlor Palm isn't Getting Enough Nutrients, leaflet tips can turn brown.

FERTILIZING

Does your palm get appropriate dosing of Palm Fertilizer?

Fertilizers Can Cause Leaf Burn
  • A 3N/1P/2K ratio is best for container palms.
  • Palm Specialized Time-Release Fertilizers are best. Efficient for container-grown palms. In general, note manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Too much or improper feeds can burn fronds, sometimes starting at tips & then spreading.

Palm fertilizers should cover Parlor Palm needs. Keep in mind that the sunnier the placement, the more fertilizer is needed.

MINERAL MACRONUTRIENTS & MICRONUTRIENTS

Iron Deficiency is the most common nutritional problem. Root area distresses are usually the problem source for potted palms. Older Parlor Palm leaves get those brown tips first.

  • Root stress by overwatering. Less often, drought condition (because Parlor Palms tolerate it for awhile).
  • Or from overfertilization.
  • Have cleaning solutions been sprayed nearby? That's toxic to plants. May cause iron loss & frond tips turning brown.
Demonstrating spraying cleaner chemicals near potted palms in a no-go

Inadequate Magnesium causes palm stress. Dolomitic limestone should be incorporated into potting soil. Use Micronutrient Blends Like This With Mg, Fe & P.

Inadequate Phosphorus can affect Parlor Palms. Leaves turn dark olive green, or yellowish green. Then leaflet tips die, turning brown. Oldest fronds often develop scattered purplish brown spots. Use Micronutrient Blends or palm fertilizers with 0.15-0.30% P.

Inadequate Potassium causes brown frond tips on the oldest leaves. Common for landscape palms, but not much for container palms. If happening, though, it will begin with old fronds. Find Palm Fertilizers with the proper percentage of potassium: 1.6-2.75%.

Palm fronds showing nitrogen and potassium deficiencyExample of palm fronds suffering from lack of enough potassium. Perhaps Nitrogen, too.

Air Pollution when bringing your potted parlor palm outdoors in warm weather. Airborne hydrogen fluoride & acid rain can have detrimental affects. Causing dead brown leaflet tips, among other symptoms.

Boron & Fluoride Toxicity happens from using your water tap. Your water's safe fluoride level for palms is under 11ppm. Boron toxicity can happen with levels above 4ppm.

palm leaf tips brown and leaflets misshapen from boron deficiencyPalm fronds suffering from Boron Deficiency. Note the other symptom: twisted & bent leaflets.

TESTING NUTRIENTS

Often it's best to use your local testing service to analyze leaves & potting material. Soil pH is fine within 4.5 to 8. Environmental testing labs are the place to go. We find our choices by consulting the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

Best All-Around Solutions for Parlor Palm Brown Tips

Now that we know what causes brown tips on parlor palms, how can we solve it?

Overwatering the Issue? 

Easy solution. Change your watering schedule. Monitor your Parlor Palm's soil moisture. When the top two inches/51mm dry out, it's time to water. After an hour, remove the saucer's drainage.

palm growing in a container with no drainageNot a Good Potting Container for Your Parlor Palm. There's no drain openings & saucer.

You think it's low humidity?

Remember, medium, average humidity is fine. You might Add a Room Humidifier nearby if you're concerned. Or place a tray of water nearby.

Humidifier giving moisture to a room for a palm tree's benefitHumidifier for Your Parlor Palm near a North-Facing Window.
Protective drapes adjusted when necessary.

Excess direct sunlight a problem?

Move your parlor palm where it receives indirect light. Near north and/or east-facing windows are a good choice.

One of these parlor palms has bad placement because it's directly in front of a windowOne of These Parlor Palms Has Very Bad Placement! Can you tell which one?

Unsure about your care & fertilizing plan?

Apply a palm balanced (3N/1P/2K), Slow-Release Fertilizer to the soil. Check fertilizer instructions, along with the best scheduling. That's applying twice during growing season (spring, summer & fall). None in the winter. Check for micro/macronutrient percentages.

Keep cleaning sprays away from your parlor palm. Don't let the soil dry out for months. Keep the Container Saucer dry. 

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Head Off Future Parlor Palm Problems

There are solutions to help your parlor palm thrive. Prevention is always better than fixing a problem. Overall, these potted palms are Quite Easily Maintained. They don't often have problems. Even not needing pruning, as lower fronds fall off.

Chamaedora elegans artworkParlor Palm Has Naturally Lost the Lowest Fronds

Placement Not Good? Move your palm away from direct sunlight.

Double-Check Your Watering Schedule. Keeping soil uniformly moist, until the surface dries out.

  • Water when the top 2"/5cm is fully dry.
  • Confirm your Pot Has Drain Holes & the saucer isn't kept filled with water. Reduce watering & stop fertilization in winter. 

Remember Fertilizing! Add Palm Time-Release Fertilizer. Then fertilize twice during the growing season.

a parlor palm is placed too close to a windowSuffering From Bad Placement by a Sunny Window?
Suffering From Soggy "Feet"? 😮

Worried About Humidity? You can regularly Mist the Fronds. Especially if/when their location is a heated room. Keep it away from heat/AC drafts.

Repot Only When Necessary. Generally, every other year at most.

  1. Like Mycorrhizae Fungi, which increases nutrient absorption. Like an extension to the roots.
  2. Diazotrophic Plant Growth Promoting Bacteria can improve absorbing nutrients. Also promote phytohormones which assists environmental needs. And help resist diseases.

Prevent Spider Mites, which love potted palms. Better than solving their infestation! To do that, use one of those Baby Medicine Syringes. Fill it with water & spray leaflet undersides.

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Parlor Palm Brown Tips Takeaways

One lesser used common name for Chamaedorea elegans is: Good Luck Palm. It's relatively easy to have good luck for this plant's care!

Brown tips on your parlor palm can be prevented. Or diagnosed & solved with a few adjustments to your care routine.

Remember, caring for a parlor palm is normally a delightful and satisfying journey. If problems pop up along the way, there are fixes to keep your palm looking its best.

Now, if you see brown tips on your parlor palm, don't worry. You have what's needed to identify the problem. Plus methods to solve it.