Whether they are used as an exotic houseplant, a greenhouse specimen or a landscaping focal point, palm trees are the ultimate in luxurious tropical foliage. While these trees can be hardy in their native habitats – withstanding drenching rainy seasons, all manner of tropical pests and even brutal hurricanes – they are still susceptible to a variety of problems. Understanding the most common and widespread palm tree problems can help you properly identify and fix issues to keep these stunning trees strong and healthy.
Top Palm Tree Problems
Different problems are common among a variety of palm trees. How each problem affects individual trees, however, will vary depending on the tree's exact species, overall health and the extent of the difficulties it faces. The most common problems afflicting a wide range of palm trees include…
- Sooty Mold
This mold appears as ashy gray or black mold on palm fronds, and while it doesn't dramatically harm the tree, it is unsightly and often unwelcome. The mold forms from excess sugar byproducts in insect wastes, and treating insect issues is essential to eliminate the mold. While spraying can be effective on smaller palms, systemic treatments are more effective for taller, more mature palms that are difficult to spray.
- Lethal Yellowing
Palm trees infected with lethal yellowing will show yellow, drooping fronds that lose all their green pigmentation and cannot recover. Flowers will wilt and die, and any fruits or nuts will drop early. This disease is spread by insects and can be treated with root injections if the infection is only slight, but if the majority of the tree is impacted, it is best to remove the tree completely to prevent spreading the illness to other palms.
- Fungal Infections
Palm trees are subject to a wide variety of fungal infections that are common in warm, humid environments. Symptoms of fungus can include rotting on the trunk, uncharacteristic wilting and overall slow growth. Because these infections can spread quickly, it is important to remove an infected tree as soon as possible to protect other trees. When pruning palms, it is critical to sterilize tools between plants to avoid spreading these infections.
Like all trees, different types of palms have different moisture preferences, and all too often these trees are drastically overwatered with supplemental irrigation. The drainage of the soil influences how much water is necessary, and it is best to plan nearby landscaping to accommodate plants with similar watering needs to avoid accidentally overwatering a palm tree. Adjust sprinklers regularly to be sure palms are not receiving too much water.
- Improper Pruning
Poor pruning practices can have a dramatic impact on the health of palm trees. These trees store nutrition and energy in their fronds, and it is essential to not remove fronds unless they are completely brown, or else the tree will be deprived of that stored nutrition. When pruning a palm tree, remove no more than 15 percent of its fronds to avoid shock and deprivation.
In addition to these common problems, other difficulties faced by palm trees include cold injuries, lightning strikes, air root growth, nutrient deficiencies and more. The exact problems any palm may face depend on its species, location and overall care. If your palm trees aren't looking their very best, consult your local garden center, nursery or palm tree arborist for expert guidance on how to get your palms back to their most luxurious, healthiest appearance.