How to Deal With Brown Tips on Your Areca Palm
The lovely fronds of the areca palm, or Dypsis lutescens, bring a tropical feeling to any home or office that is rich in meaning and symbolism. But what should you do if you notice the tips of your palm’s fronds turning brown? Though these plants are relatively low maintenance, it’s also a common issue. In this guide, we’ll run through the most common causes of brown tips on areca palms, and how to fix the issue at home.
- How to Manage Brown Tips on Areca Palms – The Essentials
- Common Reasons Your Areca Palm has Brown Tips or Leaves.
- Managing Brown Tips on Your Areca Palm
- Prevention & Care
- Wrapping Up
How to Manage Brown Tips on Areca Palms – The Essentials
Common reasons for brown tips on areca palms include low humidity, under or over-watering, and temperature fluctuations. To prevent browning, keep the palm at ambient temperatures of 65 to 85 degrees F, humidity levels between 50 and 80 percent, and provide water when the top inch of soil feels dry.
Common Reasons Your Areca Palm has Brown Tips or Leaves
Lack of Water
Start with moisture if your palm’s frond tips look brown or crispy. Areca palms grow best when their environmental conditions mimic those in their natural habitat, which is the tropical forests of Madagascar. Here, they receive plenty of natural rainfall and enjoy moist, but not waterlogged, soil.
If the soil in your palm’s container gets too dry, the fronds may droop, then brown. Insert your finger into the soil; if more than the top two inches feel dry, it’s time to water. Alternatively, pick up the palm’s container. If it feels light, add water.
Pour the water slowly into the soil, allowing excess water to drain through the container’s drainage holes. If the plant is extremely dry, the soil might repel the water. You may have to repeat this process several times until the soil is evenly moist.
In their native habitat, humidity levels are high year-round. It can be challenging to replicate these conditions indoors, but palms can thrive when humidity levels remain between 50 and 80 percent. Lower humidity may lead to browning leaf tips.
To solve the problem, raise the humidity levels. You may mist palms regularly or keep palms in a bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room where humidity levels are slightly higher. You may also group plants together (which raises humidity levels in a microclimate), place the palm on a tray of pebbles and water, or run a humidifier in the room.
Areca palms grow best in temperates that remain consistently between 65 and 75 degrees F. Fortunately, this isn’t too difficult to manage in most indoor spaces.
But the plants may suffer if temperatures drop below 60 degrees for an extended period. You may see browning fronds and other issues. Correct the problem by keeping the plants in rooms with consistently warm temperatures.
Areca palms don’t grow well at low temperatures. But what if you notice browning tips, and the thermostat is set to 70 degrees?
Ensure that the palm isn’t exposed to cold drafts. If the plant is placed near a window or door, especially in winter, chilly air may leak in, damaging the plant.
In the summer, air conditioning coming from vents can have the same effect. Keep the palms away from all cold air sources.
Just as areca palms don’t thrive when underwatered, they also don’t grow well if they receive too much water. The palms prefer evenly moist soil.
However, waterlogged soil effectively smothers the roots, leading to browning foliage. Water the Areca palm only when the top two inches of soil feel dry, and ensure pots have adequate drainage holes.
Wrong Type of Water
Areca palms are known to be sensitive to some chemicals commonly found in tap water, such as fluoride or chlorine. These substances can cause leaf discoloration.
Avoid the problem by using distilled water to water your palms. Better yet, collect and use rainwater.
Lack of Nutrients / Fertilizer
Areca palms grow at a moderate speed. This means they usually only need fertilizer about once a month during the spring and summer, which is the plant’s active growing season.
But when grown in containers, the soil will eventually be depleted of nutrients that the plants need to thrive. This may lead to foliage that yellows, then browns. To solve this issue, feed the plants with an application of water-soluble fertilizer that’s fertilizer high in nitrogen and potassium, with lower phosphorus content.
If the plants have been in the same pot for a long time without a soil top off, it may be time to repot. Choose the best soil mix for areca palms when you repot.
Speaker of repotting, if it’s been a few years, your palm may be root bound. Also known as pot bound, this condition is caused by roots that have grown too large for a pot.
The roots may circle around the inside of the pot or form a dense mat. This prevents them from taking up the water, air, and nutrients the plant needs to thrive. Over time, leaves may brown. Look for roots that protrude from the surface of the soil or poke out from the container’s drainage holes.
Poor Drainage and Root Rot
While areca palms prefer evenly moist soil, they don’t like wet feet. If a container doesn’t have adequate drainage holes, the plant’s roots may sit in water. This effectively suffocates and eventually drowns the plant, as it can’t take up the air and nutrients it needs.
You may see the process start with discolored foliage. Over time, the roots turn mushy and rot away. If left unchecked, root rot will kill a plant. You must gently remove the affected roots and repot the palm in fresh soil in a container with good drainage holes.
Poor Light Conditions
In their native habitat, areca palms grow in the dappled light of the forest. Indoors, they grow best with bright yet indirect sunlight.
Too intense light can scorch leaves and dry out soil too quickly. Both can lead to browning foliage. Prevent this issue by placing palms in bright indirect, or filtered light.
For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position Areca palms in the home.
Pests & Diseases
Pests and diseases may lead to browning tips and foliage. Sclerotinia blight, often caused by overcrowding, leads to leaf discoloration.
Caterpillar infestation may result in skeletonized, brown, and crispy foliage. Mites and scale can also cause damage. Prevent these issues by growing palms in ideal conditions.
Managing Brown Tips on Your Areca Palm
Unfortunately, once an areca palm frond tips turn brown, it will not turn green again. If most of the frond is still green, you may want to leave it intact, as it can still perform photosynthesis.
If you want to remove damage, sterilize your snips or scissors first. Make a clean cut at an angle that follows the general direction of foliage growth. Consider leaving the green portions of the frond intact.
Prevention & Care
The best way to prevent brow tips on your areca palm is to provide it with optimal growing conditions. This means trying to recreate the natural growing conditions the palm would experience in its native habitat, such as:
- Ambient temperatures that remain between 65 and 75 degrees F
- Relatively high humidity between 50 and 80 percent
- Bright indirect light exposure, such as that found in an east-facing window, near a west- or south-facing window, or in a west- or south-facing window that’s covered with a sheer curtain when the sun is shining
- Slightly acidic soil (5.5 to 6.0 pH)
- Container with adequate drainage holes
- Water only when the top two inches of soil feel dry
- Avoid cold drafts and fluctuating temperatures
- Fertilize every few weeks only in spring and summer
Areca palms offer all sorts of uses and benefits and are easy to grow as long as they’re provided with the right conditions. The right temperature, humidity, light, and soil will help prevent browning tips. Aim to create tropical forest-like conditions for your plant, and you’ll be rewarded with a lush, lovely palm. For more, see our in-depth guide to the meaning and symbolism of palm trees.
If you’re looking for your next Areca palm to add to your collection, see our in-depth guide to the best plant shops delivering Areca palms nationwide.
Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.