What Makes Palm Tree Leaves Turn Yellow

What makes palm tree leaves turn yellow

Palm trees are among the most common and hard-working plants in the tropics. With their lofty fronds and stately, slender trunks they provide shade, insulation and beauty to countless homes and business. Despite their popularity, these tall plants can suddenly experience yellowing of their leaves, which can be very alarming to the owner.
The most likely cause of yellowing leaves is a lack of sufficient water. In the wild, palms are exposed to an environment with temperatures varying between 12-37°C with levels of humidity consistently over 25%. However, most indoor palm cares does not have the same kind of level of humidity and in such cases, lack of sufficient water becomes a common cause of yellowing leaves.
On the other hand, too much water can also cause yellowing of leaves. An important distinction here is that with too much water, the photosynthesis process will gradually become inefficient leading to yellowing of leaves rather than sudden yellowing. An overly relaxed watering schedule and inadequate drainage are common culprits here.
Experts suggest looking into the nutrient levels in the soil if you have checked the water and suspect something else is afoot. Too little or too much fertilizer can produce yellow leaves as well. Little nitrogen, for example, leaves palms with shorter, yellow-tinged leaves. An excess of potassium, on the other hand, can also lead to yellowing of leaves as the lack of nitrogen will produce uneven leaves.
Palms may also turn yellow if they don’t get the right amount of light. Palms are naturally shade trees, but when placed in deep shade they cannot harvest energy from the sun and their leaves may fade to yellow. Palms need bright, indirect light, more so during their growth stage and as they age, less light is required.
Finally, your palm tree may yellow if it has been subject to too much stress, whether this is due to being moved to a different environment, extreme temperature or excessive changes in light. Palms are notorious for being sensitive to sudden movement or overexposure to sun, or even for the regular ant infestations, which can cause yellowing of the leaves.


A condition known as chlorosis may also be causing the yellowing of your palm tree’s leaves. This condition is caused by deficiency of certain elements such as iron, manganese and zinc, and can cause the leaves to turn yellow while the veins remain a healthy green. Chlorosis tends to occur when the soil pH is too high, meaning that the palm tree is unable to absorb the required nutrients. If you’re unsure whether chlorosis is to blame for the yellowing of your palm tree’s leaves, then it is recommended that you get the soil tested for an accurate result.
Iron deficiency is often the most common cause of chlorosis in palm trees. If the iron levels are not kept in check, the tree can develop yellow leaves, with the veins remaining green. If iron deficiency is the cause of the chlorosis, then experts suggest the use of iron-rich fertilizers as a solution to this condition. It is also said that liquid iron chelates are even more effective, as they are readily available for the palms to absorb.
Nitrogen deficiency may also be causing the yellowing of your palm tree’s leaves. While too much nitrogen will cause the leaves to turn yellow, too little may also be the cause. If nitrogen deficiency is indeed the cause of the yellowing leaves, then it is recommended that a nitrogen-rich fertilizer be applied to the soil. This will aid in supplementing the nitrogen levels necessary for a healthy palm tree.

Bacterial and Fungal Infections

Sometimes yellowing of the leaves of a palm tree can be caused by bacterial and fungal infections. These infections can be easily recognized due to their distinct symptoms of discoloration and wilting. These are particularly common in area with high humidity, due to the heavy moisture providing an excellent environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive.
The most common infection of palm trees is lethal yellowing, caused by the phytoplasma, a bacteria-like microorganism that attacks a wide variety of palms and palm-like plants. Infected trees will develop yellow-tinted leaves, along with dark spots and necrotic patches at the tips. These symptoms should be spotted early, as they can spread very quickly and can lead to the death of the tree if left untreated.
Fungal infections may also cause the yellowing of the leaves of your palm tree. These infections can often be identified by spotting thick spots that appear on the back of the fronds. It is important to note that these infections can be spread by other sick plants and even insects, so it is best to remove infected plants and palm debris away from the affected areas to prevent further spread.

Pests and Dermatitis

Bugs and other pests are not common among palm trees, but if they occur, they can lead to yellowing of the palm tree’s leaves. Insects such as aphids, mites and caterpillars can all cause the yellowing of leaves. These pests tend to attack the fronds of the palm tree and feed on the energy stored in them. Their presence can be identified due to the discoloration of the leaves and the webbing on the leaves, which is caused by the bugs.
Palm Dermatitis is another potential problem that causes yellowing of palm tree’s leaves. This is an allergic reaction caused by the oils excreted through the skin of the tree. This can be recognized due to the yellow and brown spots on the leaves of the tree. If your tree is affected by palm dermatitis, the best solution is to cut back the affected leaves and allow the tree to recover.

Palm Appreciation

With a little bit of love and care, palm trees can be a beautiful addition to any home and business. A better understanding of the environment, soil and nutrients, combined with timely intervention and preventive measures, can go a long way towards ensuring the health and longevity of your palm trees.
By creating an environment where these tall and majestic plants can thrive, we can appreciate their beauty, and make the most out of these elegant and resilient plants. A regular schedule of watering, adequate sunlight and well-drained soil can help keep your palm trees strong and healthy. Neglecting any of these factors can cause yellowing of the leaves, so it is important that you pay close attention to theircare and maintenance.
Finally, it is best to keep an eye on your palm trees to identify any potential pests or diseases early on, as this will help to prevent any further damage from occurring. With the right amount of care, you can enjoy the beauty of your palm trees for many years to come.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factorssuch as air pollutants can also have a hand in yellowing of leaves in palm tree plants. Pollutants in the air, dust and smog can damage the foliage of the palm trees as they are sensitive to these kinds of things. This can cause discoloration of the leaves and also a yellowing effect as the leaves can lose their chlorophyll due to the pollutant exposure. If you live in a densely populated area and you notice a yellowing of the leaves of your palm trees, then environmental pollution may be the culprit.
Humidity also plays a major role in the health of a palm tree. It is important that the palms have an environment with steady levels of humidity throughout the day. High levels of humidity cause water build-up and stagnant water to form on the foliage of the tree, leading to leaf discoloration, yellowing and wilting of the leaves.
In the hot summer months it is especially important to determine the correct water schedule to ensure that your palm tree has enough hydration. Make sure that the soil has enough water and a proper drainage system in place.


Diseases caused by fungi, bacteria and viruses can also be a cause of yellowing leaves in palm trees. Palm anthracnose, a fungal infection, is one of the most common diseases of these plants. Symptoms of the infection often include yellowing, wilting and discoloration of the leaves. If the infection is severe, it can even lead to the death of the palm tree.
Fungal and bacterial galls are another common problem in palm trees. These round, discolored lesions on the leaves and fronds of the tree can cause yellowing and eventual death of the affected leaves. The most common cause of these galls is a combination of environmental or nutritional imbalance coupled with pests and other environmental stresses.
It is important to monitor your palm trees regularly to spot any signs of diseases or pests on the plant. Keeping the palms healthy and hydrated can help to prevent future problems, while identifying and addressing any signs of infection or disease early will help to reduce the damage caused.


Yellowing of the leaves of palm trees is a concerning but manageable issue. With the right knowledge and attention, it is possible to identify and address the cause of yellowing of leaves to prevent further damage and ensure the healthy, long life of your palm tree. A regular watering, adequate sunlight and proper nutrient levels, all coupled with a clean environment and tidy garden maintenance are, suggested by experts, the key building blocks of a healthy and happy palm tree.

Anita Miles is a nature enthusiast who loves to explore the different varieties of trees around the world. She has a passion for learning more about the different types of trees and their uses in landscaping. Anita is also an advocate for protecting our natural resources and preserving our forests for generations to come.

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