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Cat Palm Leaves Turning Yellow (13 Causes And Solutions)

If the leaves of your Cat Palm plant are turning yellow, don’t worry. Once you work out what the cause is, you should quickly solve the problem.

Overwatering is low humidity causes cat palm leaves to turn yellow. A poor watering technique leads to various problems such as root rot and poor root system development, causing your plant to become dehydrated and the leaves to turn dry and yellow. In addition, overfeeding, pest infestation, nutrient deficiency can also be responsible for yellow leaves on cat palm.

This article will explain the reasons for yellowing leaves on Cat Palms, and what you can do about it.

Improper Watering Causes Yellow Leaves on Cat Palm

Cat Palm plants are native to the tropical forests of Central America and Mexico and love a warm, moist environment. They need quite a lot of water to stay healthy, but the potting mix must be free-draining so that it does not become waterlogged.

Waterlogged soil will starve your plant of oxygen and nutrients, causing weak, yellow foliage, which may look dehydrated. It also leads to root rot – the biggest killer for houseplants.

Watering plants from above rather than below can also lead to problems. Water might collect on the leaves or stem of your plant, encouraging fungal infections which can quickly kill.

Additionally, watering from above can mean that water never reaches the bottom part of the plant’s roots – causing weak root growth and dehydration.

Solution

Water your plant when the top couple of inches of potting mix are dry. Make sure to use a container with proper drainage holes and a well-draining potting mix. General-purpose compost mixed with one-third perlite and one-third peat moss is ideal.

Try to water your plant from below if possible. Just stand your plant in a tray of water for half an hour or so. If you water from above, make sure not to get water on the leaves or stem of your plant and give it enough so that water flows from the bottom of the pot.

Mineral Deposits in Potting Mix

Over time, minerals from tap water and fertilizer can build up in the potting mix, collecting around the roots of a plant and stopping them from taking in water and nutrients. This leads to dehydrated, yellowing foliage, which eventually dies.

Crust white deposits on the surface of the potting mix is a sign that minerals have built up to dangerous levels.

Solution

If you find that minerals have built up and are affecting your plant, take your plant out of its pot, gently rinse the soil and buildup from the roots, and then re-pot the plant in a fresh potting mix. It’s a good idea to re-pot Cat palm plant once a year, in spring.

Pest Infestation

Like all houseplants, Cat Palm plants can fall prey to pests. These pests feed on the leaves or stems of the plant and can cause lots of damage. Damaged leaves can’t photosynthesize properly, which leads to slow growth, and yellow leaves that gradually die and drop off the plant.

The most common types of pests that affect these plants are mealybugs, whiteflies, aphids, spider mites, and scale. Luckily, most of these pests are easy to spot and relatively easy to treat. Let’s look at them in more detail:

  • Mealybugs

Mealybugs are small fuzzy or waxy white bugs that often cluster on the stem of plants or underneath the leaves where they meet the stem. They suck the sap from the plant, eventually causing the leaves to wilt and turn yellow. Mealybugs can’t fly, so look out for them crawling on the leaves or stem of your plant.

  • Whitefly

These are tiny white bugs that feed on a plant’s leaves. They can fly but usually crawl unless they are disturbed. You’ll notice them clustering on the underside of your plant’s leaves. Because they are soft-bodied, they’re straightforward to kill.

  • Aphids

Aphids are soft-bodied insects that suck the sap from plants, usually clustering on the underside of leaves. They can be green, grey, white or black, and start life as wingless nymphs before turning into flies – often known as greenfly or blackfly.

  • Spider Mites

Spider mites are among the most dangerous pests for your Cat Palm plant. They are tiny creatures that look a bit like spiders, and they munch on the surface of leaves, causing brown or black spots. You might also notice webs underneath the leaves. Spider mites can do a lot of damage quickly, so it’s vital to treat an infestation as soon as you see it.

  • Scale

Scale bugs are tiny, armored bugs that attach themselves to the underside of leaves and feed on sap. They begin life as ‘crawlers’ – crawling to a place where they can feed before transforming into adult bugs. Once adult scales have attached themselves to a plant, they do not move and can be difficult to remove.

Solution

As soon as you notice an insect infestation, isolate your plant so that the bugs are less likely to spread to other plants. If a leaf is badly infested, it’s often best to remove the leaf. Don’t put infected foliage in your compost bin; dispose of it in your general waste bin.

Once you’ve isolated your plant and removed badly infested foliage, you can use several methods to treat all of these infestations:

  • Liquid soap

Use a weak liquid soap solution such as Castile soap, or buy a special horticultural soap and follow the directions. Spray your plant with the solution, focusing on infected areas. The spray will kill soft-bodied critters but is not effective on the adult scale as their armor prevents it from getting to them.

It’s best to spray a small section of your plant first and wait a few days to check for adverse reactions. Depending on how badly infested your plant is, you might need to re-spray every couple of days until all the pests are gone.

  • Rubbing Alcohol

Like soap, rubbing alcohol destroys soft-bodied pests. Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol, then rub it over the affected parts of your plant. Rubbing alcohol is also effective for scale as it can penetrate the bug’s waxy armor.

Again, it may take several applications to remove all the pests from your plant, and it’s best to test the treatment on a small area first.

  • Neem Oil

Neem oil is an effective natural insecticide that disrupts the pests’ reproductive system. You can buy a pre-made neem oil spray or make your own by mixing a little neem oil, liquid soap, and water.

Spray the solution onto your plant, concentrating on the infested areas. Neem oil continues to work for a while after using it, so wait for a week or so before reapplying. Use as many applications as needed – until all signs of pests are gone.

  • Chemical Insecticide

There are many types of insecticides available, all of which will rid your plant of pests. However, many of these substances are quite toxic, so be very careful using them inside your home. It might be best to treat your plant outside and leave it for a couple of hours before bringing it back inside.

Fungal Diseases

All houseplants can fall prey to fungal disease, most often caused by too much moisture. Fungal infection in the potting mix will cause your plant to wilt, the leaves gradually yellowing, drying up, and dying.

Cat Palm plants are also prone to leaf spot fungal disease, which causes yellow or brown spots on the plant’s leaves. Let’s look at the most common types of fungal diseases that affect Cat Palm plants:

  • Root Rot

Root rot is caused by waterlogged soil, which provides the perfect environment for fungi to thrive. These fungi feed on the plant’s roots, stopping them from taking in water and nutrients and leading to symptoms of dehydration. Root rot can kill plants very quickly.

  • Leaf Spot

The spores that cause leaf spot disease attach to a plant’s leaves when the environment is moist with poor air circulation. Small brown spots appear, quickly becoming bigger and spreading to other leaves. This causes an overall weakening of the plant, which can cause slow, weak growth with a yellowy color.

  • Stem Rot

Stem rot affects the stem of a plant, usually where it meets the soil. This fungus eats away at the plant’s stem, which stops water and nutrients from moving up into the plant and quickly causes wilting yellow foliage. Stem rot is very dangerous and can kill plants quickly.

Solution

To prevent fungal diseases, you should follow proper watering practices. Ensure that your plant’s soil is not waterlogged, and always water it from below rather than above. If you need to water your plant from above, make sure not to get the leaves and stem wet.

Try to make sure that there is good air circulation around the plant. This will help to prevent leaf spot.

If your plant has root rot, re-pot it immediately in fresh potting mix. Rinse the old soil from the roots and cut away any damaged roots (lookout for brown, black, and slimy areas) with clean scissors.

Soil pH

The pH level of soil affects the availability of nutrients to plants. It can also affect beneficial bacteria, which release essential nitrogen into the soil. If the potting mix is too acidic or too alkaline, your plant won’t get the nutrients it needs to thrive.

Cat Palms like soil with a pH level of around 6.1 (mildly acidic) to 7.8 (mildly alkaline). Potting mix that falls too far on one end of the spectrum or the other will lead your plant to show nutrient deficiency symptoms, with soft,  yellowing foliage.

Solution

Use a pH meter or soil testing kit to check the acidity of your plant’s potting mix. If it is too acidic, try adding green manure, neutral compost, or agricultural lime. Lime is very powerful, so be careful if you decide to use it, and go easy.

If The potting mix is too alkaline, add green manure, mulched pine needles, or neutral compost.

Lack of Light

Cat Palm plants need plenty of light to thrive. If they don’t get enough light, the leaves will lose their bright green color and begin to turn a sickly yellow. Without light, the plant can’t produce enough chlorophyll in its leaves – a substance that plants use for photosynthesis, which gives them their green color.

Solution

Make sure that your Cat Palm plant gets plenty of bright, indirect light throughout the day. A position in a bright room, several feet away from the window, is ideal.

Direct sunlight

Although Cat Palms love light, they don’t like lots of direct sunlight on their leaves. Too much direct sunlight will burn your plant’s leaves and cause them to develop dry yellow or brown spots.

These leaves become less efficient at making food, which can cause the plant to grow more slowly. If the leaves become significantly damaged, they may die and fall off the plant.

Solution

Keep your plant out of direct sunlight. A little bit (less than an hour a day) won’t do any harm but avoid keeping your plant on a sunny windowsill, for example.

Twelve hours a day of bright, indirect light is perfect for Cat Palms.

Temperature Fluctuations

Cat Palms don’t like the cold, and they’re not so fond of temperature fluctuations either. They appreciate a fairly steady temperature of 70-80°F (21–27°C). They will begin to show symptoms such as yellowing, wilting leaves if they are not kept in a suitable position.

Solution

Keep your plant in a position where the temperature doesn’t change drastically or quickly. This means keeping your plant out of drafts and away from heat sources and AC units.

Even closed windows can be a source of problematic drafts, so it’s best not to keep your plant too close to the window.

Nutrient Deficiency

In their native habitat, Cat Palms enjoy a rich soil full of nutrients. When kept as houseplants, they depend on us to feed them! If you don’t feed your plant, it will develop one or more of the following symptoms, depending on which nutrients it is missing out on:

DeficiencySymptom
MagnesiumYellow spots between veins, gradually becoming orange, then red.
CopperSimilar to magnesium deficiency, but leaves will wilt and lose elasticity
ManganeseLeaves turn yellowish or greyish all over
NitrogenShrunken, pale yellow or white leaves
CalciumLeaves turn yellow at the tips

Solution

Feed your Cat Palm plant regularly with a balanced houseplant fertilizer. When the plant puts on a lot of growth during spring and summer, you should feed it once a month. Reduce this to once every two months in autumn, and don’t feed your plant at all during the winter.

Overfertilization

Although Cat Palm plants do need feeding, it’s vital not to give them too much fertilizer! Overfertilization leads to leaves turning weak, floppy, and yellow and can shock the plant badly, sometimes causing death.

Solution

Make sure you follow the directions for the particular type of fertilizer you are using. Don’t be tempted to give your plant more than it needs!

Humidity

Cat Palms like an environment with a humidity level of at least 55%. If the humidity in your home is too low for your plant, it will soon let you know.

Your plant’s leaves will turn dry and yellow at the edges before turning brown and dropping off the plant. Keep a humidity meter at home to gauge the humidity level of your home.

Low humidity can kill plants gradually, so if you notice these symptoms, don’t ignore them!

Solution

You can increase the humidity in your home with a humidifier. These are great if you want to raise the humidity level throughout your home. If you only want to raise the level around your plant, a humidity tray might be a better option.

To make one, fill a tray with water and place a few large pebbles inside so that they stick up out of the water. Then pop your plant, in its pot, on top. The water from the tray will evaporate, increasing the humidity around the plant.

If you have several houseplants, it’s a great idea to group them together. Plants lose water from pores in their leaves, which raises the humidity level in the immediate vicinity. By grouping your plants, they’ll all benefit from this effect!

Transplant Shock

If you’ve recently re-potted your Cat Palm plant then noticed that the leaves are turning yellow, your plant could be suffering from transplant shock.

Sometimes delicate roots get damaged during re-potting, which stops them from taking in the water and nutrients that the plant needs. Also, the plant needs some time to adjust to the new environment. This quickly results in yellowing, wilting leaves.

Solution

In most cases, Cat Palm plants recover quickly from transplant shock, as long as their new conditions are suitable.

Natural Causes

It’s normal for the leaves of Cat Palm plants to turn yellow and die off eventually. This is part of the natural life cycle of the leaf and is nothing to worry about. If your plant’s oldest leaves are slowly yellowing one at a time, this is likely the cause.

Solution

There is no solution for this natural process. To improve to look of your plant, you can cut off the dying leaves. Use clean, sharp scissors or shears to remove the leaf just above where it meets the stem.

FAQ

Should I cut off yellow palm leaves?

Unless most of your plant’s leaves are yellow, you’ll do your plant no harm by cutting off the yellow leaves. If all of the leaves are yellow, it’s best to wait until your plant produces some healthy foliage before pruning the yellow leaves.

Can yellow palm leaves turn green again?

Leaves that have turned yellow are unlikely to turn green again. But if you solve the underlying issue, your plant’s new foliage will be back to its lush green best.