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Majesty Palm Root Rot (Signs Causes and Solutions!)

A Majesty Palm (Ravenea rivularis), like the kings and queens of old, is elegant, refined, and prone to rotting if overindulged.

Root rot is an assassin who stalks the Majesty’s court, waiting for the right moment to strike.

However, with the proper guards and defenses, you can keep this regal palm flourishing.

The most common cause of root rot is overwatering. Majesty Palms require moist, free-draining soil that does not become waterlogged. Once identified, root rot can be treated with a new pot of fresh potting medium. In severe cases, fungicides can be applied, both commercially available and homemade.

Signs of Majesty Palm Root Rot

Majesty Palm Healthy Roots vs Root-Rot
Majesty Palm Healthy Roots vs Root-Rot

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can spot root rot in your indoor Majesty Palm

Brown Leaves

All palm fronds will eventually turn brown and die. Palms grow from their crowns and the passage of each leaf aids in the growth of the trunks and stems.

However, if your young leaves turn brown and die, you have a problem.

Stunted Growth

The Majesty Palm grows slowly. In ideal conditions, this stately palm should only grow a foot or so per year.

However, if you haven’t seen any new leaves in a while, it’s worth checking the condition of your roots.

Yellow, Wilted Leaves

Majesty Palm Leaves Yellowing

Young yellow and wilted leaves, which are often a precursor to browning, indicate that your plant is struggling to draw nutrients and water from the soil.

It’s also one of the first signs of trouble on your soil.

Foul Smelling Soil

Give the growing medium a sniff before removing your Majesty palm from its pot. Rotten odors indicate that there is something wrong beneath the surface.

It’s time to gently remove your palm from its pot and examine the roots.

Darkened Roots

When inspecting your roots, keep an eye out for brown or black roots. Your Majesty should have pale, white, or light cream roots. Roots that are brown or black are rotting.

Decaying Roots

Majesty Palm Root Rot has spread to the stems

Disintegration and decay are far more serious indicators than simple discoloration. Rotting roots crack and snap like burnt hair, or disintegrate like overcooked spaghetti.

It’s even worse if the outer sheath of larger roots peels away when touched, similar to the skin of an onion. These roots have died and are decaying.

Soggy Trunk

Majesty Palm Stem Rot
Majesty Palm Stem Rot

A decaying trunk is even worse than decaying roots. It should be firm but supple, with the grace of an empress.

If it’s soft, soggy, yellowing, or spongy, it means your root rot has spread from the roots to the plant’s body. At this point, you may be able to easily pull off the stem.

Causes of Majesty Palm Root Rot: Causes and Solutions

Over-watering

Majesty Palm Soil Soggy Due to Overwatering
Majesty Palm Soil Soggy Due to Overwatering

Over-watering is without a doubt the leading cause of root rot in indoor plants, particularly palms.

When it comes to water levels, the Majesty Palm is a bit fickle. This palm prefers consistently damp soils because it grows along waterways in its native range.

However, this is not the same as being wet and soaked. All plants necessitate the presence of small pockets of air within their growing medium.

When those pockets of water are consistently full, the roots begin to drown.

I’ve written about signs and treatment of over-watered palms in general here. It should be noted, however, that Majesty palms are unique in that they require constant moisture.

They don’t like to dry out between waterings, so don’t be too concerned if you’ve over-watered yours. It’s a difficult balance to strike!

Solution:

Stop watering your palm right now.

Allow the top two or three inches of potting medium to completely dry between waterings. Keep drip trays and saucers empty as well.

This will keep the air pockets in your growing medium intact and allow your palm to breathe.

If your poor Majesty is truly soaked, consider completely re-potting it. This will allow you to examine the root mass closely and assess any damage.

It also allows you to get rid of any wet, potting soil.

Re-potting Tips:

  • Take your plant out of its pot. Remove the soil and gently flush your roots with clean water. This will get rid of any rotting matter near the roots.
  • Using sterile scissors or shears, carefully cut off soft, blackened, or otherwise damaged roots.
  • Make certain that new pots have adequate drainage. They require at least three drainage holes, and the more the better.
  • Repotting to remove waterlogged soil does not necessitate a new pot. But use a clean pot. Using hot water and a food-grade detergent to sterilize your old pot is not recommended.
  • Majesty palms thrive in a growing medium made up of equal parts cactus mix, peat moss, and sand.
  • Make certain that all equipment is sterilized between uses.

Poor drainage

Stale, stagnant soils are ideal for pathogens that cause root rot. A growing medium that does not allow water to drain is ideal for the growth of fungi and bacteria.

Your Majesty palm necessitates a light, sandy soil rich in organic matter. Water should be able to flow freely through, but the mixture should be moist.

It can be difficult to achieve the balance that these proud palms do!

Solution:

First, inspect your pot. Is there a lack of drainage holes, or are the ones that exist too few or too small? Are those holes clogged or otherwise incapable of draining?

What is the texture of your soil? Is the soil heavy and loamy? Does water linger on the surface of your medium before soaking through?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to re-pot. Your Majesty’s palm deserves royal treatment in a palace fit for a king.

Every new pot should have at least three drainage holes.

I recommend a cactus mix with equal parts sand and peat moss mixed in for growing medium.

The cactus mix drains well, but the peat retains the precise amount of moisture that these fussy nobles require to thrive.

Poor quality soil

Not all potting soils are the same. Mixtures that are too heavy will clump into hard masses that repel water and crush your Majesty’s delicate root system fibers.

Mixtures that are too light, on the other hand, will not hold any water at all.

Your Majesty also appreciates acidic soils. While this may appear harsh, the pH of your growing medium is critical to maintaining the proper nutrient balance for your palm.

Solution:

Majesty palms require a medium that is light, free-flowing, and rich in organic matter.

As previously stated, a loose cactus mix augmented with peat moss and sand is ideal.

Not only will the moss retain the ideal amount of water, but its slow decay will also provide ongoing nutrition and a healthy level of acidity.

A pH of 5 to 6 is ideal. Not only will this provide your Majesty with the proper nutrient mix, but the level of acidity will also prevent pathogens that cause root rot from establishing themselves.

Fitting Pot

Your Majesty palm’s pot contains its entire kingdom. It must find everything it requires inside.

So you may be tempted to place their palm in the largest pot they can find.

An overly large pot is an issue. It retains water far from the root mass.

It becomes stagnant, becoming a breeding ground for the fungus that causes root rot.

A pot that is too small, on the other hand, quickly becomes clogged with roots.

Water flows erratically through root-bound pots, pooling in some areas and draining too quickly in others. It weakens your plant and makes it susceptible to rot.

Solution:

Choose a pot that is no more than two or three inches larger than the root mass of your plant and no more than two inches wider than the old pot when re-potting it.

Your Majesty palm, like most indoor plants, benefits from re-potting every two years or so. This refreshes the soil, keeping it aerated and nutrient-rich.

Low Temperature

Your Majesty palm is a tropical plant. It needs tropical temperatures to thrive.

Majesty palms prefer temperatures between 75°F-85°F (24°C-30°F), though it can tolerate as low as 65°F (18°C).

Your plant will go dormant if not kept warm at all times. While not harmful, a dormant plant does not use the water in its container.

It is essentially dormant, awaiting the return of warm weather. It’s very easy to over-water a sleeping palm, especially if it’s taking an unscheduled nap due to the heat of summer.

Solution:

Relocate your Majesty palm to a warmer location in your home.

Because these palms prefer bright light and can tolerate small amounts of direct sunlight, a brightly lit window is an excellent choice for a cold palm.

Keep your palm away from air conditioning vents and other drafts.

Watering During the Dormant Period

As previously stated, cold temperatures will cause your Majesty palm to go dormant.

During the winter, your palm prefers to sleep, conserving energy until summer returns.

If you water your dormant palm, the roots will sit in cold, stagnant water, creating an ideal breeding ground for disease.

Solution: During the winter, it is critical to reducing watering to a minimum. Some larger specimens may not require any water at all during the winter!

In between waterings, check the moisture level in your soil. Allow the top two or three inches of potting medium to completely dry out before watering your palm.

Inadequate Lighting

Unlike many palms, your Majesty enjoys being the center of attention.

This regal plant requires 6-8 hours of bright indirect light per day and will benefit from a few hours of direct sunlight as well.

When exposed to sufficient light, your palm will draw moisture from the soil evenly, converting it to sugars through the power of photosynthesis. Water will also be lost as a result of transpiration.

The water you give your plant can cycle if it has access to good light. It leaves the soil as a result of your plant’s natural biological functions.

Your plant will struggle to produce the food it requires without that light, and the water will remain in the growing medium near the roots.

Solution:

Your Majesty’s palm is far too beautiful to be hidden away! Move your plant to a well-lit area of your growing space. It is best to have a room with south-facing windows.

When they receive the necessary light, your palm will come to life and begin to utilize the water you lavish upon it.

Fungal Infections

Fungus is ultimately responsible for all root rot, regardless of the contributing factors.

These nasties enter your palm’s pot as spores and destroy roots that have been weakened by over-watering, poor temperature,, or other signs of carelessness.

He’s a rundown of some of the more common fungi that cause root rot.

Fungi that cause root rot:

Fungus NameDescription
PhytophthoraSudden onset, especially in cold weather. Slimy black or red roots, foul smell. Fronds quickly yellow from the tip and die.
Fusarium solani (Fustarium wilt)Irregular wilting and yellowing of fronds. Veins turn brown. Starts at the root before spreading to the stem.
Rhizoctonia solaniSoft patches and sunken lesions on stems. Poor growth, yellow and wilting leaves. Thrives in cold conditions.
Thielaviopsis basicolaWeak, yellow leaves. Slow onset, often mistaken for malnutrition. Produces root lesions, progresses to blackened, rotting roots at end-stage.
PythiumSudden onset. Targets younger plants. Often starts as the soggy stem.

Solution:

The best way to deal with the fungal disease is to avoid it altogether. Spores move through the atmosphere, water and soil.

You can limit the impact of these villains on your indoor plants if you can control spore transmission.

Maintain good hygiene. Plants that are sick must be quarantined. After using tools, make sure they are sterilized.

Even if you are re-potting healthy-looking plants, never re-use soil or water after re-potting.

It may be tempting to simply dump a full drip tray onto a thirsty-looking neighbor when watering, but this is a great way to spread disease throughout your entire collection.

The main reason to try to prevent rather than cure fungal diseases is that it is extremely difficult to treat them successfully once they have become established.

Some people choose to repot and hope that the new, clean soil will help.

Others enjoy experimenting with soil drenches or dusting their roots when re-potting. Each has a different success and failure rate.

Let’s take a look at your alternatives.

Organic and Chemical Treatment for Root Rot

Chemical Fungicide

Chemical fungicides (Check out the prices on Amazon here) are the big guns for treating root rot. These potent chemicals kill any fungus that may be present in your growing medium.

Strong fungicides pose a risk in the home for the indoor gardener. When applying, always read the instructions carefully and wear gloves.

If possible, take the palm completely outside and do not bring it back inside until the treatment is finished.

It’s a tricky business, which is why I save strong synthetic treatments for severe cases of rot in plants I can’t afford to lose.

Biological Control

Those who do not want to use harsh chemicals may want to consider using a bacterial agent. These liquid fungicides are beneficial bacteria colonies.

Once established, these beneficial microbes feast on the fungi in the soil as if it were a mushroom buffet.

They’re an excellent choice for indoor plants. (Check out the prices on Amazon here)

Homemade Fungicide for Root Rot

Charcoal

Pathogens in the soil can be removed using horticultural charcoal mixed with a new potting medium.

When used as any other soil additive, research shows that it works by absorbing toxins released by fungi. (Source)

Cinnamon

Cinnamon tree bark is more than just a culinary delight; it also has potent fungicidal properties.

Cinnamon’s flavorful compounds have been shown in studies to destroy fungal tissue on contact and prevent spores from germinating.

Applying cinnamon to your growing mixture is the simplest way to treat and prevent root rot.

You can dust it directly onto the roots of young plants and sprinkle powdered cinnamon over the surface of their pots.

For more established plants, a cinnamon tincture will get the beneficial compounds deep into the soil.

Overnight, steep a tablespoon of powdered cinnamon in a pint of warm water. After removing the powder, apply the liquid directly to the soil.

Chamomile

Chamomile tea may appear to be a better choice for a calming evening tonic than a plant pathogen killer.

However, chamomile flowers have evolved their own defenses against intruders and are high in sulfur compounds that kill fungi.

Simply make a cup of tea with any commercial chamomile blend that contains real chamomile flowers.

Some people recommend steeping the flowers overnight to get the most out of them. When the tea has cooled, it can be poured directly into the soil.

How to Save Majesty Palm from Root Rot

Repotting Majesty Palm

Stop Watering

Put away the watering can as soon as you notice root rot and give your Majesty palm a chance to recover.

Remove The Plant From Its Pot And Save The Root System

Remove your pot and gently brush or wash away any soggy potting mix.

The last of the debris can be removed by gently rinsing the roots under running water. Allow them to dry while you prepare the next steps.

Remove The Infected Roots

It’s depressing work but cut away blackened or browning roots with sterile shears or scissors.

Re-potting with New Soil and Pot

A well-balanced mixture of cactus mix, sand, and peat moss is ideal.

Use a clean new pot with at least three drainage holes that are no more than two or three inches wider than the root mass of your palm.

Watering Following Re-potting

Water only after the top three inches of the potting medium has completely dried.

This will vary depending on the season and the size of your plant, as well as the temperature and humidity level in the area around your Majesty palm.

It’s a good idea to check your plant’s soil once a week, especially if you’ve already treated it for root rot. Examine the trunk for signs of dampness, foul odors, and softening.

In the summer, your palm may require weekly watering, while in the winter, you may only need to water it once a month – or less!

Only use clean water to water your plants. Rainwater is ideal, but filtered tap water or distilled water purchased in a bottle will suffice.

Avoid drinking straight tap water because it frequently contains too much chlorine and fluoride.

After-care Instructions

Keep your regal beauty at the proper temperature, light level, and humidity to ensure a long reign.

Majesty palms require bright light for up to eight hours per day and thrive in temperatures ranging from 75°F to 85°F (24°C to 30°F).

These palms also benefit from higher humidity levels than most, ranging from 50% to 60%.

While humidity issues generally have no effect on the state of their roots, your picky palm will do better overall if you keep the humidity constant.

Majesty Palm Propagation When Root Rot Is Severe

If everything else fails, it might be time to propagate your Majesty’s palm.

Majesty palms reproduce by producing small baby plants known as ‘pups’ at their base.

The roots of the pup gradually separate from those of the parent, forming new plants in their own right.

If your Majesty palm is mature enough, you might find a few little princes or princesses hiding away at the base of the larger plant, waiting for their moment.

To propagate:

  1. Remove your Majesty’s palm.
  2. Loosen the rhizome Because we are propagating from a potentially dying plant, we must be gentle.
  3. Examine the root mass or the trunk of your Majesty palm for smaller shoot-like growths. The pups.
  4. Separate the pups from the parent plant’s root mass.
  5. Rinse your new pup’s roots thoroughly, then pot as usual. Cinnamon powder in the pup’s new potting medium is advised.
  6. Go back and check the roots. In extreme cases,, the parent plant can be thrown away rather than re-potted. Repot as directed.

New palms are more fragile than their parents in every way. They require more frequent watering, often on a daily basis, and benefit from misting rather than can watering.

Once established, they will require no more care than their parent plant – a lordly king or queen of any home or office.

How to Prevent and Control Majesty Palm Root Rot

  1.  Avoid water-logging

Before watering, allow the top three inches of potting medium to dry completely. Also, make sure your pot has adequate drainage.

  1. Using appropriate soil mix

The regal Majesty palm prefers a loose, well-draining medium with a consistent level of gentle moisture.

A cactus mixture with equal parts peat moss and sand is ideal. It will retain enough moisture to keep your reigning monarch happy without becoming soggy or wet.

  1. Watering Schedule

Check the soil of your Majesty palm’s on a weekly basis. If the top three inches of soil are dry, it will only require watering.

This varies greatly depending on the season, the amount of light in your growing environment, and the humidity.

In the warmer months, you may need to water your plants once a week. Monthly in a cooler. However, always double-check.

  1. Loosen soil

Loosen the soil on a regular basis to keep your growing medium in good condition.

During your weekly check-in, poking around with your finger or a soil probe is more than enough.

Taking the time to inspect the soil for changes in texture or smell will give you a leg up on dealing with any future issues.

  1. Ensuring care requirements

It’s just a matter of taking care of the rest now that you’ve got the water levels under control.

Maintain the proper humidity and temperature for your Majesty palm.

Make sure it gets 6 to 8 hours of light per day and is fertilized once a month with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season.

Regularly prune away dead fronds and re-pot every two to three years.