Why Are My Palm Leaves Curling? (Causes and Solutions)


Indoor palm leaves curling

Palm leaves curling is a common problem you may encounter if you are growing this plant.

Now, you need a solution to this problem. It is important to find out the causes before going for any actions. 

Palm  leaves curling mainly due to low humidity and underwatering. In addition insufficient light, overwatering,tap water use, lack of nutrition can also cause this problem. Therefore, identifying the exact cause of curling will help you solve the issue.

In this article I’ll explain all the possible causes and solutions so that you can uncurl and prevent it from curling again.

Low Humidity

Palms thrive well in humid environments. However, rarely can you find humid indoor spaces, especially during colder months when you turn the heater.

Furthermore, an air conditioner lowers your room’s humidity so you will expose your palm to less unfavorable conditions in the summer months. 

Solution

You can move the palm if you have placed it near a heater vent or a drafty walkway.

Normally, the palm will uncurl the leaves if dry or warm air does not continually hit the leaves. You can place a humidifier near the palm or mist it daily using water.

Light

Proper light conditions play a critical role in the growth of palms. Therefore, you should research the best spot where your plant can thrive.

Insufficient Light

When your palm does not receive enough sunlight, its stems get flimsy and thin. Moreover, low light limits the process of photosynthesis, making the leaves lose their bright green color as the edges become curled and crusty.

Solution

Your palm does not need direct sunlight but for photosynthesis, they would need some light.

In this case, you can place the source of light above your place to assist it to grow. 

You can place the palm on your windowpane or put a curtain that can prevent direct sunlight.

You can also increase the amount of light by using a LED bulb since it does not produce heat.

Excessive Light

Generally, plants thrive under a source of light. Since the palms grow well in dim spaces or low light, too much light can release free radicals that can absorb more energy leading to the plants’ destruction.

Apart from the rotting of the palm, the leaves will also start to turn brown and curl.

Solution

You should avoid exposing the palm to direct sunlight. You can move it to a shadier area not completely devoid of light.

Water

Over and under watering can affect your palm. You should consider the kind of palm you have and know the amount of water it needs.

Overwatering

A large amount of water can damage your palm. A soaked soil manages to stiffen the palm’s roots leading to anoxic conditions.

Such an environment contributes to the development of fungus that decomposes root tissues.

I can recognize the results of the rotten root through foul moldy, odor, and blackened appearance. As consequence, the results shrink and start to curl downward.

Solution

If the entire root has rotten, I can cut the healthy section and put it in water. Allow it to produce adventive roots before transplanting it.

If I wish to avoid curling palm leaves because of too soggy soil, I can allow the top inches between 2.5 to 5cm to dry out.

Underwatering

Palms thrive under moist conditions. Lack of water can lead to lower turgor pressure making the leave wilt and curl down. (Source: University of California)

Solution

You should not allow the soil to become crunchy and dry. You can continue checking the dryness of the soil to determine the best time for watering.

Your palm does not need daily watering but depending on the kind of palm, you can water it once a week.

Tap Water

Most people use tap water to water their palms. Unfortunately, tap water contains too many salts and minerals which can buildup in the soil. 

As a result, excessive salts and minerals can alter the soil pH and prevent your palm from absorbing nutrients including nitrogen.

Just like over-fertilizing, excessive salt can make the leaves of the palm discolored and curled.

Solution

The best solution would entail removing the palm from the pot, adding new soil, and watering it using distilled water.

However, you can still use tap water provided you allow it to sit overnight so that salts decant to the bottom of the water tank before using it.

Overfertilization

Palms do not require too much fertilizer and your indoor potting soil will come with some nutrients.

Therefore, adding too much fertilizer reduces water intake, leading to leaf dehydration and leaf drying. 

Solution

In case the excess fertilizer has not affected the palm, you can remove the excess salts. After that, you can transplant the palm in new fresh soil.

Lack of Nutrition

In most cases, inadequate nutrition can lead to palm leave curling. The palm needs minerals such as manganese, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, and iron for its normal development and growth.

Lack of such minerals can hinder the palm’s critical metabolic processes, resulting in curling and yellowing of the leaf edges. 

Too much acidity can lead to a buildup of complex compounds that the palm cannot absorb. Also, the soil pH can lead to decreased nutrients. 

Solution

You should enrich the soil using iron, manganese, and magnesium-rich fertilizer. Since soil pH affects nutrient availability, you should maintain pH 6-6.5.

To correct the soil pH, you can use water rich in calcium and bicarbonates to neutralize the acidic environment.

Soil Type

You should carefully choose the potting soil for your palms. For instance, you should avoid compact kinds of soils such as clay because they retain water. 

If you choose such kind of soil you will face overwatering issues that can make the leaves curl.

Moreover, improper soil can lead to bad aeration of the soil and an anoxic root environment.

Solution

Before you plant your palm, you should select loose and airy potting soil. The best option includes fertile, silt, and loam soil.

Common Pests for Palm

Dehydration, poor air circulation, and dust make the best breeding ground for pests. A wide variety of pests can infest your palm resulting in the curling of leaves. 

Most of the insects carry fungi, bacteria, and viruses that contribute to curling. Some of the common pests that can infest palm include:

Thrips

Thrips cause leaf curl and make the leaves dry up to the extent they crisp and crumb. In particular, the insects can suck the sap of the palm so that it dries out.

Unfortunately, the small size of the insects makes it challenging for you to notice them. (Source: University of Maryland)

Solution

To get rid of the thrips, you can spray the affected palm using neem oil. The solution would ensure that the hatchling and eggs do not survive.

Aphids

The aphids suck the sap of palm stem and leaves. Moreover, the aphids excrete a sugary substance on the leaves which becomes moldy, blocking sunlight.

Solution

To kill the aphids, you can use potassium salts to spray their waxy protective exoskeleton.

Spider Mites

The spider mites have a sharp tooth that they use to pierce through the palm to suck nutrients.

When the insects suck your palm, they cause leaf discoloration and eventually curl leaves at the edges.

Solution

You can use pesticides meant for crawling or arachnids to spray the palm. Such pesticides can kill both the larvae and eggs.

If a few insects infest your palm, you can treat them. However, a heavy infestation will compel you to get rid of the plant to prevent further spread to other palms.

Whitefly

You can find the whitefly at the base of the palm leaves. This insect sucks nutrients from the leaves and excretes surgery substances like aphids.

Mealybugs

The mealybugs pests attach their eggs to the stems and leaves of the palm. After getting hatched, they grow into adult bugs and spread to other leaves and in the soil.

Solution

The pests’ common treatment would involve creating warm soapy water and applying it directly onto the palm.

The homemade spray does not affect the palm and you can safely spray even if you have young children.

Deficiencies that Led to Palm Leaf Curling

You can find it challenging to diagnose nutrient deficiencies. However, if you know the symptoms you can easily determine the remedies to keep your palm healthy.

Phosphorus Deficiency

The deficiency affects the older leaves and finally reaches the palm stem when left untreated.

The symptoms of the deficiency include bluish older leaves and downward curling of leaves.

Remedy

You can use bone-meal supplements that have high phosphorus contents to remedy the issue.

Also, to avoid the deficiency, you can expose your palm to the appropriate environment.

For instance, colder temperatures inhibit the palm from absorbing phosphorus from the soil.

Potassium Deficiency

When the palm begins to flower or bud, it will distribute essential nutrients including potassium to those parts.

When a palm has potassium deficiency It will have dark brown and curled leaves. 

Remedy

You can use a fertilizer with a high amount of fertilizer to remedy the deficiency.

Also, check the pH of the fertilizer to ensure that it a neutral one ranging between 6.0 to 7.0

Nitrogen Deficiency

Nitrogen deficiency affects the oldest leaves before re-distributing them to other leaves.

You can notice the deficiency especially when the older leaves lose their green color, curl inwards and become softer.

Remedy

Apply fertilizer with high nitrogen content into the soil. To avoid nitrogen deficiency completely, you should use amino-acid supplements.

Preventive Measures to Keep Your Palm Happy

You can fix the curling of palm leaves by offering optimal conditions for the plant. You can use the guide below to properly take care of the palm and keep it happy:

Regularly Water Your Palm

You should keep the soil moist and not wet. Meaning you will water the palm when the surrounding soil has turned slightly dry. 

In this case, you can measure the soil’s moisture by sticking my index finger up a length of between 1 to 2 inches into the soil. If the soil has moist conditions, then you should not water the palm

Moreover, you should ensure that the soil allows for drainage and the pot has a drainage hole at the bottom.

Arguably, if excess water cannot escape, the palm’s roots can rot because the surrounding will become too wet.

Cleaning Your Palm

You should use distilled water at least every month to wash your palm. Washing your palm will help remove dust on its leaves and steps and keep it looking green and lush.

Ensure Soil Drainage

The palm cannot grow well in soil with poor drainage and they will show signs of stress.

Therefore, you should ensure that the soil drains well to curb nutrient deficiencies and rooting of roots.

Good indoor soil on your pot should not become soggy or clump after watering your palm. In case you live in a humid area, you will need to buy soil with better drainage.

Provide Your Palm with the Right Humidity

Palm thrives well in humid conditions but you should keep them away from extreme humidity swings and temperatures. Palm thrives at a temperature of between 50- 80°F (10-26 °C)

On the contrary, the ideal humidity for palm ranges between 40% to 80%. Arguably, misting the palm leaves during the day can assist with humidity. Misting also hinders the leaves from becoming dusty and browning.

Offer Your Palm Sometime to Relax

Palm like the outdoor environments. Therefore, taking them outdoors a few times a year can help curb diseases and pests and encourage photosynthesis. 

Feed Your Palm Regularly

Most people make the mistake of using too much fertilizer that leads to the burning of the roots. If you have placed your palm outdoors, it will require more fertilizer.

However, it will require less fertilizer if you have exposed its roots to less light and heat.

Therefore, you should choose controlled release pellets or water-soluble fertilizer to feed your palm at most three to four times a year.

Homeowners looking for a beginner-friendly plant can choose palm because of its low maintenance needs.

The palm does not require a lot of care to maintain, apart from placing it in an unfavorable environment. One of the signs of curling leaves refers to stress. 

To prevent palm leaves’ curling, you should pay attention to pests, soil, amount of sunlight, watering schedule, and humidity.

Once you meet such conditions, you will have a plant with luscious green leaves for several years.

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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