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Sickly indoor palm

I HAVE an indoor golden cane palm that is dying off from the tips of its fronds. Could this be from too much or too little water? When I bought it the tops of its roots were exposed. Should I put more soil on to cover them?


THERE are several factors that could be contributing to the dead tips on your golden cane palm and it can be very difficult to determine what the actual cause is. As you suggest, it could be too much or too little water, but it could also be too much fertiliser, lack of humidity around the leaves (such as being in a very dry room or close to a heater or fireplace), stress caused by pests or disease, something in the water (such as chlorine), or many other things.

I wouldn't worry about exposed roots at the base of the stem. It's the tips of the roots that do almost all the work, and if they are healthy then it's best to leave well alone. You could remove the plant from the pot to check out its roots. Healthy root tips should be plump and whitish. If you suspect root rot, shake off all loose potting mix, trim back any dead looking roots and repot into fresh mix.

One way to improve the look of the plant is to simply cut off the dead tips with sharp scissors. But this won't solve the problem and eventually you'll probably get further die back.

Ideally, allow the top 1-2cm of mix to dry out somewhat before watering and under no circumstances leave the pot sitting in a saucer filled with water. Only apply fertiliser during the warm summer months and then make sure to follow the label recommendations. If in doubt give less rather than more. Every now and then take the plant outside into the rain or give it a good hosing down to wash the leaves clean of dust. Don't use leaf shine or oils on the leaves as they can damage some palms. And check it for scale or mealybug infestations. Confidor or Rogor 100 are effective at controlling them.

Weekend Gardener, Issue 151, 2004, Page 26

Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH.

Andrew Maloy Weekend Gardener

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