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Monday, November 11, 2013

Central Growth Bright Yellow in Palm

Q. Hello, I'm hoping you might offer a suggestion for a sick/ugly palm tree.  I have a Mexican fan palm in my back yard in Mesquite that was planted from a 24" box nearly five years ago (in December, by the way).  About this time last year, it developed what I called the "bald man" look, with the top fronds curving down much earlier than normal, leaving only the emerging (newly opened or unopened) fronds sticking up.  When they emerged, they were a uniform yellow color - the older fronds' color is fine, except for the curved stalk. 

When summer came this year, it returned to normal and looked great all summer.  Now, it is doing the same thing again this year.  Coincidentally, last year and this year were the only times it's produced the strands of seeds/berries.  If it's going to look terrible during the cooler months (which is when we are at this home), I'm probably going to have it removed and replaced with something else.  Before I take that drastic step, I thought I'd see if perhaps you could offer suggestions to "cure" this problem.I thought I'd write for your advice and include a photo.  I'd appreciate any suggestions you can make.

A. That sort of yellowing in the growing point of the palm is usually a sign that the central bud is going to die. Once the bud dies of a single trunk palm, the palm dies. The fact that it was yellow and recovered kind of surprises me. It is usually an indicator that the central bud is diseased.

This is a queen palm with new, immature fronds coming from the central bud.
On another note, Palm trees should never be planted during late fall or the winter months. They usually have a higher mortality if planted during this time of the year. The best time to plant them is when there is good weather for a couple of months after they have been planted. Typically palm trees do quite well when planted during the summer months. If you want to try something, you can use a fungicide poured over the top of the central Bud to see if you can arrest the problem.

Another possible problem could be nutritional. I would apply some iron chelate around the base of the tree and water it in now.

Another palm, one of the date palms, with the central fronds coming from the bud yellowing.
Another possible problem might be keeping the soil too wet or the soil might not be draining water very well. Soils that hold too much water can cause this type of yellowing as well. Even another possibility might be that the palm was planted too deeply. If the palm was planted more deeply than it was growing in a nursery then you can develop yellowing like this as well. Make sure the soil drains easily. If the palm may have been planted too deeply or is in a low spot in the yard, you might have to move it somewhere else where the water does not accumulate.

Thirdly, apply a landscape fertilizer in the spring or late winter along with an iron chelate. The iron chelate should contain EDDHA as the chelate in the ingredients.


  1. Update on this palm. In November, I applied Sequestar fully chelated iron 6% as well as magnesium sulfate to the palm with the yellow top and drooping leaves, watering it in repeatedly over several days. It appears to be making a significant difference, as the newly emerged leaves are now green and have quit "drooping" immediately after opening, so the tree is starting to look much better.

  2. Thank you very much for your update. Very helpful.