What’s Wrong With My Palm Tree?

You've noticed a change in the fronds on your palm, or perhaps it's not thriving. What in the world is wrong with your palm tree? We've done research on common pests and diseases of palm trees to help you troubleshoot. Follow our easy-to-follow list to narrow down the issue.

The most common diseases and pests that afflict palm trees are:

  • Palm tree trunk rot (also known as root and butt rot)
  • Leaf spot
  • False smut
  • Bud rot
  • Nutritional problems
  • Aphids
  • Mites
  • Weevils
  • Caterpillars
  • Giant Palm borer

We'll look at each of these issues in greater depth below as well as give you some ideas for addressing the problem. So, please read on, and hopefully, you can aid your palm back to health.

Dried leaves on a palm tree houseplant, What's Wrong With My Palm Tree?

Common Diseases Of Palm Trees

We're going to first look at diseases that can affect your palm trees. Normally, these happen because of either temperature or moisture conditions, or a nutritional problem.

Palm Tree Trunk Rot

Trunk rot, also known as butt or root rot, is a common issue among palm tree varieties. You'll first notice the wilting or drooping of your palm fronds. Fronds collapse and fall against the trunks. Eventually, all new growth becomes stunted and the interior of the palm tree slowly rots away until the whole tree comes down.

A fungus causes this disease that lives on interior plant tissue. Sadly, there is no chemical control for this disease. Once it infects your plant, it's a death sentence. The best thing you can do is make sure to dig up and dispose of all parts of the infected plant to keep other, nearby palms healthy. Also, try not to cut the surface or roots of your palm when planting or transplanting. That's how the fungus gets into the healthy plant.

Leaf Spot

This is another common palm affliction, but fortunately this one is not as deadly. This fungus causes dark spots to appear on the surface of palm fronds. Though it's simply cosmetic, if you don't like the appearance, use a fungicidal spray containing copper to kill it.

 A fungicide, like the one featured below, will work to cure your plant of leaf spot.

Click here for this on Amazon.

False Smut

This is another form of leaf spot. Common in areas of high humidity, false smut only affects the palms of the Arecaceae family. You'll know what it is by the black, wart-like bumps that show up on the surface of fronds. Symptoms tend to show up on the older leaves.

The best thing you can do for this form of leaf spot is to make sure your palms have air circulation. This helps with moisture from humidity. Achieve good air circulation by planting palms with plenty of room in between each plant. You can also use a copper fungicide like the one mentioned above, though it's not necessary.

Bud Rot

When there's a fungus among us, it can be a problem for palm trees. Bud rot occurs after excessive rainy conditions and works much like root or butt rot. You'll notice drooping fronds, and black lesions on young buds and leaves. Eventually, everything dies but the palm's trunk.

You can use a copper fungicide, like the one below, to help stave off the fungal intrusion.

Click here for this on Amazon.

Nutritional Problems In Palm Trees

Like other plants, palm trees need the right nutrients in their soil for optimum growth and healthiness. If they are missing some critical elements, then palms will suffer.

A common problem, characterized by yellowing and thinning of the fronds, is potassium deficiency. Treat with sulfur-coated potassium sulfate, and new growth will grow in healthy.

Nutritional Supplements

The product below also contains magnesium. A magnesium deficiency often goes hand-in-hand with a potassium deficiency.

Click here for this on Amazon.

Palm Fertilizers

The best way to ensure your palms stay healthy with all the nutrients they need is by providing a yearly feeding of palm fertilizer. If you feed your palms 3 to 4 times per year, you shouldn't need to worry about nutritional deficits. 

Palm fertilizers like this are easy to apply. Simply shake on the soil surrounding your landscape or potted palm and regular rainwater takes it down to the roots. It will feed your palm for up to 3 months.

Click here for this on Amazon.

Common Pests In Palm Trees

Like diseases and fungi, bugs and pests can do a number on beautiful palm foliage. We'll take a look at some of the most common predators, how you can spot them, and what to do about them.


Aphids are tiny bugs that suck the juice out of the palm's fronds. They cause frond yellowing, prevent photosynthesis, and stunt palm growth. You'll know your palm has aphids when you see a moldy substance on the leaves. Look for an insecticide specifically made for aphids to control these pests.

This pesticide featured below works for both aphids and mites. Plus, it treats leaf spot.

Click here for this on Amazon.


Mites are a relative of the spider. They do their nasty work by attaching to the underside of the palm's fronds and nibbling away. You'll notice a spider webbing sort of appearance on the bottom of the leaf where mites suck out the chlorophyll from the fronds. Mites are common in both indoor and outdoor palm tree varieties. 

Below, the featured product is a good spray for indoor palms and houseplants. Made from flower oils, it won't harm humans or animals.

Click here for this on Amazon.


Probably the worst of the palm pests, you often don't know you have a weevil infestation until it's too late. These pests work their way into the palms by boring holes into the trunk. As a result, the trunk weakens and the tree often dies. There are traps available for weevils but common insecticides are not very effective.

We've provided additional information on ways to trap weevils in this blog, "15 Best Palm Tree Insecticides That Can Save Your Trees."


The cabbage palm caterpillar is the larvae of the owlet moth. These pests can invade the structural components of your palm tree, weakening its integrity and eventually causing death. Treat caterpillars with pesticides if you have an infestation.

The caterpillar killer product, pictured below, can be sprayed to reach higher branches of taller palm trees. Simply attach a hose to the container to apply your palms.

Click here for this product on Amazon.

Giant Palm Borers

These giant beetles are usually the bearer of bad news. They're considered a secondary pest of palm trees, which means they don't come to town unless your palm is already dying. They bore large holes into the trunks of your palms, often hastening the work started by either weevils or trunk rot. There's no need to treat them as they are not the primary cause of the problem.

To Conclude

Palm trees are beautiful in the landscape. We love them around pools, and yards, and lining walkways. So, we want to keep palms healthy. Hopefully, this troubleshooting list has given you a starting point for identifying your palm's problem.

Thank you for visiting GardenTabs.com, and if you are interested in caring for palms, check out few other posts we think may be of interest:

How To Tell If a Palm Tree is Dead? [And How To Revive It]

11 Low-Maintenance Palm Trees That You’ll Love

8 Palm Trees That Stay Small [Great Houseplants Options!]




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