Why Is Your Parlor Palm Drooping? You Are Doing Something Wrong
As graceful and versatile parlor palms or Neanthe Bella palms may be, they still have their own issues—including drooping. I’ve grown parlor palms for years. Here is a list of reasons why parlor palm leaves droop and how you can treat them!
Parlor palm leaves will droop as a result of underwatering, insufficient light, inadequate humidity, low temperature, and plant stress. Drooping leaves can be treated by providing the palm with adequate moisture and optimal light exposure, ensuring proper drainage, and removing dead leaves.
Unless the wilting is severe, most plant owners don’t notice the subtle drooping of parlor palms until it’s far too late. Regardless of when you manage to spot this, you can still rescue your parlor palm!
Here are the most common reasons why the leaves droop, to begin with.
Excessively dry soil and a lack of water will cause parlor palms to droop. Water the parlor palm deeply, twice a week, until the water runs out of the drainage holes to prevent drooping.
The most common reason behind a drooping parlor palm is that it requires more water. While it should not be allowed to stand in water, many palms prefer to stay moist.
The soil should never be left to completely dry out. So once it feels bone-dry, that plant needs a drink quick!
In cases where this appears to be the only problem the parlor palm is facing, the drooping can easily be remedied by giving the plant a thorough watering.
When a parlor palm is consistently deprived of water, this could harm it and prevent newer palm fronds from opening up.
2. Inadequate Light
Parlor palms deprived of sufficient sunlight exposure will eventually droop. Although parlor palms can adapt to low light, these plants still require sunlight to produce their own food.
Commonly found in the understory in rainforests, parlor palms are used to the dappled sun and are perfect to grow at home, where lighting can be limited.
This ability to adapt to low light is one of the many aspects plant owners love about Chameadorea elegans. Low light, however, does not mean a complete lack of light.
Parlor palms placed in overly shaded rooms will start to droop.
Another danger to keeping the parlor palm in shady conditions is that it is much more prone to overwatering. With less sunlight available to help the soil dry out, the plant will only wilt and droop even further.
3. Low Humidity
Drooping parlor palm leaves can be attributed to low humidity. Moisture evaporates faster in dry environments and can result in wilted parlor palms. Move the parlor palm to bathrooms or kitchens, or place a pebble tray underneath to maintain at least 40% humidity.
Parlor palms tend to thrive in average household humidity between 40–70%. So plant owners that live in extremely low-humidity areas like Nevada may find their parlor palms suffering in such a dry environment.
If the humidity level is too low, the moisture in the soil and plant will evaporate faster than the parlor palm can tolerate, causing it to droop and wilt. This can also lead to browning leaves, a topic that I will cover later on.
Hence, boosting humidity is key to preventing parlor palms from drooping. Despite popular belief, however, misting plants is not a reliable way to increase humidity.
Learn more about misting in this article, Should You Mist Your Houseplants?
Instead, use pebble trays and place them underneath the parlor palm to help raise the humidity.
Another easy solution is to keep the palm in a room with higher humidity, such as the kitchen or the bathroom, provided they have suitable lighting.
4. Low Temperatures
Parlor palms cannot tolerate frost and will droop in temperatures under 50°F. Protect these plants by bringing them indoors. Alternatively, parlor palm can be shielded with plant covers to prevent the leaves from withering.
The Chameadorea elegans, or parlor palm, is a wonderful way to add some tropical flair to your home.
But if you live in a cold environment, the plant may start to wilt once it’s constantly exposed to temperatures below 50°F or 10°C. Younger palms are especially vulnerable and will rapidly droop in response.
Parlor palms left outside during harsh winters may not survive and must be brought indoors or protected from frost damage with plant covers.
5. Plant Stress
Wilting and drooping parlor palm leaves are common signs that the plant is stressed. This frequently occurs after the palm has been repotted or relocated to a new area. Given proper care, palm leaves will return to normal over time.
Last, but not least, stress. Yes, even plants can get stressed!
It’s not uncommon for folks to get excited when they purchase a parlor palm, only to see its leaves dip and decline once they come home. If this parlor palm is new and has just been bought or has been repotted, don’t worry.
The best way to prevent this is to take note of the light in its last environment and try to replicate it and allow it to acclimate over several weeks.
Although it might look concerning, the parlor palm is likely still adjusting to its new environment.
It is, however, in a much weaker state, so be sure to take care of it. Over time, the palm should eventually perk back up and raise its leaves once more.
2 Ways to Identify Drooping Parlor Palms
The two main signs that parlor palm leaves are drooping are when their leaves are overly soft and are so low that they are making contact with the pot.
Parlor palm leaves typically hang down after the fronds open, so how can you tell if they’re drooping? It can be difficult, but here are some of the tell-tale signs the leaves are drooping!
1. Overly Soft Leaves
Parlor palm leaves that have become soft and limp are a good indicator that the plant is drooping.
The leaves of parlor palms should be slender and upright. Palm leaves are flexible and should spring back when pinched.
If the leaves are soft and crinkly, however, this is a sign they’re drooping.
The edges of palm leaves are usually the first part of the leaf to droop, but as time goes on, the rest of the leaf will follow.
2. Leaves are Making Contact With the Pot
Although it is normal for the leaves of parlor palms to hang down slightly, they should not be making contact with their pots. This is a sign the parlor palm is drooping and is potentially in danger.
It’s natural for the parlor palm leaves to grow slightly outwards and hang down. So it can be hard to tell if the leaves are starting to droop, especially if it’s still subtle.
Keep in mind, parlor palm stems and leaves should not be “falling over” or hanging so low that the fronds are touching the side or the bottom of the pot.
At this rate, the plant has drooped significantly and must be taken care of immediately.
4 Common Causes of Brown Parlor Palm Leaves
The leaves of parlor palms turn brown due to 4 common reasons: direct sunlight, excessive fertilizer, too much water, and spider mites.
It can be worrying enough to see your parlor palms wilt and start to droop but what if they start turning brown? Look over the list below to see which factor is the most likely cause!
1. Direct Sunlight
Leaf browning in parlor palms typically occurs when the plant is exposed to intense and direct sunlight exposure. This excessive sun can burn the leaves and kill them.
Although the Neanthe Bella palm is a tropical palm, it should never be placed in direct sunlight.
It’s used to living in the shade of other plants, so the thin leaves of the parlor palm will quickly burn and become brown under harsh and unfiltered light. Even if the plant isn’t outdoors, it can still face terrible sunburn when placed near a window with direct sun.
Sun-burned parlor palm leaves will be brown and crispy at the end or wherever the sun touches the leaves the most. The palm will eventually die if it is not moved to a shadier position.
Because of the nature of this plant, it is far safer to grow parlor palms in areas with more subdued light to help prevent their leaves from scorching under the sun.
Looking for more plants with impressive leaves? Read our article on the 19 Stunning Houseplants with Large Leaves.
2. Excessive Fertilizer
Parlor palms are very light feeders so they don’t need frequent fertilizing. Do not give parlor palms fertilizer more than twice a year, as excessive amounts can harm the plant and lead to drooping leaves. Use half-strength liquid fertilizer to prevent fertilizer burn.
Remember, these plants grow slowly. As a result, they do not require much fertilizer to thrive. This is one of the benefits of owning a parlor palm!
But in situations where the palm is given fertilizer too frequently or one that’s too strong, the plant can be damaged—with its leaves drooping and turning brown at the tips.
With their roots burned by fertilizer, the damage is usually irreversible and can be deadly to the parlor palm. Liquid fertilizer given at half strength is the most ideal.
3. Too Much Water
Overwatered parlor palms will display drooping and browning fronds. Excessive amounts of water can deprive the palm of oxygen and suffocate the plant.
Brown droopy palm leaves are oftentimes a sign of overwatering.
If such is the case, be sure to check underneath the pot. Once the pot is left to sit in puddles regularly and is full of wet soil, your parlor palm is getting too much water.
Waterlogged soil can wreak havoc on parlor palms and, if left unresolved, can even be fatal. Keep reading to learn how these issues can be handled!
4. Spider Mites
Spider mites can cause parlor palm leaves to turn brown and wilt by piercing them to feed off the plant. Eliminate spider mites by hosing the affected palms down or treating them with neem oil.
Parlor palms are quite resilient compared to other houseplants, though red spider mites are known to be an issue.
Infested palms may be covered with tiny spots from where the spider mites have fed. Tiny webs in-between leaves are a surefire way to tell if the plant has been attacked by spider mites.
Palm leaves are particularly sensitive to chemicals, so avoid using synthetic insecticides. A few drops of neem oil mixed with water in a spray bottle can be used as a natural solution for spider mites.
Alternatively, you can take the parlor palm inside a shower and hose down each of the leaves to knock the insects off.
How to Revive Drooping Parlor Palms (4 Easy Ways!)
Wilting and drooping parlor palms can be revived by providing them with sufficient moisture, adequate light exposure, ensuring drainage holes are clear, and pruning dead and dried leaves.
At times, all we need to do is to return to the basics. Maybe all your parlor palm needs is some extra water or sunlight. Keep on reading to see how you can treat their drooping fronds!
1. Provide Sufficient Moisture
Parlor palms with wilting brown leaves can be revived by providing them with sufficient water. Water parlor palms twice a week and keep them in plastic pots to hold more moisture. Allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry to prevent overwatering.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent and treat droopy leaves in parlor palm plants is to make sure they have adequate moisture. If the plant is consistently underwatered despite your best efforts, examine the environment your parlor palm is in.
External factors like the soil, pot, and lighting can affect the palms’ ability to absorb moisture.
An overly small pot made of terracotta or clay filled with fast-draining soil is not a suitable home—the plant may not be able to take in moisture.
Instead, consider planting your parlor palm in a plastic pot or mixing some peat or coco coir into the soil to help it retain moisture.
Pro Tip: Parlor palms are slow growers that prefer moist soil and will benefit from being placed in larger pots that will hold extra water.
A good rule of thumb is to water parlor palms 1–2 times a week and even less in the winter. Parlor palms growing in very bright rooms will need more water than a parlor palm sitting in a shady corner. So adjust the watering sessions according to your plants’ environments.
Prevent excessive moisture and overwatering by allowing the top 2 inches (5.08 cm) of the soil to dry out before watering it again.
2. Adjust Light Exposure
Rejuvenate parlor palms with drooping leaves by providing them with at least 4 hours of indirect sun from eastern and northern windows. Direct light can burn vulnerable palms and must be avoided.
These miniature palms can adapt to deep shade but don’t let this fool you!
Unless your parlor palms are plastic, it’s still necessary to provide the plant with some light to help it photosynthesize!
Help nurse your parlor palm and its droopy leaves back to health, place the parlor palm where it can receive bright, atmospheric light. Northern and eastern windows with sheer curtains are ideal positions.
Try to avoid direct sun as this can quickly burn parlor palms, especially those in fragile conditions.
3. Ensure Proper Drainage
Pots for parlor palms must have adequate drainage holes to ensure excess water does not collect in the pot and cause drooping leaves. Clear drainage holes with a stick to let excess water leave the pot.
I mentioned earlier how harmful overwatering is and how it can cause the plant to droop. But what if you rarely water the plant and it’s still showing signs of overwatering?
For cases like these, check the drainage.
Thanks to their slow growth, parlor palms live with their owners for decades. Because of this, they can live in the same pot for years before they even start to outgrow it. The disadvantage to this, however, is that it’s much easier for the owners to forget about drainage!
Clogged drainage holes can go undetected for long periods. If blocked, the excess water will have nowhere to go, sitting inside the pot and slowly suffocating your parlor palms!
It’s also crucial to avoid placing rocks at the bottom of pots. This can actually worsen drainage.
Read this article to learn more about putting rocks at the bottom of plant pots.
Poke the drainage holes with a stick to make sure they’re completely unclogged.
4. Prune Dead Leaves
Dry, crispy parlor palm leaves serve no purpose and can be removed from the plant. Avoid pruning any drooping leaves. These fronds will return to their original state over time if they are given adequate moisture and light.
Yes, you can cut away those dry ends and damaged leaves. However, unless the leaves are infested with spider mites, try not to remove any droopy fonds.
It might not be a pretty sight but droopy fronds can still capture light for the plant and have a chance of perking back up!
To help the plant preserve its energy and focus on new growth, remove any dead or withered palm leaves.
Pruning dead leaves will quickly improve the parlor palm’s appearance. This is best combined with other treatments such as adjusting light and providing sufficient water to help revive the plant.
Are parlor palms toxic?
Parlor palms are non-toxic to cats, dogs, and humans alike. The juice and sap from its berries is irritating to the skin but this fruit rarely appears on parlor palms grown indoors.
Are parlor palms succulent?
Parlor palms are not succulents. These plants are herbaceous perennials with thin, papery leaves. Therefore, they cannot store water inside their leaves like many succulents do, and require more frequent watering than succulents such as Echeverias and Haworthias.
Summary of Drooping Parlor Palms
Parlor palms that are consistently deprived of sufficient water, light, and placed in areas with low humidity and temperature will droop because their needs are not being met. Plant stress is also a common cause of drooping. But given proper care, the palm leaves will become upright again over time.
Brown palm leaves, however, can be a result of sunburn, excessive fertilizer and water, and spider mites.
Drooping brown parlor palm leaves can be treated and prevented by supplying the palm with enough light, ensuring proper drainage, and watering the plant regularly after the top 2 inches of soil have dried. Dead leaves can also be pruned and removed to keep the palm healthy.
- “Parlor Palm” by n/a in NC State University
- “Chamaedorea elegans Parlor Palm, Neanthe Bella” by Edward F. Gilman in University of Florida
- “Chamaedorea elegans” by Dr. Leonard Perry in University of Vermont