Why Is My Cat Palm Dying? (Common Problems and Solutions)

The cat palm (Chamaedorea cataractarum) is often easy to care for and is a great beginner plant. It is low maintenance, drought tolerant, and can handle most types of light.

If you forget to water your palm, it will easily survive until you water it again. It can also tolerate full sun and partial shade.

While the cat palm is easy to care for and is quite tolerant of neglect, there are times that the plant can have issues and even die.

Understanding what to look for and how to fix problems is critical to allow your cat palm to survive as long as possible.

Why is My Cat Palm Dying?

To determine why your cat palm is having trouble, take a moment and inspect your indoor palm.

If it does not look as good as it looked when you first purchased it, you may have trouble keeping it alive.

Why Is My Cat Palm Dying?
Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, CC BY-SA 4.0

Throughout this article, we will go over a handful of reasons why your cat palm may be struggling. The following common problems could be:

  • Brown leaves from too much sunlight
  • Light yellow and drooping leaves from overwatering
  • Drooping from underwatering
  • Curling leaves from underwatering or overfertilization
  • Browning leaves from underwatering your palm
  • Cold injury
  • Pests like mealybugs and spider mites

How to Tell if Your Cat Palm is Dying

There are a few things to check to see what is causing your cat palm’s ill health. Before it is completely dead, you can fix the issue and bring it back to life.  

1. Black and Brown Leaves on a Cat Palm

While a cat palm prefers bright indirect sunlight, it cannot tolerate too much direct sun. Too much sun can cause burnt leaves to turn brown.

Move Your Cat Palm

You should move your cat palm to a darker area so it can receive partial shade throughout the day. Any burnt or brown foliage should be pruned to encourage new growth. 

2. Yellowing Leaves

Discoloration on a cat palm can be an early detector of your cat palm dying. This means your cat palm is receiving either too much sunlight or overwatering.

If the palm is receiving too much sun, you should move your palm to a place with partial shade. However, if that is not the problem, then it may be due to overwatering.

Yellow Leaves from Overwatering

If your cat palm’s leaves are yellowing and you also notice droopiness in the leaves, then you could be overwatering your palm. If there is standing water in the pot and the soil is quite damp, you should not be watering your palm.

How to Fix Overwatering

Wait until the soil is completely dry before watering your cat palm again to fix overwatering.

If the roots face root rot due to the wet soil, you must cut the affected roots and leave the healthy roots.

This means that you will need to repot the plant with fresh and new soil. When you water the cat palm again, you should do so when it is completely dry.

3. Drooping Leaves From Underwatering

If your cat palm’s leaves are drooping, this may be due to underwatering. 

How to Fix Underwatering

Fixing underwatering is relatively easy. You should simply water your plant thoroughly.

When the soil is dry again after a week or so, you should water the palm again.

4. Curling Leaves on a Dying Cat Palm

There are multiple reasons why your cat palm may have curling leaves. This may be due to underwatering or too much fertilizer. If your soil is dry, you should water your plant.

However, suppose you recently fertilized your plant and have noticed an issue. In that case, fertilizer is most likely the cause of the problem.

Curling Leaves from Overfertilizing

A cat palm should only be fertilized once every other month. If you notice that you fertilize your cat palm more than once a month, then you are fertilizing the plant too much.

You also should not fertilize the plant excessively when it is not in peak growing season.

Overfertilization often leads to drying out the plant, causing the leaves to curl. This is also the case with other insufficient nutrient issues.

How to Fix Overfertilization

To bring your plant back to life after fertilizing it too much, you should switch out the soil with new soil. When you repot your cat palm, you should refrain from fertilizing the plant again.

5. Cold Injuries  

When a cat palm has red and brown spots on its leaves, you may have your palm in too cold of a temperature. If you are leaving your palm on the porch in the winter, this may cause an issue.

However, if your home is under 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to place it somewhere warmer or warm up your home.

Fixing A Cold Injury

If your cat palm is outside during the winter or colder days, you will need to bring your cat palm inside. It mustn’t be exposed to an environment below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

After moving your cat palm to a warmer area, prune any leaves showing damage.

6. Signs of Pests on a Cat Palm

Many pests can lead to your cat palm’s death. You should check for any signs of pests whenever you water your palm, as some could eventually kill your plant.

These pests could be scales, mealybugs, or spider mites.

Each type has a different appearance. This may be the following:

  • Scales. Scales will appear as black dots on the stem of your plant. They are usually seen in large clumps.
  • Mealybugs. Mealybugs have a white appearance similar to cotton. While they are slow, they are strong and can easily travel from plant to plant.
  • Spider mites. Spider mites are red, brown, and relatively small in size. You will notice the spiders moving around on your plant along with their webbing.

How to Get Rid of Pests

When treating your cat palm for pests, you can wipe down your plant with mild soap or insecticide. You can also spray it with insecticide and neem oil to stop the infestation.

You should also prune any parts of the plant that are completely infected and dispose of them as quickly as possible to prevent any spread.

Related: Greatest Cat Palm Benefits