9 Common Parlor Palm Problems (And How to Fix Them)

Out of the table palm varieties, the parlor palm, or the Chamaedorea elegans, is a great beginner plant due to its low maintenance and ability to tolerate most types of indirect light.

They can survive in low light, where some plants would not normally thrive. If you forget to water it, you will not end up starving your palm since it can even tolerate drought.

While they are hardy, low-maintenance plants, parlor palms may run into issues throughout their journey and growth in your home. It is important to check its leaves to see if they are browning, how they are browning, or even curling.

9 Common Parlor Palm Problems
Photo by Pluume321, CC BY-SA 3.0

What is Wrong With My Parlor Palm?

If your parlor palm is not in the most pristine condition in your home, you should take a moment to determine what is wrong with your table palm.

You may notice that it does not look as great as the first day you brought it home.

If this is the case, it is important to thoroughly inspect your palm and see what the leaves look like to determine the issue at hand. Once you notice what the leaves are doing, it will be easier to determine what steps to take to address the problem.

Throughout this article, we will guide you through the possible parlor palm problems you may be facing.

These issues depend on how your plant is behaving. We will go through the following common problems such as:

  1. Brown, spotted leaves from too much direct sunlight.
  2. Light yellow or green leaves from too much direct sunlight or overwatering.
  3. Black spots on your parlor palm from high sun exposure.
  4. Drooping from improper watering. 
  5. Curling leaves from underwatering, low humidity, or overfertilization. 
  6. Brown tips from underwatering your parlor palm. 
  7. Red and brown areas on the leaves from cold weather.  
  8. Freckles on the leaves from fungal bacteria.
  9. Signs of pests and small bugs like mealybugs and spider mites.
What is Wrong With My Parlor Palm?
Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0

1. Spotted Brown Leaves

The parlor palm prefers darker places in a home than other table palm varieties. It does not tolerate direct sun in any way, which is the main culprit for burning leaves and strange discoloration.

A common issue you will see if your parlor palm is exposed to too much direct sunlight is spotted brown leaves. These leaves will be practically burnt and cannot be fixed.

Move Your Parlor Palm to a Darker Spot

If you notice this happening to your parlor palm, it is important to move it to a darker spot or corner where the sun is indirect instead of directly onto the foliage. 

The burnt foliage should be removed and pruned from your parlor palm to encourage new, healthy green growth. When you trim the burnt leaves, your plant will no longer send nutrients and energy to the impaired areas, so new leaves can grow.

The new growth should be a rich dark green. When you see the dark green foliage on your parlor palm, you know it is in the right place and not getting burnt.

2. Light Yellow or Green Leaves on a Parlor Palm

There are two reasons why a parlor palm’s leaves can get discolored. This could be from too much sunlight or overwatering.

Too Much Sunlight

Before the leaves get burnt completely, you may notice that your parlor palm has light yellow or light green leaves.

These discolored leaves are a result of too much sun, whether it be direct or indirect.

During Discoloration, Move Your Palm to a Darker Place

The discoloration of foliage is the first sign before the leaves are completely scorched by the sun.

If you notice this, it is time to move your parlor palm to a darker place.

Discoloration from Overwatering

If your parlor palm turns light in color and you notice droopiness in the leaves, this could be an overwatering issue.

It is essential to ensure you are waiting for the soil to dry out completely before watering your parlor palm.

How to Fix Overwatering

If the roots are not healthy and starting to rot, you can cut off the affected areas and only save the healthy roots.

Before transplanting your parlor palm completely, ensure the roots grow prosperously.

However, if you have yet to notice any root rot, it is important to change your watering patterns before it becomes a root rot issue. Be sure to dry out the soil completely before watering your parlor palm again.

3. Black Spots on Foliage

When you notice black spots on the tips or entirety of your parlor palm leaves, you have incorrectly placed your parlor palm in direct sunlight.

Black spots are high sunburnt leaves. This is from high exposure to direct sunlight from putting your parlor palm outside or on a porch.

How to Repair Black Spots

Similar to browning leaves from too much sunlight, moving your parlor palm to a darker, more appropriate place is essential.

When placed in a spot it enjoys, you will notice the parlor palm returning to its rightful color with dark green foliage.

As for the black spots, the sunburnt leaves cannot be repaired. It is important to prune them back to encourage growth elsewhere on the plant.

4. Drooping Leaves

Drooping leaves may become a problem for your parlor palm due to underwatering or overwatering.

Drooping Leaves from Underwatering

When it comes to drooping leaves from underwatering, check the soil and see if it is too dry.

If the soil is bare-bones, it is time to water your parlor palm if it’s showing you signs, too!

Drooping Leaves from Overwatering

To find out if overwatering is causing your parlor palm to droop, check the soil and see how moist it is.

If your soil is still moist and there is standing water, you have overwatered your parlor palm.

How to Fix Drooping Leaves from Overwatering

If you have overwatered your parlor palm, check the roots for root rot. If you notice unhealthy roots, it is important to cut those roots and only transplant the healthy roots.

If you do not notice any root rot, change your watering habits to water your parlor palm less and allow the soil to dry out completely before watering the soil again.

5. Curling Leaves on a Parlor Palm

There are a handful of reasons your parlor palm’s leaves may be curling. You may be underwatering your parlor palm or feeding it too much fertilizer.

You could even have your parlor palm in a draft with low humidity.

Curling Leaves from Underwatering

If you check the soil of your parlor palm and the soil is completely dry, you have underwatered your parlor palm.

At this point, you should sufficiently water your parlor palm without leaving any standing water. Prune the curling leaves to encourage new and prosperous growth.

Curling Leaves from Overfertilization

A parlor palm does not require much fertilizer or any at all.

Suppose you have been fertilizing your parlor palm quite often or have been fertilizing it in the winter, outside of the growing season. In that case, you have been feeding your palm too much.

Overfertilization leads to leaf dehydration and the leaves drying out, causing the curling you see on your parlor palm.

How to Fix Overfertilization

To fix overfertilization, simply transplant your palm into a pot with fresh soil with little to no fertilizer.

Curling Leaves from Low Humidity

Due to its native environment in South America, the parlor palm prefers a humid environment.

It is important to check the placement of your palm to see if it is placed under a draft or in a low-humidity area.

The Solution to Low Humidity

Your parlor palm will uncurl once placed in an environment with high to average humidity. It is important to change where your parlor palm is positioned so it is out of a draft.

You can also add a humidifier or mist your parlor palm leaves to maintain proper humidity levels.

6. Browning Tips on Leaves

If your parlor palm has brown tips on its foliage, you have underwatered your plant. Make sure to water your parlor palm if you notice the soil is too dry.

After watering your plant, you can prune the browned leaves to encourage new, green growth.

Related: Why Does My Parlor Palm Have Brown Tips?

7. Red and Brown Areas on Foliage

If you notice the foliage of your parlor palm having red and brown spots or areas, your parlor palm is too cold.

Your plant’s leaves become damaged when not at the right temperature.

How to Fix a Cold Injury

Ensure your parlor palm is in a room above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you have placed your parlor palm outside and the weather is dropping or low, it is essential to bring it inside to maintain the correct temperature it needs.

Your parlor palm must be placed somewhere not under a draft or near an air-conditioning unit.

Once your parlor palm is in a new spot at the right temperature, you should prune the injured leaves to encourage new growth.

8. Freckles from Fungal Bacteria

If you notice spots of fungal bacteria on your parlor palm, the palm might be too cold and moist.

The fungal will not necessarily kill your parlor palm, so it is more of a cosmetic issue at best.

How to Get Rid of Fungal Growth

The best way to treat a fungal problem is to remove the infected leaves. Once you do this, increase the air circulation around the plant to kill off any leftover fungi.

When you are watering your parlor palm, make sure to only water the soil while you are treating it for fungal bacteria.

9. Signs of Pests on a Parlor Palm

To maintain a healthy habitat for your houseplants, it is essential to regularly check for pests on your plants.

When you water your parlor palm, you should check the leaves for pests like scales, mealybugs, and spider mites.

  • Scales. When you notice scales on your parlor palm, you will notice immobile black dots along the stem of your plant. They can range in color and size and are usually seen in large clumps. 
  • Mealybugs. Mealybugs have the appearance of cotton. They are slow but strong traveling bugs that can move from plant to plant. They are also fast breeders and can lay almost 600 eggs. 
  • Spider mites. Spider mites are actual spiders that are red, brown, and small. They are difficult to see. However, you may notice the reddish webbing on the underside of the leaves or anywhere on the plant. 

When treating your parlor palm for insect infestation, you can wipe down your plant with a cloth with mild soap.

After removing as many bugs as possible, you can spray your parlor palm with an organic insecticide to ensure you have killed the insects and gotten rid of the infestation.

How to Prevent Future Issues

When looking to maintain the health of your parlor palm, you may wonder how to prevent issues from arising in the future.

Parlor Palm Problems. How to Prevent Future Issues.
Photo by Tangopaso

There are a handful of steps you can follow to ensure your parlor palm will not face any problems in the future. 

  1. Place your parlor palm in indirect light, avoiding bright direct light or high indirect light. 
  2. Check the soil before you water it, ensuring it is completely dry before its next water. 
  3. Make sure your palm is not under a draft and is being misted to maintain humidity. 
  4. Regularly check for pests to avoid an infestation. 

To maintain a healthy plant, always check to see if your parlor palm is happy in its placement in your house and is getting the correct amount of water.

By keeping up with your parlor palm, it will stay healthy and grow prosperously.

Author: Stanislav Lem


Stanislav Lem is the founder of Big Time Living, where he provides tips for gardening, traveling and lifestyle. Stan is an entrepreneur, journalist and traveler.
His mission is to provide information to help people become better planters, travel more and live a happy life. His blog has been featured on Huffpost, Yahoo and MSN.