Care for potted palm trees

Updated February 21, 2017

Potted palm trees bring the feeling of the tropics indoors. Each variety of palm tree has its own sun, shade and humidity preferences. In coastal areas, potted palm trees can tolerate full sun exposure. Palm trees need pruning to remove old leaves that have become damaged. Removing too many of the leaves can stunt the growth of the palm tree. Discard the pruning debris because it can harbour plant pathogens. Besides sun and pruning, potted palms need some other care to thrive.


Most potted palm trees do well in the same container for up to two years. As a general rule, palm trees need to be transplanted when the roots are coming out of the pot bottom, the soil becomes compacted or the palm tree becomes too unstable. When transplanting, leave at least 15 cm (6 inches) below the rootball for soil and growth. Also the rim of the pot should be at least 5 to 7.5 cm (2 to 3 inches) above the soil line to leave room for watering. Palm trees need heavy containers to encourage stability. If the pot is too lightweight, the palm tree will tip over and suffer damage.


Potted palm trees like high humidity. One way to solve the humidity issue is to place a large tray filled with pebbles under the palm tree. Keep the tray filled halfway with water. Evaporation will create the humidity the palm tree needs. Another way is to mist the palm tree daily. The best way to determine the watering requirements of the palm tree is through observation. The first time you water your palm, take it outside or to the bath and pour water through it until it comes out of the bottom. To determine when it needs more water, wait until the soil is dried out to the depth of 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches). Drench with water again. Flushing the palm tree with water helps prevent the build-up of salts in the soil. Salt build-up causes leaf tip burn and the eventual death of the palm tree. If you do not water generously and your palm tree is suffering from salt build-up, the only solution is to change the soil in the plant pot.


Fertiliser provides nutrition to the palm tree. The best fertiliser for the palm tree is an organic fertiliser like bone meal, blood meal or fish emulsion. Organic fertiliser is slow to release and has less chance of burning the palm tree than inorganic fertiliser. Follow the manufacturer's directions on the fertiliser. Do not be overly aggressive when fertilising. It is better to under fertilise a palm tree than over fertilise one. Never fertilise a palm tree in a dry container. Pre-water the palm tree and do not get any fertiliser on the crown of the plant. To prevent winter growth, do not fertilise during the autumn or winter.

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About the Author

Karen Carter spent three years as a technology specialist in the public school system and her writing has appeared in the "Willapa Harbor Herald" and the "Rogue College Byline." She has an Associate of Arts from Rogue Community College with a certificate in computer information systems.