How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Mineral deficiencies and toxicities in palms

Certain nutrients, in relatively small amounts, are required for healthy plant growth. Deficiencies can cause premature yellowing of lower fronds. Severely deficient plants become stunted and exhibit dieback. Magnesium, nitrogen, or potassium are the most commonly seen deficiencies in palm. However, nutrient deficiency symptoms usually are not due to a deficiency in the soil but are caused by conditions that reduce a plant's access to them. Excess concentrations of one nutrient can also reduce the availability of other nutrients.  Commercial laboratories can conduct foliage tests or soil analysis to verify deficiencies.

Nutrients, salts, and pesticides can be toxic to palms if present in excess amounts or if applied incorrectly. Toxicity symptoms include marginal leaf chlorosis and necrosis (or burn).


Provide a good growing environment and proper cultural care including good drainage. Apply special palm fertilizer to prevent or remedy symptoms due to true deficiency. Make sure that herbicides don't drift over into your landscape plants.

For more information refer to the publication Abiotic Disorders of Landscape Plants.

Potassium deficiency
Potassium deficiency

Potassium deficiency in fronds
Frond damage from potassium deficiency

Sea salt spray damage
Chlorotic fronds from sea salt spray damage


Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
All contents copyright © 2016 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

For noncommercial purposes only, any Web site may link directly to this page. FOR ALL OTHER USES or more information, read Legal Notices. Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual solutions to specific pest problems. See our Home page, or in the U.S., contact your local Cooperative Extension office for assistance.

Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Accessibility   /PMG/GARDEN/ENVIRON/palmdef.html revised: September 20, 2016. Contact webmaster.