Why Does My Majesty Palm Have Brown Tips? | How To Fix It

The majesty palm, or Ravenea rivularis, is a popular palm species for growing indoors. While these trees can reach heights of 100 feet or more in the wild, potted majesty palms rarely grow taller than 10 feet. The end result is a beautiful, eye-catching houseplant that anyone would love to own.

Of course, every houseplant requires troubleshooting every now and then, and when it comes to the majesty palm, brown-tipped fronds are an all-too-often common complaint. 

In this article, I’ll explain the most likely reasons for majesty palm brown tips and offer simple but effective steps you can take to fix the problem.

Why Do Majesty Palm Leaves Turn Brown?

Brown foliage is the result of an environmental factor that is at odds with the requirements of your plant. An adverse ‘environmental factor’ can either cause your majesty palm to lose moisture rapidly or, impede it from absorbing adequate moisture through its root system. 

For example, majesty palms require bright, indirect sunlight, high levels of humidity, moist, nutrient-rich soil conditions, and consistent watering using filtered water. When these factors are compromised, your plant will suffer and will start showing signs of irregularity.

What Causes Majesty Palm Leaves To Turn Brown

Majesty palms originate from Madagascar where they can be found growing in swamp land and along rivers. Here they are accustomed to humid, tropical climates, dappled shade, high temperatures, and consistently moist soil.

Replicating these conditions in the average home can be tricky and although this palm is capable of thriving in household conditions, I hesitate to call it low-maintenance or generally easy to care for. Indeed, an environment with inadequate moisture, poor lighting, or excess fertilizer can result in the development of brown tips or leaves turning completely brown and also yellow.

Here below is a list of the most common causes of majesty palms with brown tips and what you can do to fix it and prevent it from happening again.

majesty palms with brown tips

Under-Watering

The most common cause of fronds with brown tips is underwatering. This usually occurs when soil is allowed to dry out too much and roots are prevented from accessing moisture.

These trees require evenly moist (but never waterlogged) soil. Keeping on top of your watering schedule is key to a healthy majesty palm and to do this you must check soil moisture every few days, especially when temperatures are high during the summer months.

I find it’s best to poke a couple of fingers into the top 2-3 inches of soil. When it feels dry, it’s time to water, and if it’s still damp, come back in a day or so to check again.

Low Humidity

Palms need at least 50% humidity but can happily tolerate even more. Consequently, if the air is cool and dry, your plant will suffer, resulting in fronds with brown tips.

There are various ways to increase humidity in your home if you live in a dry or cooler region with low levels of humidity.

Grouping tropical plants together, misting or placing wet pebbles in the catch-tray can help. Moving your plant to an area with higher levels of humidity such as a shower room or kitchen is another option. Alternatively, a more expensive option is to invest in a humidifier.

Chemical Damage

Majesty palms can respond poorly to chemicals such as fluoride and chlorine that are found in treated tap water, leaving leaves crispy and developing brown spots.

If your indoor palm is showing symptoms such as crisp leaves or brown spots then seeking out an alternative to water out of the tap is a good idea. Try switching to filtered tap water, using bottled water, or, (my preferred option) using collected rainwater.

Don’t expect to see improvements immediately. The chemicals from the tap water will have collected in the soil and will need to be flushed out. For quicker results, you could repot using fresh soil or flush the existing soil 3-4 times over a 2-week period using your preferred water alternative.

Improper Lighting

Majesty palms are understory plants that grow beneath the vast canopy of the rainforest. They thrive in bright, dappled shade and need at least 6 to 8 hours of light per day.

A majesty palm that receives too much intense sunlight may develop leaf burn. This condition causes the leaves to turn crisp and brown — symptoms often start along the tips or edges.

On the other hand, too little light may cause the fronds to fade or turn yellow.

For the best results, place your tree near a well-lit east-facing window. You can also use a south-facing window as long as the palm is kept out of direct sunlight.

Nitrogen, magnesium, and iron are the most important nutrients for Majesty’s Palm leaf health. 

Over-Fertilizing

Majesty palms are not heavy feeders. Indeed, excess fertilizer can damage the roots and prevent the absorption of water resulting in brown leaf tips as the plant struggles to take in adequate moisture.

Feed with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, containing magnesium and iron once or twice per growing season. When you do fertilize, use a formula specifically for potted cacti or palm trees and be sure to dilute it by 50%. 

Pests

Common houseplant pests like aphids, spider mites, scale, and mealybugs are all known to target majesty palms. Trees that are already stressed or damaged may be more susceptible to these pests.

Early signs of pest infestation include the yellowing of leaves or brown spots along the fronds. Over time, this damage can lead to moisture loss and cause brown tips to form on affected fronds.

Check plants regularly for signs of infestations. When identified, isolate the plant and blast the infestation with a strong jet of water, removing as much as possible.

Spray the affected areas of the plant with an insecticide or neem oil and remove fronds that are brown and damaged. Repeat this process weekly until all traces of the infestation have gone.

How To Safely Remove Brown Or Yellow Palm Fronds

You can remove damaged palm fronds to improve the tree’s appearance and help encourage newer, healthy growth. Before you begin, make sure you have a pair of clean, sharp pruning shears on hand.

I recommend cutting off significant damage whether that means removing the entire leaf or only part of it. The latter strategy is preferable because it leaves the tree with as much green foliage as possible to continue photosynthesizing.

If you find any leaves that are almost entirely brown, it’s best to just remove the whole thing. Gently bend the leaf down and see if it breaks away on its own. If not, cut through the base of the frond stem, being careful not to damage the ‘trunk’ of the palm. 

Do not remove whole fronds from the center or top of your majesty palm. This is the tree’s main growth point and accidentally damaging it could prevent any future growth.

For more advice and details of how to prevent brown leaves, here’s an article about fern leaves turning brown and how to prevent it.

FAQ Majesty Palm Brown Tips

How Do I Fix Brown Tips On Majesty Palm?

To fix brown tips on a majesty palm, ensure the tree receives enough moisture, humidity, and adequate sunlight. Check for signs of pest damage or over-fertilization. Addressing the root cause of the leaf damage is the only way to fix the problem going forward.

Can I Cut Off the Brown Leaves On Majesty Palm?

Yes, you can remove brown, yellow, or wilted leaves from a majesty palm if desired. Be sure to use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to prevent the spread of disease. Cut only the damaged leaves and avoid damaging the top of the tree where new growth emerges.

Citations

fc0f28385ebd56da36c2bbe134f43736?s=150&d=mp&r=g
 | Website

Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.