I purchased two Chinese palms about two months ago. I brought them home and nursed them inside the house in their original pots, and the plants were growing fine. About three weeks ago I took them outside and placed them on my patio. I repotted them, but kept them in their original containers, and added additional soil, plant food, and fertilizer. We had two days of cold weather here in St. Louis. I noticed the leaves are starting to turn brown and brittle looking. I have been keeping the plants watered (maybe over-watered). Do you think the cold weather shocked the palms? I do not know if the additional soil I added to the pots had some kind of disease. Please help! I really love these tropical plants and would be very disappointed if they died.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Diane: Chinese fan palms (Livistonia chinensis) are considered tropicals for those of us not gardening in hardiness zones 9-11. It is very possible they have some winter injury if they were left outside in cold weather. Even though Mother Nature sometimes grants us beautiful weather in April, it is still too early to put our tropicals outside. The middle of May is when we are frost-free. If the foliage is all brown and crispy, you should cut it back to the base of the plant and hopefully it will put on some new growth. They are actually pretty tough palms so give them time and let them recover. You mentioned that you gave them plant food as well as fertilizer? It is also possible they have been over-fed. This can also cause the foliage to burn. We typically cut back on fertilizing during the winter months and then begin to feed again during the growing season. You should not feed your palms for at least one month. I do not think the soil you used should be a concern. Keep an eye on the weather and if the nighttime temperatures drop into the 30s you will want to bring your palms inside; otherwise, cut back the damaged foliage and avoid over-watering. The soil should never be sopping wet. Use your finger to test the soil moisture. If the soil feels moist 1 inch down there is no reason to water. Under-watering and under-feeding is better than over-watering or over-feeding. Make sure the containers your palms are planted in have adequate drainage. These palms are quite drought-tolerant so keeping them on the dry side is a good idea.