My Sago Palm Leaves Are Turning Yellow & Falling Off

The creation of a semitropical paradise in your greenhouse or backyard is easy with placement of the sago palm and other tropical and semitropical plants. Yet a landscape scheme can be upset when the palm's leaves turn yellow, indicating ill health and possible poor plant maintenance. As with all plant care, understanding the cause of the yellowing is your best bet for saving your sago palm.

Sago Palm Description

The sago palm is a subtropical perennial native to swampy regions of Polynesia and Malaysia. Also referred to as fern palm, the sago palm's leaves are like fern leaves in their feathered appearance. In addition to their long, green leaves, sago palms feature thick brown trunks that contain sago, a type of starch used in food preparation. Sago palms grow for 15 years and flower only one time. The palm dies once its fruit ripens. It can reach heights that range between 4 and 30 feet.

Yellow Leaf Causes

Yellow leaves on a sago palm are the result of nutrition problems. Sago palms require micronutrients including iron, potassium, manganese and magnesium in their fertilizer to flourish, and yellow leaves indicate the plant is not receiving enough manganese. Sago palms that do not receive fertilizer containing these minerals three times per year are subject to yellowing leaves. Yellow leaves eventually become brown and frizzy if left unattended.

Yellow Leaf Treatments

Give the soil around a yellowing sago palm a dose of manganese powder each fall and spring. This is especially important if you're growing your palm in acidic soil that lacks the palm's necessary nutrients. A yearly application of lime to acidic soil can prevent this problem from returning. Fertilize palms every six weeks during its growing season to further protect it against yellowing leaves. Yellowing or otherwise sickly looking palms can also benefit from an application of Epsom salts; use 1 tsp. of the salts in a gallon of water to revive plants.

Sago Palm Care Pruning Tips

Do not remove yellowing leaves, particularly the palm's lower leaves, which can actually cause the problem to spread to the next leaf tier. Yellowing leaves still absorb nutrients, so removing them can stunt sago palm growth and leave them open to disease. Brown, or dead, leaves may be removed completely. Sago palms do not require a lot of pruning; only foliage that is completely dead, diseased or damaged should be removed.

© Demand Media 2011