Overwatered Palm Tree? 7 Signs + How to Save Your Plant

Bring the feel of the tropics to your home with a gorgeous indoor palm tree. From the striking Kentia palms to the majestic majesty palms and the elegant parlor palms, there’s a variety to suit every style.

However, as tropical and subtropical plants, palm trees need plenty of water. But be warned; overwatering can lead to many problems, including root rot, yellowing leaves, mold growth, pests, and soaking soil.

But don’t despair! If you suspect your indoor palm tree has suffered from overwatering, there’s still hope. You can bring your plant back to its full beauty by following our guide below.

The 7 Signs of An Overwatered Palm Tree

To check if your palm tree has been overwatered, thoroughly examine it from top to bottom, paying close attention to the pot, root system, leaves, and soil. 

Early detection is vital, so keep an eye out for these signs of overwatering:

1. Yellowing Leaves

Wet yellow palm leaves signify that you may be overwatering your palm trees. Excess water can lead to nutrient deficiencies in the root system, causing the leaves to turn yellow. 

Poor air circulation and high moisture levels in the soil can also contribute to this discoloration.

2. Brown Leaf Tips & Leaves

While some browning of leaves is usual as plants mature, if you see brown tips or fronds after yellowing, it’s time to review your watering schedule. 

If left untreated, the browning will spread to other leaves, eventually killing them. So, keep an eye out for leaves turning brown.

3. Droopy Leaves

Excess water disrupts air circulation in the root system, reducing the amount of oxygen the plant needs to thrive. This, in turn, weakens the root system and causes the leaves to droop. So if you see leaves starting to wilt, it is a sign you might be giving your palm too much water.

4. Pests

Overwatered palm trees can attract pests like mealybugs, fungus gnats, and whiteflies, which thrive in high-moisture environments. Look out for cotton-like formations on your plant, tiny spots on the undersides of leaves, or tiny black flies on the soil.

5. Root Rot

Root rot is a sneaky symptom of overwatering and can be challenging to spot. However, droopy or brown leaves, an unpleasant smell from the soil, and soggy soil can indicate that the root system is in trouble. 

One of the leading causes is no drainage holes in the grow pot. 

A healthy root system is essential for the plant’s overall health (the palm won’t be able to absorb nutrients properly), so it’s critical to act fast.

6. Moldy Soil

If you spot mold on top of the soil, it’s a sure sign that your palm tree is overwatered. Overwatering creates an environment ripe for bacteria, fungi, and mold growth on the surface of the soil, which can clog up the air spaces in the soil which prevent oxygen from reaching the roots. 

To prevent mold, make sure to use well-draining soil and remove any dead leaves.

If you need help determining how much moisture is in the soil, use a moisture meter. You can usually find meters on Amazon for under $100.

7. Black Spots on Stems and Leaves

If you notice black spots on your palm tree’s stems and leaves, this could signify a fungal or bacterial infection. 

Overwatering can contribute to this issue by creating ideal conditions for fungal and bacterial growth.

To treat black spots, first, reduce watering frequency, allowing the soil to dry out each time you water. 

Secondly, remove any infected leaves and stems to prevent the spread of the infection.

It is also essential to avoid splashing water on the foliage and keep the plant dry, as excess moisture on the leaves can lead to fungal growth.

In severe cases, you may need to use an appropriate fungicide or bactericide to treat the infection. However, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using any pesticides.


Here’s a video that shows what exactly an overwatered palm tree looks like indoors:

While this article is focused on indoor palm tree plants, here is a video that will give you some watering tips for outdoor palm trees:

8 Steps to Saving Your Overwatered Palm Tree

parlor palm

Don’t let overwatering ruin your indoor palm tree. You can revive your plant and enjoy its beauty for years with the proper steps. 

To save an overwatered palm tree, the first step is to assess the damage and determine if the tree is still alive. 

If the trunk is still firm and not soft or mushy, the tree may still be saved. 

Soft and mushy trunks may indicate that the root system is rotting, and the tree may not recover.

If the tree is still alive, follow these steps to save it:

1. Reduce the amount of water

The first step in saving an overwatered palm tree is to stop watering it. Overwatering is the primary cause of palm tree root rot, so allowing the soil to dry out is essential.

2. Remove the soil

Remove the soil from around the tree’s base down to the root crown. This will allow you to see the roots and determine if they are rotting.

3. Trim away damaged roots

If the roots are rotting, trim away the damaged roots with a clean, sharp pair of pruning shears. Removing all the damaged roots is vital to prevent further decay and promote healthy growth.

4. Repot the tree

Once you have removed the damaged roots, repot the tree into a well-draining potting mix. Make sure the potting mix contains perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage. Sand also works well as it doesn’t hold much moisture.

5. Water properly

After repotting, water the tree sparingly. The frequency of watering a palm tree depends on several factors, including the species of the tree, its age, size, the climate and weather conditions it is growing in, and the type of soil it is planted in.

As a general guideline, most palm trees require watering once or twice weekly. Your palm tree may demand increased hydration in sweltering heat and dry conditions. Conversely, during temperate and moist weather, the frequency of watering can be curtailed.

Monitoring the soil’s moisture level consistently is crucial to determining the tree’s water requirements and avoiding the pitfalls of both overwatering and underwatering.

It’s always best to consult with a local nursery or horticulturist for specific recommendations on watering your particular species of a palm tree, as the needs can vary greatly depending on the tree’s growing conditions.

6. Sunlight

Provide proper light: Palms need plenty of bright light to thrive. If the tree is in the shade and not getting enough sunlight, move it to a sunnier location. Palms do well with direct sunlight.

7. Humidity

Palms thrive in moisture. Use a plant humidifier when in dry indoor environments to prevent low humidity.

8. Fertilize

Fertilize the palm tree with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to encourage healthy growth.

These steps can help save an overwatered palm tree and prevent root rot. However, it’s important to remember that recovery can take several months or even years, so be patient and persistent in your care for the tree.

How to Tell The Difference Between Overwatering And Underwatering Palm Plants?

Need clarification on whether your palm tree is overwatered or underwatered? Look for telltale signs! Here’s what to look for:

  1. Overwatering: If a palm tree is overwatered, its roots may be waterlogged, and the soil may become soggy. The palm leaves may turn yellow and develop brown spots, and you notice drooping leaves even though the soil is moist.
  2. Underwatering: On the other hand, if a palm tree is underwatered, its leaves may start to turn brown and dry, and the plant may appear to be wilted even though the soil is dry.

In general, it’s better to underwater a palm tree than overwater it. Overwatering can lead to deadly root rot, while underwatering can be corrected by simply giving the plant more water. To ensure that your palm tree is getting the right amount of water, it’s best to check the soil moisture regularly. If the top 1 inch of soil feels dry, it’s time to water your palm tree.

Now That You Know What You’re Doing: Palm Fever

With the basics mastered of taking care of palm trees, you may want to add some new plants to your collection. Here are some of our favorites: 

Areca Palm

areca palm

With its feathery green leaves and impressive height, this palm is a favorite among indoor plant enthusiasts. Its adaptability to various environments and ease of care make it an excellent option for those who want a low-maintenance houseplant.

Kentia Palm

kentia palm tree indoors

This stunning palm tree adds sophistication to their space. With its slender, arching fronds and slow growth, the Kentia Palm can thrive in low-light environments, making it a desirable addition to any home.

Lady Palm

lady palm tree

Don’t let its compact size fool you; this palm tree is a powerhouse! With delicate fan-shaped leaves and ease of care, the Lady Palm is great for those with limited space.

Parlor Palm

parlor palm

A popular choice for indoor plant life, the Parlor Palm is a small and low-maintenance option. This palm can thrive in low-light environments, a good fit for rooms with little natural light.

Sago Palm

sago palm tree

With its ability to thrive in dim lighting, it is a popular indoor use choice. This slow-growing palm tree requires minimal attention once established, making it a great option to add some greenery to their space without all the fuss.


How do you know if a palm tree needs water?

Wilting Leaves: If the leaves of your palm tree start to droop or look wilted, this could signify that the plant is dehydrated and in need of water.

Dry Soil: If the soil around the roots of your palm tree feels dry to the touch, it’s a good indication that it’s time to water the plant.

Yellow or Brown Leaves: If you notice that some of the older leaves on your palm tree are turning yellow or brown, this could be a sign of overwatering or underwatering. Check the soil moisture and then adjust your watering accordingly.

Slow Growth: If your palm tree is not growing as quickly as it should be, or if new growth is stunted, it could be not getting enough water.

It’s important to remember that different species of indoor palms have additional water requirements, so it’s best to research the specific needs of your palm tree and adjust your watering accordingly.

Overwatering is as harmful as underwatering, so be mindful of the soil moisture and adjust your watering accordingly.

How much water does an indoor palm need?

As a general guideline, most palm trees require watering once or twice weekly.

The amount of water that an indoor palm needs will vary depending on the specific species and the growing conditions, such as the temperature, humidity, and light levels. However, indoor palms generally prefer to be kept evenly moist and should not be allowed to dry out completely.

It’s best to check the soil moisture regularly instead of following a set watering schedule. To check the soil moisture, push your finger about 1 inch deep into the soil. If the palms soil feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water the tree.

When watering, ensure adequate water reaches the roots and allow any excess moisture to drain away. This will ensure the roots receive enough water without causing overwatering.

It’s also important to note that different species of indoor palms may have slightly different water requirements, so it’s best to research the specific needs of your palm tree and adjust your watering accordingly.

What type of water is best for palm trees?

¬†Using rainwater or distilled water is the way to go when watering your indoor palms. These pure and natural sources of hydration are gentle on your plant’s delicate roots, helping to keep them healthy and thriving.

In addition, unlike tap water, rainwater, and distilled water are free of harmful toxins and salts that can do more harm than good to your precious palm.

So, why not give your palm the gift of pure, refreshing hydration and watch it flourish? Your palm tree will thank you!

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.