In the Garden:
Inland Northwest, High Desert
January, 2004
Regional Report

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Brown tips on palm fronds mean your plant needs a light shower each morning; brown leaves mean it's soaked up fertilizer salts into that one branch and needs pruning.

What's Wrong With My Palm?

Areca palms are supposed to be easy to take care of, yet they always seem to have something brown on them. Whether you know them as "yellow palms" or "butterfly palms," the arecas have been around since forever. Their feathery fronds soften up a dead living room corner like nothing else. Nestle some golden pothos or English ivy around its base, and you've really got a Wow plant display.

So what's with the brown parts?

Nature's Air Filter
Areca palms are known to be one of nature's best air filters. They take in copious amounts of formaldehyde and other airborne toxins, then send water and oxygen into our indoor atmosphere. It's probably because of their superb ability to strain out the bad stuff that they get into a little trouble. Areca palms filter salts from the soil, then move those excess salts to one branch. When that branch becomes saturated, it turns brown and dies. It should be pruned out as soon as you notice the color change.

Brown tips, however, are another matter. They are simply a sign that your palm would like a little more water -- in the soil as well as in the air.

Provide Some Winter TLC
Since we live in a desert, we need to give this hardworking plant a little help. Mist it once a day -- twice a day in winter, when our homes are super dry. Keep the root ball damp, but not wet. Trim the brown tips with sharp scissors.

Now that the holiday decorations have left the decor looking a little empty, it's a good time to add new houseplants. Areca palms are an excellent choice because of their ability to remove airborne toxins, add as much as a quart of water to the air every 24 hours, and, just because they're pretty.

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