A cat palm with yellow leaves means something is happening with the plant. However, it is important not to panic or stress.
That’s because the issue can be nothing in some cases.
In others, it may be just a small problem.
Nevertheless, it does warrant your attention since some issues that cause yellow leaves in cat palm can turn into something more serious.
Why does my cat palm have yellow leaves? Watering issues is usually the most common reason for yellow leaves in cat palm.
But it can also be caused by nutrient deficiency, light problems, environmental issues or just natural aging. As such, it is important to narrow down the cause before applying any solution.
Cat Palm Yellow Leaves Causes & Solutions
I’ll start off with something that is not a problem.
If you see your cat palm with yellow leaves and only a one or two turn yellow, then it stops, this may not be a problem at all.
That’s because normal yellowing happens as part of the plant’s natural life cycle.
It is important to be aware that all living things the cat palm will age over time and will get older. Later on, it will eventually die.
At the same time, its leaves go through their own life cycle as well.
You’ll see new leaves emerge, get bigger, develop and change in shape. They’ll also turn more green.
But after a while, each of these leaves will decline, turn yellow and later drop off.
Again, this is part of their natural life cycle.
And it allows new leaves to emerge in place of the old ones.
However, yellow leaves on a cat palm due to aging and natural causes should only occur once in a while. And it should only happen to one or two at a time.
If many leaves turn yellow at the same time or more and more yellowing occur each day you wake up, then something’s wrong.
Here, if natural aging is the cause for cat palm yellow leaves, there’s nothing you need to do.
Although, you can prune the yellow leaves to speed up to new growth.
Watering Issues Can Cause Cat Palm Yellow Leaves
Cat palm yellow leaves can likewise happen when there are watering issues.
It is a tropical plant that enjoys moist soil.
However, it dislikes mucky, soggy, wet soil. And it will experience problems when you overwater it.
This is why it s important to let the soil dry between waterings. And make sure you use free draining soil as well.
When overwatered, the cat palm develops yellow leaves.
This happens because the excess water will fill the air pockets in the soil. In doing so, they push out the oxygen.
This deprives the roots of much needed air which they need in balance with water.
As a result, the lack of oxygen causes the plant to be weaker and not function 100%. This affects how much nutrients it is able to absorb from the soil resulting in the yellow leaves.
What’s worse is that if not corrected or treated, overwatering can escalate to root rot.
Another kind of watering problem happens when you water the plant from above.
Some people will water over the leaves instead of directly on the soil.
This causes the leaves and stems to get all wet. And if they don’t dry quickly enough, you end up with fungal infections.
Just as importantly, a good portion of the water will not reach the soil.
Those that do likely won’t be enough to get to the roots.
As such, the plant ends up underwatered with slow growth.
How to Fix It
When watering the cat palm, when you water and how you water are both important.
When to water the cat palm?
Wait until part of the soil has dried between waterings.
This means wait until at least the top 2 inches of soil are completely dry before you add more water. Avoid doing so before then as it increases the risk of overwatering.
In addition to knowing when to water, make sure the soil is well-draining and the pot you use has drainage holes.
This will prevent the soil and pot from retaining all the water you’ve added.
Doing so avoids waterlogging.
How to water the cat palm?
You can water the cat palm from above or below.
However, if you water the plant from above, don’t wet the entire plant. Instead, water directly on the soil.
You want to soak the soil then let it drain completely right after.
If you find that you’ve been having a hard time getting top watering right, try bottom watering.
Here, place the pot in a large container or a bathtub and fill the water up a few inches.
It takes 10 to 30 minutes for the soil to get saturated depending on how big your cat palm is. But the soil will start absorbing the water through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Once the soil near the top of the plant (about 2 inches from the surface) feels moist, take the pot out of the water bath. Then let the soil completely drain after.
Lack of nutrients is one of the main reasons for cat palm yellow leaves.
As such, if you haven’t fed the plant in a few years now, it is time to give it come fertilizer.
In its native habitat, the plant does not need anyone to give it plant food. That’s because the soil there is rich with sufficient nutrients to sustain its growth.
However, once you use potting mix, some of which don’t contain nutrients, it is important to supplement it.
Yellow leaves in cat plants usually occur with lack of nitrogen.
However, other nutrient deficiencies can also result in yellow cat palm.
How to Fix It
If you’re not feeding your cat palm it is time to start.
Use a high quality fertilizer.
An all-purpose or balanced fertilizer will work very well.
When choosing the product, make sure it contains sufficient nutrients.
The first one to check is nitrogen.
This is the first number in the NPK figure. These 3 numbers are usually the most prominent thing you’ll see in product labels.
The first number is the N which is nitrogen.
Lack of nitrogen will cause pale colored leaves that are yellow or even closer to white in color.
Once you’ve checked the nitrogen content, make sure the fertilizer product has magnesium, calcium, copper and manganese.
Deficiencies in these four micronutrients can cause yellow leaves in cat palm.
Although, the yellowing will develop in different ways depending on the nutrient that it is deficient in.
Therefore, make sure the product has all of these.
While the cat palm does need fertilizer, it does not need a whole lot of it.
As such, don’t overfertilize the plant.
Instead, just follow the feeding instructions in the product label.
Overfeeding the plant will result in problems.
That’s because commercial fertilizers contain salts. So, you give the your cat palm more plant food, you’re not only giving it nutrients but also more salts.
When the salts built up in the soil, they can damage the roots and burn the leaves as well.
As a result, you end up with yellow leaves on the cat palm.
Additionally, the plant will get weaker as the roots sustain more damage.
How to Fix It
Don’t get tempted to feed the plant more than it needs.
This is something I’ve seen some gardeners do in hopes that the plant will grow faster.
And while it will initially, the host of problems that follow are just not worth the extra time, effort or hassle later on.
Instead, just follow the instructions on the produce labels.
Use a balance water-soluble fertilizer. Dilute it to half strength each time you apply to avoid overfeeding.
The cat palm only needs plant food during spring and summer when it is actively growing. So, stop around early to mid fall. And skip the winter.
Once a month feeding is all it needs.
Lack of Light Can Lead to Cat Palm Yellow Leaves
Cat palms need good lighting to thrive. Ideally, give the plant medium to bright indirect light indoors. Outdoors, it will thrive in partial shade.
In low light or when it does not received sufficient illumination, the plant’s lovely green leaves will turn yellow and pale.
The plant itself will also become weak, sickly looking and growth much slower than it normally does.
You’ll likewise see it produce fewer leaves during this time.
That’s because the plant needs plenty of light.
If it does not get enough, its won’t be able to produce sufficient chlorophyll.
This is the compound that keeps its leaves green. Additionally, chlorophyll is what absorbs the light so the plant can use that light for photosynthesis.
Thus, you end up with reduced growth and a weak plant with yellow leaves.
How to Fix It
Keep the plant where it receives sufficient light on a daily basis.
It needs bright indirect light between 4 to 6 hours a day. Thus, it is important to position it in a bright or well-lit room.
Avoid low light areas including those that are dim or dark.
Outdoors, partial or slight shade it ideal.
While the cat palm will thrive in environments with plenty of light, there’s such a thing as too much light as well.
In this case, it comes in the form of excessive intensity.
This means that the type of light is just as important as how many hours of light it gets.
Cat palms cannot tolerate very strong, intense light. This is the case for direct sunlight especially during the hottest times of the day which occurs between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Similarly, avoid direct sunlight during the peak of summer.
The plant can tolerate about 1-2 hours of this on a daily basis.
But more than that, you’ll likely see some kind of damage happen later on.
Cat palm yellow leaves are one of this symptoms of excess light. It is an earlier sign. And you’ll see the leaves get dry as well.
After a while, the excess light can cause the leaves to burn as well.
With significant damage, leaf drop will occur as well.
How to Fix It
Place the cat palm away from direct sunlight.
The easiest way to do this is to see where the direct yellow rays of the sun hit. Then put the plant just beyond that area.
Since the sun will move from east to west through the day, you’ll need to check on the different spots in your home where the sun’s rays will hit, at least initially.
This will let you figure out the best location for the plant without direct sunlight.
Another option is to filter the sunlight coming in from the window.
This is an option if you want to keep the plant near a window or by the windowsill.
You can use sheer curtains or drapes that will allow some sun to pass through. As long as the harshest rays don’t get through, the plant will be fine.