Madagascar Palm Help! - New Leaves Dying

Discussion in 'Caudiciforms and Pachycaul Trees' started by Ginya, Jun 3, 2020.

  1. Ginya

    Ginya New Member

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    Hi all,

    I've been lurking this forum for awhile now trying to see if this problem has already been solved elsewhere but haven't found a sufficient answer. That said, I've had my Madagascar Palm (Pachypodium lamerei) for around 2 years now and it was doing well the first year and then sometime last summer it started to have issues. Just to note, I had not changed anything. It was putting out new growth but all of the new leaves would start to immediately (or soon after) blacken at their tips, slowly shriveling up the leaf until it fell off (which explains why there's a bald gap in the middle now).

    At that time, I brought it back to the plant shop where I had bought it and they inspected it and repotted it as the roots were starting to grow out of the bottom of the planter. They didn't seen any obvious pests but did note that a part of the base of the trunk had some slight give/softness (the roots looked fine according to them though). They also replaced the very aerated mix (which was mostly chunky pieces of bark) with coco coir, which I didn't know anything about at the time but they said it would be good for quick drainage. Based on what I've since read, it actually retains more water and I did notice that it appeared to stay moist for a longer time (correct me if I'm wrong!). Once I realized this, I attempted to combat it by watering less (I went from watering once every week to once every two weeks).

    Fast forward to spring/now and the palm has started to put out new growth. The trunk is hard and solid again and for a bit it was doing okay (which is why there are some longer leaves at the the top!) but has started to again show the same issues with the newest leaves. I repotted about a week ago since the roots were again growing out of the bottom and I also changed the coco coir to a much more gritty mix (cactus soil + Jack Bonsai) to ensure proper drainage. Still, despite all of the new growth, all of the new leaves eventually start to darken and go limp. I have tried to look under leaves for pests but still don't see any obvious ones. The only thing to note here is that the shriveled leaves appear to be leaking orange-y droplets of sap (you can see it in some of the pics where they've hardened) and I have noticed one or two clear hard crystals on some of the youngest growth (see the close-up pic of the new growth--there's a tiny crystal on the top right), along with what appears to be one or two superthin clear threads (not enough for me to call it a web) but again, I don't see any bugs.

    I have since cut down on watering and continue to give it full direct sunlight in my west-facing window. Any idea on what's going on here? Overwatering? Pests? Fungal? Something else?

    Sorry for the long post but wanted to be thorough. I appreciate any help!
     

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  2. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    You might try the suggestion put forth in this past post. Perhaps the resurgence of the problem is tied to the increase in light/heat at this time of year.
     
  3. hweird

    hweird New Member

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    I have the exact same problem. Ive seen On another few threads saying it may be an over fertilisation problem? Im not sure though as haven't given mine anything. Hadn't watered mine in a 10 days so hoped it was that? Whats your watering situation?
     

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  4. Tom Hulse

    Tom Hulse Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi guys, sorry I missed this thread in June, how are your plants doing now? I get the exact same thing on my Pachypodium, but for mine, it is from simply underwatering. For such a thick succulent, it sure gets cranky fast when not getting the water it wants. Mine is rootbound right now, so it does have perfect drainage which could make watering a lot different than yours, but this one prefers watering at about every 6 days right now in the summer. If you look really close at the condition of the newest leaves and mentally record the number of watering days, you can find the ideal watering timing for yours is just before the leaves start to get stunted. Obviously with the thick, spiny succulent stem, overwatering is also a risk, which means this plant has a small window between under- and overwatering; but once you find it, it's a very easy houseplant and good grower.

    Mine is growing in a peat-based mix that dries fairly quickly. Like other succulents with fine roots, it does need a fine soil mix. I don't think it will do well in a coarse, large-chunk mix with too much air, any more than your average cactus would. So you could use a true cactus mix (nothing even close to Miracle Grow's cactus & palm mix) if you can water very regularly & frequently, but this will tolerate a little more moisture in the soil and actually need more because of the big mophead of thin leaves that cactus don't have. So I like a free-draining peat mix for these. I also recommend a clay pot kept on the small side, so it dries out faster. They also need very bright sun. They should be right up in a S, E, or W window; or get tons of supplemental lighting. This one is a west window. Low light will give you a sad plant in a hurry. I fertilize mine with Foilage Pro 1/4 tsp/gal at every watering and this one seems to tolerate it just fine.
     

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  5. Tom Hulse

    Tom Hulse Active Member 10 Years

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    Also I wanted to mention that in the first post I'm concerned about the plastic pot and the decorative mulch over the soil. Both look great but slow evaporation and extend the drying time of the soil (bad for succulents). Longer water cycle times then makes it harder to find the exact point where this plant wants it's water. So it risks overwatering by holding too much moisture, or underwatering by hiding the ideal water cycle time from you. Adding those two features doesn't necessarily kill the plant, but they're unnecessary risks to take.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2020
  6. Ginya

    Ginya New Member

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    Sorry for the delay! So, soon after I initially posted, I repotted the plant into a normal unglazed terracotta one (the previous one pictured was terrcotta with a glazed interior so it was definitely slowing evaporation/drying time). The new-leaf problem persisted and I then decided to cut watering and now that it's fall here in NYC (typically in the 40s to mid 50s), I've taken to barely watering at all. That said, there are still a couple new growths at the top that haven't browned yet (they're very slow growing at the moment) but most of the older leaves have since dropped and continue to (shriveling up and falling off) and furthermore, I've noticed what looks like moldy patches on some of the older leaves--attaching photos for reference. They're small fuzzy white-ish patches and the undersides of the leaf are a bit reddish. Does anyone have any insight here? I've pulled off those leaves but am wondering if this is fungal or a pest and what I can do about it/what I should do at this point to get my plant to a healthy place again. I'm at a loss.

    Side note: I realized at some point that when I repotted it, I didn't repot the guy low enough so I'll need to redo that at some point. Wondering if I need to wait till spring or if I should just do it now?
     

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  7. Tom Hulse

    Tom Hulse Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi Ginya. Those spots look like perhaps both bacterial & fungal, but they are not the causes of your problems, they're the symptoms of the plant unable to support them. You read both my last posts above? How much light is it getting (window orientation, distance from window, hours of direct sun on the leaves, etc.). Also how cold can it get at night where the plant is? It gets down in the 40's inside your house? That sounds a little cold for this one in low-light houseplant conditions. Lots more light solves many of these kinds of problems. Are you looking VERY closely at the new growth tips every day or so? That's where your answers are to how you are doing on watering. These always look like they were potted a little high in the pot, because of the way the trunk narrows at the bottom. Perhaps yours is a little low, hard to see, but that height will do fine until spring. What kind of soil is it in now? What makes that soil free draining and loose like a cactus mix?
     
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  8. Ginya

    Ginya New Member

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    Several months later and I'm back to report the outcome! First off, it is doing WELL and appears to be back and better than ever. Here's what happened and what I did:

    - Moved it from the east-facing window it was in to a super sunny west-facing window where it gets strong afternoon light (I'm in NYC, for reference).
    - I first clipped off only the mildewy leaves but as other leaves started to develop it as well, I ended up clipping off ALL of the leaves to stop the spread (which at this point weren't that many)
    - Repotted slightly deeper since it was slightly wobbly due to my poor repotting before (with extra charcoal and worm castings added)
    - As it was now spring, I started to fertilize with Dynagrow 9-3-6 and soon saw new leaves start to emerge
    - Currently watering every two weeks and all leaves are growing normally again and to full maturity!
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2021
  9. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    Thanks for the report!
     
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