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Losing My New Florida Foxtail...HELP NEEDED


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I purchased and planted a 30-gal potted single Foxtail Palm in October 2023.  Located in Manatee County,  Fl.   Palm was about 8-feet and healthy (dark green fronds) at time of planting.  Planted in good sandy soil,  direct sunlight, with base of roots exposed as recommended.  Added some 8-2-2 Sunniland Palm fertilizer in the hold and blended some potting soil in the native soil.   Installed weed barrier and lava rock above.  Watering is by irrigation 3x week (Tues, Thurs, Sat for 25 min per day).  Sprinklers do reach the base of the palm.  Unsure about water quality, it is a reclaimed source, hard w/ calcium hardness but I don't know much else besides that.  No root rot noted, no signs of pests. 

Plant started to decline about 2 months after planting, yellowing leaves beginning at outermost portion of frond and working inward towards trunk, eventually completely browning and dead.  I have 3 fronds left, that are halfway dead, and getting worse daily.  The only good news is there is one spear that is opening from center.  This is the second spear that has produced a frond since initial planting. 

I have included one photo of initial planting condition (healthy), the rest of the photos showing the declining condition. I tried to provide a zoom in on the dying frond to show brown spots working their way toward the trunk.  I already trimmed the dead fronds below the 3 o clock and 9 o clock which I have read is a big no no. 😑

Any insights as to why it is dying would be appreciated, or efforts to try and save.  From what I have read, i'm leaning towards overwatering from irrigation but I'm not sure how to confirm my assumption besides to cut the irrigation down.

Many thanks from a concerned palm owner,











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@Mschafe it's hard to tell what exactly the issue could be, but just one possibility that I noticed..

Usually when a palm has brown tips like that, it tends to be related to under watering, in my experience. You also said it's planted on sandy soil, which means it doesn't hold much water. When I plant a new palm, I generally water them every day for several months until they seem like they don't need it anymore. With some palms, Ive watered them every day for almost their entire first year to get them settled in. 

I'm also in manatee county, and it's very dry right now., and it will only get worse in April and May before the rainy season starts. I'm currently watering all my new plants every day. Now once they get more established, you can water them less. But I would definitely water it more, and I'd water it directly with a hose or something, rather than just extra water from the sprinklers. With it being a new palm in sandy soil and full sun, it'd be very hard to over water it.



Edited by RainforestCafe
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Oh one more thing..

You said that you used 8-2-2 fertilizer. That kind of fertilizer has a very high nitrogen-potassium ratio. Our soils here in this area generally require a fertilizer with more potassium. University of Florida recommends a ratio of 8-2-12. 

When you use a fertilizer with high nitrogen and low potassium, it actually further aggravates the existing potassium deficiency. So I'd also try to use a fertilizer that has a lot more potassium. If you go to big earth (they've got a few locations in our area), you can get Florikan 8-2-12 fertilizer, which is a much better fertilizer for us, It's actually specifically designed for our area! 😂

The potassium deficiency in palms will lead to some browning of the older fronds prematurely as well.

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I was wondering about the 8-2-2 ratio also, and was hoping it was a typo and actually 8-2-12.  Generally you don't want to put fertilizer in the hole, as it'll burn the new roots that are trying to grow out into native soil. 

I think @RainforestCafe has hit most of my thoughts.  Probably a bit underwatered, and it looks like it's starved for potassium.  You get those brown and dead tips from both possibilities.  I'd do the hose watering directly on the root ball area.  Sunniland 8-2-12 or 6-1-8 or Florikan or PalmGain are all good options.  I'd do a half a handful sprinkled around the area of lava rock.

Also keep in mind that Foxtails are not very cold hardy.  At that size some of mine showed burn from mid 30s.  If you had a recent cold front that can aggravate potassium deficiencies. 

Another possibility is a trunk rot, which is generally Thielaviopsis or Ganoderma and incurable.  I had a 10-12' foxtail get a bit of cold burn a few years ago, and I thought it was making a recovery in the spring.  The spear stopped growing and then the top fell over a few weeks later in a storm.  The inside of the trunk was brown fungusy mush.  If your spear keeps growing steadily then it'll likely survive.  I'd mark it horizontally with a sharpie, so you can see if it's continuing to grow. 


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My mistake. I applied Sunniland 6-1-8 Palm Fertilizer. 

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2 hours ago, Mschafe said:

... Added some 8-2-2 Sunniland Palm fertilizer in the hold and blended some potting soil in the native soil.  ...

How much fertilizer did you put into the hole?

I think you might have burned it with fertilizer. When you add granular fertilizer to the hole it comes in contact with fresh, exposed roots that were growing against plastic at the bottom of the pot... even if you mix in some dirt. It is best to wait to fertilize as top dressing after the palm is established.

It should recover but might worsen in browning before it gets better. Keep your irrigation schedule as is and add more water if the weather gets particularly hotter and drier. Just got to wait until the fertilizer breaks down.

Now, if it gets severe real fast, like total brown and black leaves and leaf bases then you might have to yank him out of the ground to save him. But I think that would have happened by now, a while before the two-month point.


South Florida

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The Sunniland 6-1-8 is okay stuff, I have 3x 50lb bags on my back porch right now.  I'd think that root burn from an October planting would show up faster, if that was a major issue.  If you put a LOT (like 5lb or so) then that could be a big problem.  A small amount (like a handful or two) likely wouldn't matter.

For planting depth, the palm looks a little bit high.  I doubt that's the cause of your issues, but here's a great tutorial on depth.  This is written by a fellow PTer and (I think) regional IPS Director: http://www.marriedtoplants.com/palms/palm-tree-growing-tips-mounding/


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Thanks everyone so much for the help. I think the consensus is I have burned it with a combination of 1) too much fertilizer and 2) putting fertilizer directly in contact with the root system. I might attempt to extract the granules that have not dissolved and get some of the excess fertilizer out of the system.

I really Appreciate all the feedback on this forum. Really amazing community of experts unlike myself 😌


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I am in manatee as well.  These work well in sandy soil but if your irrigation timer is set for grass(10 mins) they will never get the water they want.  When first planting a palm you need to hand water it as it will be almost impossible to wet it down good.  One day when the roots extend to 12' past the trunk that sprinkler will be just the ticket.  If you have an auto irrigation system and didnt set it to 35 mins or so its going to be a problem in sand.  I always water new plantings by hand as well as my system.  You can help your palm handle drought better by modifying the soil.  If you just add a 50 lb bag of turface MVP as top covering it wilkl prevent fast drying of the surface.  This si our dry season, handwater every other day at least bu5t do it with a hose with sprayer grip for 5-10 mins.  Wrong time of year here to plant in sandy soil.  If you have burned it with fertilizer in the hole, you might be able to flush it but it may be too late.

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Formerly in Gilbert AZ, zone 9a/9b. Now in Palmetto, Florida Zone 9b/10a??


Tom Blank

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Where did you buy the palm from? 

Inask as many of the big boxes stores have a one year warranty on trees, so that's worth a last resort should it perish.

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