Pygmy Date Palm Dying – Revive Your Plant Quickly

A pygmy date palm plant, scientifically known as Phoenix roebelenii, is a common houseplant in Southern Asia. You may also know it as a dwarf palm plant or miniature date palm. It is most favorable to gardeners for its unique needle-like leaves. 

Like many other houseplant lovers, I also faced pygmy date palm plant dying problem in maintaining the pygmy date palm plant. The problem was caused due to potassium deficiency, overwatering, over-pruning, underwatering,  drought issues, pests, and diseases. 

That’s why I want to discuss these problems and their solutions in brief so that you can save your plant from such problems. Here is a short overview of the whole issue.



Potassium deficiency Use potassium-containing fertilizers
Overwatering Water when the soil is dry
Over PruningPrune almost 2.5 cm from the trunk in late spring
UnderwateringWater regularly, almost every 2-3 days
Freezing condition A continuous freezing atmosphere will hamper the plant growth
Drought issuesTry to provide proper water and moisture to your plant regularly 
PestsUse neem oil or industrial fungicides 
DiseasesUse bactericide or fungicide and remove all of the affected parts

Why Is My Pygmy Date Palm Dying – 8 Problems And Solutions

Dying Pygmy Date Palm

1. Potassium Deficiency

If you enlist the major causes of pygmy date palm dying, the first one will be potassium deficiency. Potassium is one of the essential mineral nutrients of pygmy date palm needed for vigorous growth.

In case of potassium deficiency, at the first stage, most of the leaves become shrunken, and yellowing, browning, or different kinds of spots are found on those leaves. The fronds also may get spotted. Then, those leaves start to fall off the plant. The rest of the leaves which are attached to the plant become pale shrank and fragile.

After that, at a severe stage, all the leaves fall from the plant. Chronologically, the stems start to rot, and finally, the plant dies.

In this case, I want to specify one more thing. Pygmy date plants can be placed both in pot and garden soil. Here, the cause of indoor pygmy date palms which are planted in the pot also faces hazardous conditions due to potassium deficiency. 

Control Measure 

  • Remove the yellow and pale leaves and stems immediately. 
  • Apply potassium-based fertilizer to your plant to add nutrients to your plant and to treat stunt growth by creating a remedy for potassium deficiency (Our pick: Espoma Organic Palm-Tone 4-1-5 Natural & Organic Plant Food) Also, you can make your potassium fertilizer at home. Here is the recipe-

Chop the 4 banana peels into pieces and dry them. Then mix banana peels,3 egg shells, and 4 tablespoons of Epsom salt. Grind the mixture into a powder. Apply 1-2 tablespoons to your plant.

2. Overwatering

The next issue is overwatering. Pygmy date palm needs watering regularly but not at an extreme range. Though it loves moist soil, water should not stay there for a continuous period. This will create a fungal attack in the root zone.

Whenever the palm root remains under clogged water for a long time, it cannot complete its osmosis process of uptaking water and nutrients from the soil. So, the inner metabolism gets threatened.

Sometimes salinity conditions are initiated which creates physiological drought that means they cannot use water for their food processing despite having enough supply of water. Hence, the plant gets weak and may die too.

Control Measure

  • Water your pygmy date palm plant after every 2 or 3 days. 
  • Improve the drainage system in the pot.
  • Consider the weather and soil conditions while watering. The plant needs more water in summer than in winter.
  • If the root system is damaged, transplant your plant into another pot which is called repotting.

3. Over Pruning

After that, I will introduce you to a common problem for beginners. I made this mistake when I first started to establish my garden. Pruning is certainly beneficial for plants to facilitate their vegetative growth. But this will harm them if you are not technical in this step.

There is a certain time and measurement for pruning. In case of crossing this limit, the plant loses its strength to grow new stems and branches. As a result, the growth becomes retarded and the plant becomes weak.

Control Measure

  • Avoid severe pruning 
  • Remove the dead branches and leaves while pruning 
  • You may cut around 2.5 cm from the trunk.
  • Pruning should be done once a year in spring. 

4. Underwatering

Overwatering, as well as underwatering both of the conditions, are both hazardous for them. In an under-watered condition, the plant won’t be able to make its food.

Their growth will be stunted and the needle-like leaves will be crispy on their edges. An underwatered pygmy date palm plant cannot produce new healthy branches.

Control Measure 

  • Water your plant regularly observing their water necessity. 
  • Water at least every 2 to 3 days.

5. Freezing Temperature

Pygmy date palm plants can tolerate cool temperatures. They are well adapted to temperate regions. But excessive cool temperature for a continuous period is harmful to them.

Freezing temperature hampers their internal activities and so they cannot proceed toward proper physiological functioning.

Control Measure

Keep your plant in a warm place inside the house in case of excessive frost.

6. Pest Infestation

Sometimes pygmy plants can also die due to the pest attack. The common pests of this plant are-

  • Aphid
  • Red date scale
  • Spider mite

Control Measure

  • Apply industrial insecticides to your plant when the insect attack is much devastating (Our pick: Bonide (BND611) – Annual Tree and Shrub Insect Control
  • Use natural beneficial insects like ladybird beetles. 
  • If the number of insects is small, you can remove the insects by hand-picking.
  • Also, you can use homemade recipes if you have enough time-

Mix 4 tablespoons of baking soda in 1 gallon of water and spray it on the affected plant parts.

Recipe- 2

Mix 1 tablespoon of neem oil, ¼ tablespoon of aloe vera powder, 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and a few drops of oil into 1 gallon of water. Mix them properly and apply them to the plant.

7. Disease

Diseases are mainly caused due to insect attacks. The deteriorating diseases of the pygmy date palm are

  • Bud rot
  • Leaf spot
  • Mosaic
  • Ganoderma Butt rot

Pygmy date palm trunk dying is mainly caused by a disease called Ganoderma Butt Rot which is initiated due to the fungus Ganoderma zonatum. It affects the main trunk and destroys the nodes. As a result, new stems cannot come out from there.

Control Measure

  • Spray water on your plant with great force.
  • If your plant is severely attacked, use industrial bactericide (Our pick)
  • Again, if industrial bactericides are not available to you, make your homemade recipe to remove bacteria. Use oil spray by mixing one tablespoon of liquid soap, and a few drops of essential oil into 1 gallon of water and apply that to the plant. 
  • But the mandatory thing that you have to do is to remove the wounded parts of the plant.
  • Butt is such a kind of fungal disease that is tough to cure. That’s why prevention is the best way. Still, if it attacks your plant, cut off all the branches about 4-5 inches from the trunk. Thus, you may be able to save your plant. But you cannot be sure of that.

8. Drought Issues

The pygmy date palm cannot tolerate excessive drought. A lot of houseplants can maintain themselves by their xerophytic quality in excessive drought. But pygmy plants can go through a moderate drought for a few days.

A continuous scorching temperature that creates a high level of drought issues is deteriorating their photosynthesis and transpiration process. If you can’t take proper care of them in such a season, they will die.

Control Measure

  • Check out the moisture level by moisture meter during the drought period (Our pick: XLUX Soil Moisture Meter)
  • Water them properly and sprinkle water around them to decrease the effect of dry air.
  • Avoid placing indoor plants where sunlight directly hits.
  • Also, you can use a humidifier for indoor plants.

Can a Dying Pygmy Date Palm Be Get Back?

healthy Pygmy Date Palm Tree

The answer will be both “Yes” and “No”. Let me explain the facts. If the leaves and stems of your plant are destroyed, you can get back that though you have to care a lot.

You will need to maintain certain issues-

  • Using qualified fertilizers
  • Watering properly when it needs
  • Be aware of pest and diseases and their remedies
  • Get a daily update on temperature and the overall atmosphere 
  • You have to be technical in pruning activities.

By following the above factors, you can get back your dying pygmy date palm plant. But if the trunk also dies, it is quite difficult to make remedies for the plant. It is almost impossible to get back. Though you should try the steps to save the plant it may not be fruitful in most cases.

How To Take Care Of Pygmy Date Palm

Soil typeWell-drained sandy soil
Soil pHSlightly alkaline 
WateringWater every 2-3 days
SunlightModerately light to full shade
Temperature 65°F to 75°F
Humidity 50-70%
Fertilizers Use dilute fertilizers mainly consisting of potassium and magnesium 


Can cutting dead leaves save a pygmy date palm plant?

Yes, if only the leaves are disturbed due to any cause. Leaves mostly die because of potassium deficiency, diseases and overwatering. So cutting those leaves may save the whole plant from dying.

Is the pygmy date palm plant tough to maintain?

It needs a little bit more care than many other houseplants. You need not spend all the time on it. But observe your plant condition regularly.

What is the propagating material of a pygmy date palm plant?

Suckers and root cuttings. The matured leaves grow suckers which are the parts of the main trunk. You can use those suckers or part of the roots for propagating this plant. 

Final Thoughts

Well, I have to end up here with my entire conversation. Those who are searching for the solutions to pygmy date palm plant dying may have gotten their answer through this article.

I tried to focus on all the facts and topics that I experienced from my pygmy plant along with my neighbors and friends. As I wanted to provide a complete guide, I mentioned the nutrient deficiency problem, Overwatering, underwatering, over-pruning, temperature effects, pests, and diseases.

I will suggest you apply those solutions perfectly to your plant with technical management. Thus, you can get back your lovely plant and stop the plant from getting attacked by these problems again.

James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg

James Rivenburg is the founder of, a passionate gardener with valuable experience and knowledge gained through trial and error. The website has a large community of followers who trust his tips and techniques and have succeeded with his advice. He is always Committed to helping others create a beautiful and healthy garden.

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