Common Madagascar Palm Problems

Table of Contents

This guide to common Madagascar palm problems will help you troubleshoot why your palm is losing leaves and why the leaves are curling or turning yellow. Once you identify what’s wrong, we have the care tips you need to save your plant.

Why is Your Madagascar Palm Losing Leaves?

madagascar palm problems

One reason Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei) starts losing their leaves is when they go dormant during winter. Triggers for dormancy are cool temperatures that dip below 60 F and lower light exposure. There’s no need for alarm. If your Madagascar palm goes dormant and loses all its leaves, stop watering until spring. For a palm that keeps some of its leaves, water it no more than once per month during winter.

Causes of Madagascar Palm Leaves Turning Yellow

madagascar palm leaves turning yellow
When the leaves on a Madagascar palm turn yellow and fall off, it’s a sign of overwatering or poor-draining soil.

Madagascar Palm Watering

Your watering routine will depend on the amount of light, the type of pot and if your palm is actively growing. A bit of trial and error will help you find out how often to water your Madagascar palm.
When your plant is actively growing, spring through fall, wait to water until the top two inches of soil are dry to the touch. Water a little bit at a time until it trickles from the hole in the bottom of the pot. Then, empty the saucer of excess water.
During winter, Madagascar palms need little to no water until spring. If your palm is in a severe state and the roots are starting to rot, use our tips to rescue an overwatering plant.

How to Improve Soil Drainage of a Succulent Plant

The Madagascar palm is not a true palm. Instead, Madagascar palm is a succulent plant and does best when planted in a good draining cactus or succulent potting mix. Regular potting soil tends to stay wet too long and can cause Madagascar palm rot in the roots and stem. A houseplant can be repotted at any time with these step-by-step instructions.

Reasons for Madagascar Palm Leaves Curling

madagascar palm leaves curling
The main cause of curling leaves on a Madagascar palm grown indoors is underwatering. Another sign you can look for that shows a lack of water is dried brown edges on the leaves. There are two possible actions you can take.
  • The first step is to check if the roots are growing out of the hole in the bottom of the pot or if the roots are growing in circles when you gently slide the root ball out of the pot. In this case, repot your plant into a container that’s two inches larger in diameter than the current pot.
  • If you check the roots and they haven’t outgrown the pot, then you can simply start watering your palm more often. Test the top two inches of soil with your fingertip and water when it’s completely dry. Pour a small amount of water at a time until it trickles from the bottom of the pot. Take care to empty the saucer of excess water.
Watering, sunlight and temperature are the most common problems for Madagascar palms. They aren’t usually affected by insect pests, but it can happen on occasion. Find out about common houseplant pests.
White flies and Mealy bugs on plant leaves


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4 thoughts on “Common Madagascar Palm Problems”

    1. Hi D’Arcy,
      Some leaf loss is normal as the Madagascar palm plant goes through a dormant period during winter. Dormancy is triggered by cooler temperatures below 60 degrees F and the lower light levels of winter. Since the plant isn’t actively growing you can reduce watering to one thorough watering per month. Increase the watering frequency when the plant starts displaying new growth again.

  1. Not too sure if my plant is an Elephant Yucca or a Madagascar!
    It has been planted directly into the soil. But the smaller branch has rotted away and it looks as if the main trunk is beginning to rot as well.
    What can you suggest are my best way to go?
    Thank you so much. Please help me.
    Regards Sarah

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Whether you’re talking about a Dracaena “Madagascar dragon tree” or a Yucca, either produces foliage from a large, main stem. Once rot sets into that main stem it is very difficult to restore the plant. The damaged cells will not recover. If the top of the plant still seems healthy, you could cut the main stem – well above the area of the stem that is infected with rot, and attempt to propagate a new plant.

      Start with a new pot (with a drainage hole) or follow our tips on How to Sterilize & Clean Plant Pots and be sure to use fresh, sterile, commercial potting mix. Since overwatering (or a combination of overwatering and low light) is often the cause of plant rot, we’ve also got some tips on how to manage watering in our article How to Rescue an Overwatered Houseplant.

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