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Pruned Root, Dying Plant!

Question:

I bought my first palm 5 weeks ago from Home Depot which came in a 12″ planter. As you can see from the picture, it came with multiple stems/shoots and plenty of fresh leaves. After about 3 weeks of watering scantily, and finding a wider but shorter (11″) planter to repot, I decided to prune the roots by reading off an about.com article. I chopped about 2″ of roots in all directions. Several of the larger roots that were above the soil level of the original planter were also severed. I used regular potting mix to fill up the additional space in the new plastic pot with drain holes. I watered and kept it away from sun for 2 weeks. Within the first few days, all the leaves went limp. I tied up the stems and held them up with stockings for over a week. Now, almost all leaves are either dry-green, yellow or brown as you can see in the second picture. Is it time to toss this plant? to prune some leaves? wait until spring for new shoots?

Answer:

I wish I had a cure for your Palm problems, but it is too late. It will not recover.

As you have discovered, About.com is not a reliable source of information, especially plant care information. On that site, people with no professional experience are paid money to do online research and write Answer:s on topics in which they have no first-hand knowledge.

Your problems probably started when you “watered scantily” for three weeks. Cat Palms do not tolerate dryness so that is when the deterioration of the roots began. But the real disaster was root pruning. While it is true that some plants can benefit from root pruning when done properly, Palms are not among them. Root pruning is like heart and brain surgery done at the same time.

In your case, many of the main roots and most of the tiny root hairs were severely traumatized and damaged. That is why the plant starting going limp after just a few days. Now, I can see that all of the remaining fronds are dry and discolored because the roots are no longer capable of absorbing the moisture and nutrients from the soil.

I’m sorry you followed such misguided information from non-professionals. Unfortunately, this happens a lot on the internet where virtually anyone can post information. For the future, you should know that the single most common cause of plant problems starts with unnecessary repotting and disturbing of root systems. It is rare that plants need repotting and new plants never do.