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Plant Diseases/Madagascar Palm


Madagascar Palm
Madagascar Palm  
We've had this plant for about 5 or 6 years and it's growth has been great. We live in San Diego, Ca. and the plant has always been out doors. Once it reached about 5ft it started flowering and branching annually. Last year was the exception, no flowers at all but plenty of green growth on top. At one point in late Summer we noticed the trunk had sucked in about 3/4 of the way up. That side had been facing the corner of the house and had gone unnoticed for while. I'm wondering if the disfigurement may have had something to do with the fact that the plant didn't flower? I'm also curious as to what caused the disfigurement, maybe too little watering?



Dear Mark, Your picture of the plant's damage is excellent.  I'm sure the damage to the plant is the reason that it has not flowered this year.  The big question is, what exactly has caused this damage?  I have seen this type of damage in succulents who have a rot infection.  Part of the plant is overly wet or the plant isn't draining well, and the rot can nearly destroy the plant before it is even noticed.  If the soil is in an area that holds water for any length of time, the poorly draining soil could cause this condition.  However, you could also have this condition because the plant didn't have enough water.  Since these plants will store excess water in their tissues, it could become so depleted that the entire plant caves in.  To cause this much damage, the plant would probably have been bone dry for quite a long time.  There is another, slightly remote possibility to the cause of this damage -perhaps a burrowing insect has somehow tunneled in and caused the sunken damage.  Since these plants are highly poisonous, and don't have many bugs that will attack them, it seems a bit unlikely, but you might want to look closely to be certain it doesn't have a borer.  The last possibility is cold damage.  This plant doesn't like cool weather at all, and if the temperature has gotten down to the 50's or lower, it could cause a lot of damage to the plant.  Unfortunately, I can't tell you for certain which problem your plant has.  The most likely suspects would be too much water, too little water, or too cold.  You say that you think it might be under watered, and that may well be the cause.  These plants do like a good amount of water, and if it is outside and very hot, it will need more water.  Sometimes when plants get damaged like this, they will recover, and it looks as though your plant is trying to straighten itself out.  Just keep an eye on the general conditions, watch the watering and temperature, and you may well have flowers next year.  I wish I could be more exact in my diagnosis, but I hope this information helps you.  Good luck, Melissa

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Melissa Johnston


Plant diseases, landscaping, tropical plants, roses, herbs, plant care, grafting, horticulture, plant identification, anything about plants I can likely answer.


35 years experience in various plant businesses, 1984 Certified Texas Master Gardener.

Master Gardener Association of Texas charter member

none as of yet, but I have a plant q&a book I am in process of submitting.

Magna cum laude graduate of Texas A&M, 1978

Awards and Honors
Plant growing awards, highest grade for Texas Master Gardener graduates.

Past/Present Clients
Past member of and was very highly rated. Owned landscape company in the past, Almost Paradise, and was very successful despite little equipment, no help, and no advertising. Lived well for two years until 9/11.

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