I have a sickly Areca Palm tree. I’ve been having a hard time diagnosing what’s wrong, but I’m pretty confident that the cause isn’t something simple like overwatering or underwatering. There are various types of fungus that can cause rot, and winter’s supposed to be the hardest time for palms. I have no idea what it is, but there’s a little bit of something questionable on the soil, which I’m thinking may be spores of something harmful to the plant.
I’ve asked the pros for help identifying what’s going on, but in the meantime dreamt up a potential solution. My hypothesis is that Windex will be a moderately-acceptable fungicide in the absence of any data on what is going on. It seems like it would be harmful to any living thing, but it also seems that a light dusting of Windex spray on the soil would be insufficient to kill a three-foot-tall palm.
I was searching to see if I could find any supporting documentation for my crazy idea. I wasn’t having much luck. What I did find is the real point of my post.
I found this 1999 paper, complete with some misspellings or typos. They concluded that .5 mL of Windex on a young (unidentified) plant was detrimental, and that 1 mL of Windex was fatal to another unidentified plant, but that both were very young seedlings, and that the one that was just given water did well. This supports my “Windex is probably harmful” theory, but doesn’t give me nearly enough data to know whether a couple of sprays of Windex onto the soil on a big plant will harm the plant itself or not. It also confusingly blends with their other experiment, using soapy water instead of Windex. They do suggest that the ammonia in Windex seems to have dried the soil much faster than soap or water. (Which is good because I also wonder if I have root-rot, which perpetually-damp soil will aggravate.)
I looked around some more and found this paper. The writing style screamed of something written for a science class, and didn’t really sound like a college paper. I read it more and gathered that it was a 4th grade science project. I actually found it more useful than the college paper, if only because it gave more details, despite statements like, “The plant with no squirts [of Windex] is doing fine. The next day the plant with no squirts is still doing fine.” It seems to suggest that the plants they were using, which I infer may have been pepper plants, were more resilient than whatever was used in the college paper. (Of course, the same science class has this page with data that suggests potted seeds will germinate better with no light than fluorescent lights.)
So I was poking around some more, and found another relevant thread. It turns out it’s on a marijuana grower’s forum. That seemed slightly encouraging, since a marijuana plant is probably closer to the size of my palm tree than the plants used in those experiments. So I was hoping to see Windex discussed as a poor man’s fungicide. Instead, I burst out laughing as people running marijuana grow labs* cited the same 4th-grade science project I’d found earlier.
* I actually have no idea if they were running a giant “grow op” or were just recreational pot smokers, but the former is a much more entertaining notion.
I’m unable to find anything better than those two papers, though. Frustrated with having no answers to that or my questions elsewhere about what might be wrong with my palm tree, I decided to take science into my own hands, and sprayed a light mist of Windex onto the soil. I won’t get much good data out of it, though, since I have only one plant that seems to be declining. If it does better, the Windex may have worked. If nothing happens, the Windex may have had no effect, or may have had an effect I can’t see. If the plant dies, it may have been the Windex, or it may have been the fact that there seems to be a rapidly-growing fungus.
The marijuana forum did point out that Windex is ammonia-rich, and that ammonia is used as a fertilizer. Although I’m pretty certain that doesn’t mean that Windex is good for plants, given that it contains a lot of other chemicals.