It is hard to believe that the areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) was once an endangered species. Drive down almost any street in a warm climate, and you are likely to see dozens of these tall, attractive, clumping palms that look a lot like bamboo. The palms have smooth, sometimes golden trunks that are reminiscent of bamboo clumps. Their fronds are narrow and full, almost like bamboo leaves. When grown outdoors, they are often used as a privacy screen. They also are commonly grown as houseplants. These palms are best planted in the spring, and they have a slow to moderate growth rate.
|Botanical Name||Dypsis lutescens (formerly Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)|
|Common Names||Areca palm, bamboo palm, butterfly palm, golden cane palm, yellow palm|
|Mature Size||10–30 ft. tall, 8–15 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Flower Color||Pale yellow|
|Hardiness Zones||10–11 (USDA)|
Areca Palm Care
When grown outdoors, it is important to start an areca palm off right in a planting site that has good drainage. Soggy soil can easily cause root rot on a palm. As a houseplant, a well-draining container is essential.
In terms of regular care, plan to water your areca palm whenever the soil starts to dry out. This is especially important for outdoor palms in hot weather to keep them healthy. Moreover, indoor palms often don’t get enough light unless you have a very bright window. So it can benefit your palm to bring it outdoors in warm weather to be exposed to diffused sunlight. Feed both indoor and outdoor palms throughout the growing season. These palms don't need much in the way of pruning. Wait to remove any dying fronds until they are mostly brown, as they still can play a role in photosynthesis.
Outdoors, these plants like bright, filtered sunlight, but they also can tolerate full sun. Ideally they should have protection from strong afternoon sun, as too severe of light can scorch the foliage. Indoors, areca palms do best with bright light exposure from a south- or west-facing window.
For potted indoor plants, a well-draining, peat-based potting mix is perfect. Outdoor specimens do best with a rich, slightly acidic soil that has very good drainage. Amending with sand and peat moss might be necessary to improve porousness and lower the pH of the soil.
Like many palms, areca palms like moist soil, but they are sensitive to overwatering and cannot tolerate being waterlogged or sitting in a water-saturated potting mix. So let the soil or potting mix dry out slightly between waterings. Areca palms also are sensitive to fluoridated water, so use distilled water or collected rainwater.
Temperature and Humidity
Indoors or outdoors, this plant does best in average temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It will do fine planted in the garden in regions where outdoor temperatures don't dip below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. When grown as an indoor plant, keep the leaves away from cold windows, air conditioners, and heat sources. And if you place potted plants outside during the summer, be sure to bring them in before temperatures dip below 50 degrees. Sudden cold bursts can cause dark spots on the leaves. Furthermore, high humidity is essential to keeping an areca palm looking its best. The plant will acclimate to normal indoor humidity. But if the air is too dry, it is common for the leaf tips to turn brown.
The areca palm is a heavy feeder and requires fertilizing from spring to early fall with a liquid fertilizer, following label instructions. Do not feed during the late fall and winter when the plant is dormant.
Potting and Repotting Areca Palms
Areca palms like a somewhat cramped container with ample drainage holes, and crowded roots will aid in keeping the palm's size in check for growth as a houseplant. However, it's still ideal to repot every other year or so to refresh the potting mix and remove fertilizer salt deposits that have built up in the container. You may use the same pot if the palm's root ball still comfortably fits it. Otherwise, use just one container size up. Replant the palm at the same depth as it was previously.
Propagating Areca Palms
Areca palms are planted from seed, usually many seeds to a single pot or cluster. It is unusual to find areca palm seeds at garden centers, but if you do you can germinate them at home by planting them slightly covered in a seed-starting mix. The older, orange-colored seeds generally have a better germination rate than the newer, greener seeds. Germination takes about six weeks with soil over 80 degrees Fahrenheit and relatively high humidity. Keep the seed-starting mix moist but not soggy as you wait for germination, and then continue to keep the seedlings moist as well.
Areca palms don’t have serious issues with pests or diseases. Occasionally a palm will come down with lethal yellowing, an insect-transmitted bacterial disease that causes fronds and ultimately the whole palm to die. Outdoor palms are generally the ones afflicted with this, and because treatment usually isn’t effective it’s typically best to remove the palm before the disease can spread. Indoor areca palms are vulnerable to common houseplant pests, including mites, aphids, mealybugs, scale, and whiteflies, which can cause foliage damage and discoloration. Treat any infestation as soon as possible, ideally with a natural insecticide.
Areca Palm Production Guide. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences