It is hard to believe that the areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) is considered an endangered species in its native Madagascar. If you drive down almost any street in a warm stateside climate, you are likely to see dozens of these tall, attractive, clumping palms that look a lot like bamboo. These 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. These palms are also grown indoors as houseplants. They are best planted in the spring, and they have a slow to moderate growth rate.
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|Common Names||Areca palm, bamboo palm, golden cane palm, yellow palm|
|Botanical Name||Dypsis lutescens (formerly Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)|
|Plant Type||Palm or cycad|
|Mature Size||12-30 feet tall outdoors with a crown spread of 10-20 feet; 8 feet tall indoors|
|Sun Exposure||Full to partial sun|
|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 choose a planting site that has good drainage. Soggy soil can easily cause root rot on a palm. When grown indoors 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. To keep outdoor palms healthy, its especially important to keep them hydrated during hot and dry weather conditions.
Indoor palms often don’t receive enough light unless they are placed near a very bright window. So, it can benefit your palm to bring it outdoors in warm weather to be exposed to diffused sunlight.
Feed indoor and outdoor palms throughout the growing season. These palms don't need much in the way of pruning or trimming. 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. 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 soil pH.
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 plant away from cold windows, air conditioners, and heat sources. And if you place potted plants outdoors during the summer, be sure to bring them in before temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Sudden cold bursts can cause dark spots to form on the leaves.
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 it during the late fall and winter when the plant is dormant.
Propagating Areca Palm
You can propagate areca palm by root division, which will grow a lush plant faster than from seed, but you will not be successful doing so with cuttings. Root division can be done at any time during the year, but the plant will be its strongest in the spring. To divide by root division from a potted areca palm:
- Choose a mature plant with multiple stems.
- Water well the day before dividing to loosen up the roots from the soil.
- Remove the palm from its pot by patting the sides of the container to loosen the root ball.
- Shake soil from the roots. Rinse soil from roots so you can see the roots that belong to each stem.
- Choose four to five stems and, with a sharp knife, cut them away from the parent.
- Gently place divided stems together in a pot with a two-to-one mixture of regular potting soil and coarse sand.
- Place the pot in bright and indirect light (not direct sun) and keep the soil moist but not soggy.
How to Grow Areca Palm From Seed
Areca palms can also be grown from seed. It is unusual to find areca palm seeds at garden centers; however, you can harvest seeds from the fruits that appear after the yellow flowers bloom.
If you propagate with seeds, 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 temperature 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. When the seedlings grow a few leaves, plant them outdoors ten feet apart, or plant three to four seedlings to a 12-inch pot to create a full look.
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 growing as a houseplant. However, it's still ideal to repot it every other year or so to refresh the potting mix and remove fertilizer salt deposits that have built up in the container. You can use the same pot if the palm's root ball still comfortably fits. Otherwise, move up one container size. Replant the palm at the same depth as it was previously planted.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Areca palms don’t have serious issues with pests or diseases. Occasionally a palm be infected with lethal yellowing, an insect-transmitted bacterial disease that causes fronds and ultimately the whole palm to die. Outdoor palms are more likely to become afflicted with this, and because treatment usually isn’t effective, it’s typically best to remove the palm before the disease spreads.
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.
Common Problems With Areca Palm
Although the plant can be easy to care for, it's prone to one particular issue that happens to both indoor and outdoor areca palms: Keep an eye out for leaf tip burn.
Leaf Tip Burn
Leaf tip burn means the tips and leaves have turned yellow or brown. This can be caused by:
- Chilled air
- Poor soil conditions
- Compacted roots
The areca palm is self-cleaning, which means it typically will shed its brown fronds on its own. For an indoor areca palm, it might be best to first amend the soil to make sure it's draining well and the roots are not sitting in water. Or, move the pot to a spot with less light and higher humidity before thinking about the last resort of repotting the plant. You can also manually sheer off brown spots to tidy up an indoor or outdoor plant.
Is areca palm easy to care for?
Areca palm is a relatively low-maintenance houseplant. The palm is also easy to care for outdoors once it is situated in the right light, full to partial sun.
How fast does areca palm grow?
Areca palm has a slow to moderate growth rate indoors and outdoors. It can grow to a mature height of ten feet indoors and up to 35 feet outdoors.
Can areca palm grow indoors?
Areca palm is commonly grown indoors in cool climates, but it needs a consistently warm environment with high humidity and just the right lighting.
“FOR 247/FR309: Dypsis Lutescens, Areca Palm.” Ufl.Edu, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FR309
Doubrava, Nancy, et al. “Palm Diseases & Nutritional Problems.” Home & Garden Information Center | Clemson University, South Carolina, 10 Sept. 2021, https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/palm-diseases-nutritional-problems/
“Areca Palm Production Guide.” Ufl.Edu, https://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/foliage/folnotes/areca.htm