Majesty palm (Ravenea rivularis) is a tropical tree native to Madagascar, where it can grow nearly 100 feet tall in its natural habitat. But it is increasingly rare in the wild and is now grown mostly as an indoor tree, where confining its roots keeps the plants to about 10 feet tall. It has long arching green fronds atop multiple stems. As a houseplant, it resembles a kentia palm when young and a royal palm when mature. This is high praise since these are two of the more attractive of all indoor palms. It is, however, a somewhat tricky plant to grow successfully indoors, requiring humid air, lots of bright indirect light, and consistent moisture. It is often referred to by houseplant experts as a "challenging" plant.
When grown indoors, majesty palm will add about one foot of growth per year until it reaches four to six feet, then slows down dramatically. It is faster-growing as an outdoor plant where its roots are free to roam—it is occasionally used as a landscape tree in California, South Florida, and other tropical regions.
|Common Names||Majesty palm, majestic palm|
|Botanical Name||Ravenea rivularis|
|Mature Size||10-100 ft.tall, 6–20 ft. wide|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||10-11 (USDA)|
Majesty Palm Care
Successfully growing majesty palms requires carefully balancing several factors: heat, light, and fertilization. Plants that are over-fertilized and grown in warm conditions, but not given enough light, will stretch out looking for more. Plants that are given too much light without a corresponding increase in fertilizer and water will scorch. The right balance indoors likely means a bright corner, with plenty of water, and less fertilizer than you probably think.
Majesty palm has a reputation for being somewhat of a temperamental plant. Kentia palm, bamboo palm, or parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans) plants are generally better choices for beginner indoor gardeners.
Although majesty palms are understory plants in their natural habitat, indoors it's a good idea to provide as much light as possible. Plants that are stretching and bleached should be moved into a brighter spot for a few weeks, but don't expose them to full sunlight.
These palms are acid-loving plants that do best with a pH level as low as 5.0, so don't worry about a peat-based mixture acidifying and hurting your majesty palm. A standard potting mix, with some extra peat mixed in, is an ideal growing medium for majesty palms. These palms need good drainage to prevent water-logged roots.
Keep the potting media evenly moist, but not waterlogged. Don't let the plant's soil get too dry between waterings or you'll start to lose lower leaves.
Temperature and Humidity
This plant will grow fairly well in temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It prefers high humidity but can survive in ordinary household humidity levels. In colder climates where winter air can get very dry; running a humidifier can make the plants happier. Misting the plant daily will also ensure it gets the humidity it craves. Low humidity levels can encourage insect pests.
Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer once or twice during the growing season and not at all during the winter. If your indoor palm plant starts to stretch out, then reduce or stop fertilizing. A fertilizer mix designed for cacti is a good choice.
Applying Epsom salts once a month will supply adequate magnesium and prevent the yellowing of the leaves. Plants might also require supplemental iron to prevent additional yellowing and leaf loss. Follow the product label instructions for the application of iron.
Types of Majesty Palm
There are no named cultivars of Ravenea rivularis. There are only about 20 species in the Ravenea genus, all of them considered seriously endangered. R. rivularis is the only species commonly cultivated for garden or houseplant use.
Pruning duties are generally limited to simply removing any fronds that have turned brown or yellow. This is all that's needed to keep the plant looking good.
Propagating Majesty Palm
Majesty palms are raised exclusively from seed, and commercial production of seeds is somewhat limited. It's highly unlikely that home growers can get access to seeds. Propagation through stem cuttings is also not an option. However, division, or separating the offset "pups" from the mother palm, is a viable option. This method is best done when you need to repot the plant so the plant is not stressed by moving it around too much. Here are the steps for division:
- Remove the plant from its pot by gently rolling it out of the container while it's on its side. Do not yank the palm from its pot from an upright position.
- Look for pups, or offshoots, from the mother plant that you can potentially separate from the root ball.
- Massage the root ball with your fingers to relax and soften it so you can untangle the pups. To help separate roots, use a disinfected, sharp knife if needed. You can even trim the roots of the pups if they are too long for new pots.
- Place offshoots in pots with fast-draining soil. Water the pots in a sink until it starts to drip from the bottom, but do not let the pot sit in water.
- Put pots in a bright spot, like its mother plant. Fertilize the baby palms in about a month.
Potting and Repotting Majesty Palm
This palm may need to be repotted annually, but more likely every other year since it grows slowly. When repotting, be careful not to damage the root ball and use a large, heavy container to prevent the palm tree from tipping over. Pots made from clay or ceramic will help stabilize these plants, which can get top-heavy.
A standard potting mix blended with additional peat moss works well as a growing medium.
In cold-winter regions, it's quite common to move these plants back and forth between an outdoor patio and an indoor location as the seasons shift. Make sure to get your plant indoors before freezing weather arrives.
During the winter, a majesty palm likes a slightly cooler temperature, 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, winter care remains the same.
Majesty palms are vulnerable to pests including aphids, scale, and whitefly. Low humidity levels make this plant especially susceptible to spider mites and mealybugs. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat it with the least toxic option, such as a horticultural oil.
How to Get Majesty Palm to Bloom
Majesty palms rarely bloom until they are fully mature—and indoor plants rarely bloom. Large outdoor trees planted in the landscape may produce white flowers followed by red fruit once they are full-sized, but the blooms are not showy, so there is no reason to encourage them.
Common Problems With Majesty Palms
A majesty palm will show you that it isn't doing well by changing the color of its leaves. Here's a rundown on the reasons why your majesty palm isn't looking as green as you'd like.
Leaves Turning Yellow
Yellowing leaves are the most common problem with majesty palms. Here are reasons why leaves turn yellow:
- It needs more light.
- It's not being watered enough.
- It's being overwatered.
- It needs more humidity in its environment.
- The plant has a nutrient deficiency and needs gentle fertilizer.
Leaves Turning Brown
If the leaves are turning crispy brown, the palm is getting too much sunlight and needs to be placed in a spot with less direct light to avoid leaf burn. If leaves are beginning to turn brown at the tips, the plant is probably not getting enough water. If you notice brown spots developing on the leaves, that's likely an insect problem.
Is majesty palm easy to care for?
Majesty palm has a reputation for being a temperamental plant. It all depends on how happy the plant is with the heat, light, and fertilization.
How fast does majesty palm grow?
This palm tree grows about one foot a year, and that means infrequent repotting. Once it reaches four to six feet, the growth rate slows even further.
What's the difference between majesty palm and areca palm?
The two palms look alike, but there are subtle differences in the fronds. The fronds on a majesty palm are sharp while the fronds on an areca palm are more relaxed and droopy. An areca palm is also easier to care for indoors.
Younis, Adnan. (2017). Nutritional Efficacy of Various Growing Substrates for Potted Ravenea rivularis Palm Production. Pakistan Journal of Nutrition. 16. 10.3923
How to Prune and Propagate Your Majesty Palm. Houseplant Resource Center.
Howard, F. W. Insects on Palms. CABI Pub., 2017