How to Grow Lipstick Palms

Lipstick palm with red crownshaft and palm leaves in sunlight

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

The lipstick palm is famous for its bright red crownshaft, from which it earns its common name. The base of the trunk is bright green with white rings while the crownshaft, or the part of the trunk where the palm fronds emerge, is bright red.

The foliage of Cyrtostachys renda is deep green with pinnate leaves that can grow up to 5 feet long. This variety of palm grows to about 35 feet in a garden but can reach 50 feet tall in its natural habitat. In the summer, these palms produce a shaft with greenish-white flowers that give way to small, black fruits. These plants have a slow to medium growth rate and can easily be grown in pots.

Botanical Name Cyrtostachys renda
Common Name Lipstick palm, red sealing wax palm, rajah wax palm
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 35 ft. tall, 20 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, Partial
Soil Type Loamy, Moist but Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, Neutral
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Green
Hardiness Zones 10-11, USA
Native Area Asia
Toxicity Non-toxic

Lipstick Palm Care

Proper care of a lipstick palm includes a lot of water. These trees grow wonderfully near water sources, such as ponds or rivers. If the lipstick palm is in a container, it will need frequent watering. Partial shade is ideal, particularly when these plants are young. 

These trees have a clumping nature that creates trunks at varying heights. This staggered effect makes for a perfect, natural privacy fence. Alternatively, suckers can be taken off and propagated. These trees are resistant to many pests and diseases but may have issues with spider mites or scale if grown indoors. They are not tolerant of drought, winds, salt, or cold temperatures.

Lipstick palm trees with bright red crownshaft with small palm leaves in cement pot

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Lipstick palm with bright red crownshaft and extending palm leaves

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Lipstick palms with bright green trunk base and bright red crownshaft

foto76 / Getty Images

Light

Partial sun is best for these vibrant palms, especially when they are young and more tender. Once they are mature, they can be grown in partial to full sun. 

Soil

The lipstick palm is native to swampy, wet areas such as near riverbanks or tidal areas. In fact, it has been known to survive in standing water. For the healthiest palm, provide it with well-draining, moist, loamy soil.

Water

This moisture-loving tree requires consistent watering. Keep the soil moist, watering before the soil has a chance to dry out. The frequency of waterings will vary by location, but you may need to water a lipstick palm daily to keep it quenched.  

Temperature and Humidity

The lipstick palm likes it hot and cannot tolerate cold weather. The ideal temperature for this tree is around 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. It does best in an area with steady temperatures.

Just as this plant doesn’t do well in dry soil, it also doesn’t do well in dry air. The lipstick palm requires high humidity to stay healthy. 

Fertilizer

Giving your palm tree fertilizer will help ensure that needed nutrients are not washed away with constant watering. A well-balanced, slow-release palm fertilizer should be given twice a year during the growing season. Beware of fertilizers with high amounts of salt, as the lipstick palm does not tolerate salt well. 

Is Lipstick Palm Toxic?

The lipstick palm is non-toxic to both animals and humans. However, it is not meant to be consumed, so keep curious pets or children from ingesting the leaves or fruit. 

Pruning Lipstick Palms

The lipstick palm does not require much pruning. Unlike other landscaping plants, pruning does not encourage more growth on the lipstick palm. Therefore, only prune away damaged or diseased fronds to maintain a clean, healthy appearance.

Propagating Lipstick Palms

Like other palms, the lipstick palm produces suckers or young offshoots. These are perfect for propagation. Here’s how to propagate these plants in a simple way.

  1. Using a sharp saw or garden shovel, cut the sucker away from the mother plant. Try to include some root structure if possible. 
  2. Remove the sucker and place it in well-draining, moist soil. 
  3. Place your sucker in partial sun and keep well-watered.

Note that the lipstick palm can be grown from seed, but the process is notoriously long and challenging. Seeds may take 2 to 3 months before germinating, and new plants may take years before growing beyond a few inches. As a result, propagating these plants is much quicker and easier and is the preferred method.

Potting and Repotting Lipstick Palms

The lipstick palm can be grown in containers indoors and outdoors. Because it will not have access to a water source, potted palms need to be watered often.

To keep the lipstick palm in a container, choose a container wide and deep enough to accommodate its roots and allow for growth. After several years, the palm may fill the pot with roots. When this happens, it is time to repot to avoid the plant from becoming root-bound.

To repot lipstick palm, start by gently working the palm out of its current pot. It may help to tip it on its side. Once you've slid the plant and roots out, place the palm in a pot large enough to accommodate new growth and fill it in with well-draining soil. Pat down the new dirt and water thoroughly. Because they have slow to medium growth rates, your lipstick palm will not need to be repotted often.  

Overwintering Lipstick Palms

In the northern tip of their outdoor growing zones, the lipstick palm benefits greatly from a heavy layer of mulch. This helps protect it from dropping temperatures. For colder climates, this palm needs to be taken indoors in order to overwinter successfully.

Keep in mind that the lipstick palm doesn't tolerate dry air well, so you may need to implement a strategy to raise humidity levels and keep this plant healthy as a houseplant.