How to Grow Lipstick Palms

Lipstick palm with red crownshaft and palm leaves in sunlight

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Cyrtostachys renda, 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 is deep green with pinnate leaves that can grow up to 5 feet long. This variety of palm grows 25 to 35 feet tall in the wild. 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 be easily grown in pots.

Botanical Name Cyrtostachys renda
Common Name Lipstick palm, red sealing wax palm, rajah wax palm
Plant Type Tree, cycad
Mature Size 25 to 35 ft. tall, 12 to 20 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full to partial sun
Soil Type Loamy, moist but well-drained
Soil pH Acidic to neutral
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Green
Hardiness Zones Zone 11
Native Area Malay peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra

Lipstick Palm Care

Proper care of a lipstick palm involves water. These trees grow wonderfully near water sources, such as ponds or rivers. If the lipstick palm is grown in a container, it will need frequent watering. Partial sun is ideal 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 might have issues with spider mites or scale if grown indoors. They don't tolerate 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 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 might need to water a lipstick palm daily to keep it quenched.  

Temperature and Humidity

The lipstick palm requires warm temperatures and cannot tolerate cold weather. The ideal temperature for this tree is about 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

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

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, which are perfect for propagation. Here’s how.

  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. Plant the sucker in well-draining, moist potting soil. 
  3. Place the container in a location with partial sun and keep it well-watered.

The lipstick palm can be grown from seed, but the process is notoriously long and challenging. Seeds can take two to three months to germinate, and new plants might take years to grow just a few inches. Because it is quicker and easier than growing from seed, propagating these plants via suckers is the preferred method.

Potting and Repotting Lipstick Palms

The lipstick palm can be grown in containers indoors and outdoors. Because the container does not have access to a water source, you must water potted palms often.

To grow 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 might become root-bound.. When this happens, it is time to repot into a larger container with fresh potting soil.

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

Overwintering Lipstick Palms

In the northern tip of USDA Zone 11, the lipstick palm benefits greatly from a heavy layer of mulch to protect its root system from cooler temperatures. In zones colder than Zone 11, this palm must be moved indoors in order to overwinter successfully. In most areas of the continental U. S., this palm should be grown indoors or in a greenhouse. 

Keep in mind that the lipstick palm doesn't tolerate dry air well, so you might need to implement a strategy to raise humidity levels to maintain it as a healthy houseplant.