Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens) features soft, fine-textured fronds that are beautifully full and dense. No wonder it’s also commonly referred to as Butterfly Palm, and this makes it a popular choice for a privacy screen, accents, and garden drops in many American homes, especially in South Florida.
This makes it hard to believe that this type of palm tree is actually considered to be an endangered species in its native Madagascar. Drive down practically any street in a warm region of the United States, and you’re bound to see dozens of these tall, beautifully, clumping palms.
These palms have slender, occasionally golden trunks that resemble bamboo clumps with fronds that also look like bamboo leaves. Although they’re often grown outdoors as a privacy screen, these beautiful palms can also be grown indoors as houseplants and are best planted in spring.
Their popularity as indoor office and houseplants increased since the 1980s partly due to the air cleaning experiments carried out by NASA and Dr. Wolverton which named these palm trees as one of the best air purifying plants.
Areca palms have a slow to moderate growth rate, growing between 6 and 10 inches every year. A healthy indoor areca palm can reach a height of 7 feet, whereas outdoor areca palms can reach a height of 30 feet. It can take up to ten years for a young areca palm seedling to reach its maximum height.
Botanical Name: Dypsis lutescens (formerly Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
Common Name: Areca palm, bamboo palm, yellow palm, golden cane palm, butterfly palm
Plant Type: Palm
Hardiness Zones: 10 – 11 (USDA)
Sun Exposure: Partial to full sun (outdoors), bright indirect sunlight (indoors)
Soil Type: Moist, well-draining
Soil pH: 6.1 to 6.5 (Slightly acidic soil)
Time to Maturity: 10 years
Height: 12 to 30 feet outdoors, 7 feet indoors
Bloom Time: Summer
Flower Color: Pale yellow
Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Caring for Areca Palm
- Areca palms can be grown both indoors and outdoors, and feature soft, fine-textured fronds that are beautifully full and dense.
- The right amount of light and high humidity is essential for successfully growing areca palm trees indoors.
- Indoors, they require bright indirect sunlight from a south or west-facing window, while outdoors they grow best in bright, filtered sunlight but are also tolerant of full sun.
- These palm trees are sensitive to fluoride in hard water so water them when the soil is slightly dry with collected rainwater or distilled water.
- Areca palm trees are heavy feeders and will require regular fertilizing from spring to early fall.
Areca Palm Plant Care
If you’re planting and growing Areca palm outdoors, it is important to choose a planting area with good drainage. On a palm, root rot is easily brought on by wet soil. A container with good drainage is required for growing it indoors as a houseplant.
In terms of regular plant care and maintenance, water your areca palm whenever the soil starts to dry out. It’s important to keep outdoor palms hydrated during hot, dry weather in order to maintain their health.
Unless they are put near a very bright window, indoor palms frequently don’t receive enough light. As a result, taking your palm outside when the weather is warm and exposing it to diffused sunshine can be beneficial. Plus, make sure to feed your indoor and outdoor areca palm trees throughout the growing season since they’re heavy feeders.
Palms like this don’t require much in the way of pruning or trimming. You should wait to remove any dying fronds until they are mostly brown since even then, they may still contribute to the process of photosynthesis. Even then, areca palms are self-cleaning so might not require the additional assistance whatsoever.
The right amount of light is essential for successfully growing areca palm trees indoors. They require bright, indirect light from a south- or west-facing window. In direct sunlight, the leaves turn yellow-green.
When grown outside, these plants flourish best in areas with bright, filtered sunlight; however, they are also tolerant of full sun.
A potting mix with a peat base that drains well is ideal for indoor plants in pots. A rich, slightly acidic soil with very good drainage is perfect for growing outdoor areca palms. To increase soil porosity and reduce pH, amending with sand and peat moss may be necessary.
Areca palms, like many other types of palms, prefer moist soil, but they are sensitive to being overwatered.
However, it’s important to note that they can’t handle being waterlogged or sitting in a water-saturated potting mix. And so, allow the soil or potting mix to become slightly dry in between waterings.
Plus, these palm trees are sensitive to fluoride in hard water, so use distilled water or collected rainwater to water them.
Temperature and Humidity
This plant thrives best in temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, both indoors and outdoors. It can be successfully grown as an outdoor plant in areas where winter lows rarely drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
When growing indoors, keep the plant away from drafty windows, heat sources, and also air conditioners. And if you leave your plants in containers outside throughout the summer, remember to bring them inside before the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Dark spots may develop on the leaves as a result of sudden cold bursts.
An areca palm needs high humidity to maintain its attractive appearance. When indoors, the plant will adapt to normal ambient humidity levels. The leaf tips, however, frequently turn brown when the air is too dry.
The areca palm is a heavy feeder and so it needs fertilizing with a liquid fertilizer from spring to early fall, according to the label instructions. Make sure to not feed it during late fall and winter when the palm is dormant.
There’s no need to prune Areca palm since it’s self-cleaning. This means it’ll typically shed its brown fronds on its own without any assistance.
How to Plant and Grow Areca Palm
How to Grow Areca Palm from Seed
Areca palms can also be grown from seed. Areca palm seeds are hard to come by at garden centers, but the fruits that develop after the yellow flowers bloom can be harvested for their seeds.
If you choose to propagate with seeds, it is best to do so in a controlled environment at home by covering them lightly with a seed-starting mix.
The germination rate is higher for older, orange-colored seeds than for younger, greener seeds. It takes around six weeks for seeds to germinate when the soil temperature is over 80 degrees Fahrenheit and there is relatively high humidity.
As you wait for germination, keep the seed-starting mix moist but not soggy. Later, keep the seedlings moist as well. Plant the seedlings outdoors around 10 feet apart when they have a few leaves.
For containers, plant three to four seedlings in a 12-inch container for a fuller look.
How to Propagate Areca Palm
Areca palms can be propagated by root division, which produces a lush plant more quickly than from seed, but cuttings will not work. Root division can be performed at any time of year, but the spring is when the plant is at its strongest.
To take a root division from an areca palm that has been potted start by selecting a mature plant that has several stems. Make sure to water the palm well the day before you divide it so that it doesn’t stress out the palm too much.
Lightly tap the sides of the container to remove the root ball to remove the palm and then shake the soil off the roots.
Next, rinse any remaining soil off the roots to be able to clearly see which roots belong to which stems. Then pick four to five stems and cut them away from the parent with a sharp knife.
Prepare the container for your root divisions by mixing regular potting soil with coarse sand in a 2 to 1 ratio. Then gently place the stems together in the pot. Make sure the container has adequate drainage holes.
Place your newly propagated areca palm container in bright, indirect light but make sure to not expose it to direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist but don’t let it get waterlogged.
How to Pot and Repot Areca Palms
Areca palms prefer a somewhat crowded container with ample drainage holes. Crowded roots will help in keeping the palm’s size in check when grown indoors.
To refresh the potting mix and get rid of any fertilizer salt deposits that have accumulated in the container, it is still best to repot it every other year or so.
If the root ball of the palm still fits comfortably, you can reuse the same container. If not, you should move up one container size. The palm should be replanted at the same depth as before.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases for Areca Palm
There are no significant pest or disease problems with areca palms.
A palm may become infected with lethal yellowing, an insect-transmitted bacterial disease that kills fronds and, ultimately, the entire palm.
This is more likely to happen to palms outdoors, and since treatment usually isn’t effective, it’s usually best to get rid of the palm before the disease spreads.
Indoor areca palms are susceptible to common houseplant pests, including spider mites, aphids, scale, mealybugs, and whiteflies, which can cause foliage damage and discoloration.
Treat any infestation as soon as possible using our guides to get rid of the pests before they spread to other houseplants.
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Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa's work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.