The areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) is one of the most popular larger indoor palms. After all, its beautiful fronds also bring an atmosphere to the room that can evoke a holiday feeling.
However, its cultivation requires a not-so-holiday laid-back attitude.
The areca palm, also known as golden cane palm, yellow palm, butterfly palm, or bamboo palm, is a so-called endemic. That is, it comes from a very specific region and is not common anywhere else.
The endemic home region of the areca palm is the eastern part of Madagascar. There it has chosen very specific areas of the rainforest to grow and is considered an endangered species because of this sparse distribution.
The areca palm belongs to the Arecaceae family which also contains many fan palms.
- The areca palm comes only from very special areas of eastern Madagascar.
- Its habitat of origin tropical-humid
- It is a threatened species
The areca palm grows like a tree with several, tubular trunks that stand close together. The single trunks of only 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) are quite thin and green. Depending on the light intensity they can also turn yellow.
The palm fronds form a wide, umbrella-like crown with their wide spread and overhanging habit.
In its natural habitat, the areca palm can grow up to more than 30 ft (10 m) high. In indoor cultivation, it usually stops at about 10 ft (3 m). Its growth rate is rather slow.
Growth characteristics at a glance:
- Multi-stemmed palm
- Stems are green or yellow depending on light conditions
- Spreading, umbrella-like leaf fronds
- Up to 30 ft (10 m) tall in the wild, around 10 ft (3 m) in indoor cultivation
- Slow growth rate
It is true that the name of the golden cane palm honors its fruit. In indoor culture, however, the main focus is on its leaf fronds with regard to their decorative value.
These are not only particularly beautiful to look at, they are usually the only spectacular thing the palm can offer. It hardly ever blooms in the room.
The fresh green leaves have a typical palm-like pinnate structure with narrow, lanceolate individual leaves. With a length of just about 1 inch (2 to 3 cm), they form a neat, V-shaped spread.
Sitting on leaf stalks about 24 inches (60 cm) long, they sway elastically, making them particularly attractive when the palm is outdoors in summer.
Leaf characteristics at a glance:
- Large, pinnate leaf blade with narrow lanceolate individual leaves
- Fresh green color
- Long petioles, feathery movement
As already mentioned, when the areca palm is kept indoors, it practically never flowers. The site conditions necessary for this simply cannot be adequately met here.
When an areca palm does produce flowers, they emerge from below the crown as a large, spreading, multi-branched panicle with small, bright yellow individual flowers.
The appearance of areca palm fruits is laid out in their alternative name golden cane palm. Indeed, they appear golden, orange-yellow in color.
At times, however, they can take on a deep red or black color. They are ovoid pseudo-fruits, 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, with a fibrous, leathery texture.
The Best Location for Areca Palm
The areca palm, like so many other rainforest plants, likes it very bright but not sunny. In its native habitat, it is overtopped by even much taller plants, so it is not used to intense sunlight.
So at home, place it in a spot where it gets plenty of light all day, but is shaded by other tall plants or a thin solar canopy.
As for temperature, the areca prefers a warm 68 °F (20 °C), preferably all year round. It is, therefore, best to keep it permanently in a heated conservatory.
In the summer, a temporary freshening on the terrace is also beneficial. In winter it can stand a little, but not much cooler. However, its ambient temperature should not drop below 59 °F (15 °C).
Humidity should be as high as possible given its tropical home.
Location requirements at a glance:
- A bright location, but protected from direct sunlight
- Temperature preferably around 68 °F (20 °C) all year round
- Can also be put outside in summer
- High humidity
As a substrate, the areca palm needs a fresh and relatively nutrient-rich one. A mixture of commercial pot plant soil with a fair amount of compost is well suited. The pH should be in the slightly acidic range.
Alternatively, you can keep the areca palm in hydroponics in a soilless substrate made of expanded clay over a water-nutrient solution. This will also make your watering practice easier, which needs to be finely dosed.
Watering the Areca Palm
When it comes to the water requirements of the areca palm, the rule of thumb is: moist, but no waterlogging.
Watering, therefore, requires a little sensitivity. You have to water the palm regularly and especially in the summer quite abundantly and make sure that the root ball never dries out.
However, the areca palm must not stand in water either. Excess water in the saucer should therefore be dumped out. At least the palm must not have wet feet for too long. Use room-warm water if possible.
- Areca has quite high water requirements, but it must be well dosed.
- Avoid waterlogging.
- Dump out water that stands in the saucer.
Fertilizing the Areca Palm
During the main vegetation phase from spring to fall, you can fertilize your areca palm every one to two weeks with a simple universal liquid fertilizer. Special palm fertilizers are even slightly more suitable.
In winter, extend the fertilizing interval to at least 3 weeks.
When potting, provide the palm with good, mature compost for a permanent supply of nutrients. You can also use fertilizer sticks for long-term fertilization.
Pruning the Areca Palm
Elaborate pruning is not necessary with the areca palm. It naturally grows nice and compact at the base and does not sprawl with its palm fronds.
Due to its wide, swinging habit, the palm naturally needs a lot of space. Outer fronds can therefore be removed if necessary.
Otherwise, only old, withered leaves need to be cut off. To do this, apply the scissors directly to the base of the trunk.
If you are bothered by brownish discolored leaf tips, you can also trim them. When doing so, however, be careful not to penetrate the healthy leaf tissue.
Repotting the Areca Palm
Since the areca palm does not grow very fast, repotting is not necessary very often. Usually, an interval of about 2 to 3 years is sufficient.
However, young specimens may require a new pot every year.
But repot only if the palm tree is really getting too crowded. This is because its roots are quite sensitive and should be left alone as much as possible. The ideal time to repot is in the spring.
- Repot adult areca palms about every 2-3 years.
- Repot young specimens every year.
- The best repotting time is in spring.
Propagating the Areca Palm
The easiest way to propagate an areca palm is to use ground shoots. These are formed by the areca palm when it reaches a certain age.
All you need to do is separate them from the mother plant and place them in their own pot with humus-rich soil substrate.
However, make sure that the shoot reaches a minimum length of about 12 inches (30 cm) and has developed healthy roots.
Place the pot with the young plant in a bright, warm spot protected from direct sunlight. It can be helpful for growing to cover the young plant with a foil with air holes to ensure an even, warm and humid climate.
Another variant is seed sowing. It is possible throughout the year, but the best time is spring.
However, here, of course, much more patience is required – both in growing, and waiting for a beautiful, mature palm.
Keep in mind that the areca palm is a slow grower. It will take a few years to grow into a respectable specimen.
Place the seeds in trays of growing soil and keep them evenly moist, preferably under a foil bag until germination. Areca palm seeds take a relatively long time to sprout, about 4 to 5 weeks.
Particular diseases are not a big issue with the areca palm. If it shows damage to the leaves, it is usually a sign of improper watering practices or location. More on this below.
As a secondary consequence of pest infestation, sooty mold can form in the leaves as a result of the injuries. You control this fungus first by removing the diseased parts of the plant and applying a fungicide if necessary.
As with many tropical plants with high humidity requirements, the areca palm may be subject to infestations of drought-loving pests in heated indoor culture. The typical candidates are spider mites, scale insects, and mealybugs.
These small parasites have a reddish, yellowish, or thorough color and are best recognized by the fine webs with which they cover their host plant.
They suck the plant sap from the leaves and usually linger on their undersides, where the larvae are also deposited.
The best way to remove spider mites is first mechanically, by thoroughly rinsing the palm with a strong-jet water disperser.
Then wrap the plant in plastic wrap and seal it at the lower base of the trunk. After a week, the pests should have died underneath.
Scale insects are reddish to brownish in color and secrete sticky honeydew when tapping the host plant, which gives away their population.
Ants, which love to eat the honeydew, can also be an indicator of scale insect infestation.
You should also mechanically remove scale insects from the areca palm with water first. To do this, it is best to use a wet rag and wipe the leaves thoroughly with it.
In addition, you can apply a spray cure of garlic, nettle, or tansy decoction. For stubborn infestations, oil-based preparations that lead to suffocation of the aphids are suitable.
You can easily identify mealybugs by their namesake woolly white coating that they put on as they suck on their host plant. The aphids linger all over the plant and also lay their eggs on the substrate.
If the areca palm is infested with mealybugs, you should first separate it from other plants to prevent transmission.
The best way to control the aphids is to spray them with a mixture of spirit and water and curd soap.
If the substrate with the roots is also affected, you will need to repot the plant and carefully but thoroughly clean out the root system.
Occasionally, the areca palm can also be attacked by whiteflies. These animals are not actually insects, but rather moth scale aphids.
They get their name from their fly-like appearance, which is characterized by large wings covered with white wax dust.
They live mainly on the undersides of foliage leaves, where they also place their larvae and suck the sap of the host plant. In the process, like scale insects, they secrete sticky honeydew.
If you notice an infestation of whiteflies on your areca palm, you should act as soon as possible, because the parasites spread quickly.
First aid you can place sticky yellow traps into the substrate, to which the pests stick. Furthermore, it is recommended to use preparations on neem oil, which are very gentle to plants.
You can keep all the above-mentioned pests away from your areca palm by ensuring sufficient humidity. Treat it to a fine mist water shower on a regular basis.
Also, keep your conservatory or greenhouse where your areca palm is located well ventilated on a regular basis.
Yellow Leaves on the Areca Palm
Yellow discolored leaves usually indicate an infestation of spider mites in the areca palm. But too much watering can also be the reason. Never leave the palm in water for too long.
If the yellow discoloration is accompanied by a blotchy structural change and the leaves increasingly fall off, this is an indication of a pest infestation.
Brown Leaves on the Areca Palm
When areca palm leaves turn brown, it is usually a sign of excessive drought. Either it has not been watered enough or the indoor air is too dry. Always make sure there is adequate humidity in the air.
It is also possible that you have exposed the palm to too much sunlight and the leaves are simply burnt. In that case, shade it and remove the brown leaves.
Is the Areca Palm Poisonous?
The areca palm is not poisonous. So you don’t need to necessarily wear gloves when pruning or repotting, nor do you need to keep children and pets away from it.
Can You Eat the Areca Plam?
Nevertheless, you should not eat plant parts of the areca palm. Although there is no danger of poisoning, the individual leaves of the palm fronds are quite pointed and sharp-edged.
Curious small children or cats could injure their mucous membranes if they try to eat them.