Livistona palms (Livistona) decorate offices and living rooms as decorative foliage plants.
Their culture is not difficult if the requirements for temperature and light are taken into account. In a suitable location, the Livistona palm proves to be robust, so it requires little attention in terms of care.
Livistona is a genus of plants that belongs to the palm family. The plants are mainly found in Southeast Asia.
In the north, their range extends to the Himalayas. In the south, the species occur in Indochina, New Guinea, and Malesia.
There are also some habitats in Australia and the Horn of Africa where Livistonia species thrive.
Their habitats are very diverse. Species known as Livistona palms inhabit swamp and montane forests or areas near rivers and streams with fresh water.
They occur in the understory of tropical and subtropical rainforests and dominate dry woody vegetation in the savannah.
Livistona species also grow in desert canyons that have continuous water.
The plants grow as single-stemmed palms whose height of growth varies greatly. Some species remain dwarf, while other members of the genus grow several feet tall.
Their stems form by superimposed leaf sheaths that dry out over time. In pot culture, ornamental plants usually grow as stemless shrubs.
Livistona develops leaves that give the plant an exotic character. They are divided into a fan-shaped incised leaf blade with stiff or slightly drooping leaf segments and a petiole that may be spiny or glabrous.
When the leaves wither, they remain on the plant. The dead leaves form a kind of dress around the stem. The leaf blade can grow up to 24 inches (60 cm) long, depending on the species.
The flowers sit close together in inflorescences. They grow from the leaf axils and can branch up to five times.
Livistona palms are hermaphroditic. Only a few species develop purely male and female plants.
The single flowers are very small and usually cream-colored.
Livistona blooms several times a year. Plants cultivated indoors rarely develop flowers because the room conditions do not match natural conditions.
After flowering, spherical small fruits cover the inflorescence. Their coloration differs depending on the species.
The color palette ranges from scarlet and green to blue-green, blue-black, dark brown, and black.
Livistona decorates potted gardens on balconies and terraces during the summer months. They are only suitable for pot planting.
They beautify living rooms, conservatories, or light-filled passageways. In combination with other exotic plants, they create a tropical atmosphere.
Livistona feels at home among these plants:
- Coconut tree (Cocos nucifera)
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
- Bush lily (Clivia)
Is Livistona Poisonous?
Livistona palms do not contain toxic agents. Therefore, you can safely cultivate them in households with children or pets.
The pointed leaves and spiny petioles of some species pose a risk of injury, though. Place the container out of reach of small children, cats, or dogs.
Also, you should quickly dispose of any fallen leaves.
What Kind of Location is Suitable?
A bright location provides Livistona with optimal growing conditions. The plants can tolerate several hours of direct sunlight, as long as they are not exposed to the blazing midday sun.
The darker the location, the slower the palm will grow. In sunnier areas, you should spray the plant regularly. It thrives optimally at temperatures between 64 and 77 °F (18 and 25 °C).
What Kind of Soil Does Livistona Need?
Livistona species should be cultivated in a well-drained soil mixture that provides slightly acidic conditions. A mixture of potting soil, compost, and sharp sand is ideal.
For improved permeability, you can alternatively use gravel, lava granules, or expanded clay.
You should avoid pure peat and humus soil. The substrate sags over time so that the roots are no longer sufficiently aerated.
Livistona palms can be propagated by seeds from mature fruiting plants. You can buy these seeds in special stores for Mediterranean plants and palms.
Place the seeds in a shallow dish of lukewarm water and allow them to swell for 24 hours. During this time, the outer shell softens and the seeds can germinate more easily.
Germination occurs at different rates. It can take up to four months for the first sprouts to appear. The germination process favors a temperature of 77 °F (25 °C).
Livistona in a Pot
Livistona requires a sufficiently large pot made of clay or terracotta, which has enough drainage holes.
If you use a plastic container with a planter, you should cover the bottom of the pot with stones. This is where the watering water collects and does not pose a threat to the roots. The water evaporates and provides a moist microclimate.
This is how the right planter should be:
- Deep, so that the taproots have enough space
- Heavy, to ensure stability
- Larger than the root ball
Livistona On the Balcony
During the summer months, the Livistona palm enjoys an outdoor location. You should acclimate it slowly to outdoor conditions, as the intense UV radiation on balconies and patios will damage the leaves.
For the time being, place the tub in a sheltered and shady place. Bring it back inside in the evening if the temperature drops below 50 °F (10 °C).
If the temperature stays above 50 °F in your area, the plant can stay outside at night.
After two weeks, the leaves will have developed a natural protection against the sun’s rays. You can move the Livistona palm to a sunnier spot then.
Between spring and fall, Livistona has medium water needs. Water the palm evenly so that the root ball does not dry out or get wet. The root ball should be soaked to the bottom.
Allow the soil to dry slightly between watering. If the summer months are very hot, check the substrate every two to three days.
During the cool winter months, it takes longer for the soil surface to dry. During this time, it will not harm the plant if two-thirds of the substrate has dried.
What to consider when watering Livistona:
- Livistona tolerate low humidity between 40 and 60 percent
- In winter, place a small bowl with water next to the container
- Soft and stale tap water or rainwater is ideal
Fertilizing Livistona Properly
If you have bought a new Livistona palm or have repotted it freshly, you do not need to fertilize it in the same year. The plants will be satisfied with the existing nutrients that are in the ready-made substrates.
From the second year, you can provide the plant with a special fertilizer for palms every two weeks or at monthly intervals between spring and fall.
Alternatively, you can use fertilizer sticks. Put them into the substrate in spring and summer.
Pruning Livistona Properly
Pruning harms the plant, as it has only one vegetation point.
Make sure to remove dead leaves regularly, but wait until the leaves have completely dried up. This will save the plant stress as it pulls excess nutrients from the fronds.
Cut off the dead leaf near the base, leaving a piece of the petiole. This will make the stems appear thick and uniform.
How Do I Repot Livistona Properly?
Repotting is recommended every two to three years to give the roots more space. The best time to repot is between March and April before the new growing season begins.
Place the root ball in a slightly larger container. Replace the substrate completely with fresh soil.
From October begins the period of dormancy, during which Livistonias hardly grow. The tubs can be placed in an unheated room, where bright conditions prevail.
Most Livistona palms tolerate a temperature drop to 10 °F (50 °C) during this period. Livistona rotundifolia requires temperatures between 55 and 59 °F (13 and 15 °C).
Adjust watering to the temperature and refrain from fertilizing. From February, intensify the watering rhythm and provide the plant with nutrients again.
If the site conditions are suboptimal, pests can attack the Livistona species. Some of the more common pests are scale insects and thrips.
Upon closer inspection, you can easily identify these pests. The scale insects live under a hardened shield that builds up from secretions.
Scale insects remain in one spot and suck plant sap from the leaf veins. Only when the infestation is severe are there obvious signs on the plant. Their leaves wither and slowly die.
Systematically effective poisons are needed for sustained control of scale insects. These are available in rod form or as liquid agents and are absorbed by the plant.
The active ingredients spread in the plant juices and effectively kill the pests.
When the indoor air is too dry, thrips occasionally spread on the leaves of Livistona and damage the plant. It will show growth disorders and silvery-white spots on the leaves in that case.
If the infestation is severe, the leaves die. Agents that are absorbed by the plant and distributed in the organism through the sap have proven to be effective.
To prevent infestation, ensure high humidity, especially in winter.
If you place the Livistona palm in direct sun after showering, the leaves, which are still wet, will quickly turn brown.
Instead of a shower spray, use a fine spray bottle to wet the plant with water. Leaf tips will turn brown if the plant is too wet or too dry.
There are numerous varieties of Livistona palms. Two of the more common species are the Chinese fan palm, also called fountain palm, and the cabbage-tree palm.
- Chinese fan palm (Livistona chinensis): Leaves incised almost to the base. Up to 40 ft (12 m) tall; smaller as a container plant.
- Cabbage-tree palm (Livistona australis): Robust species with a gray-brown trunk, covered with fibers. Leaves incised to base. Up to 50 ft (15 m) tall, smaller in containers.