Everything You Need to Know About Growing & Caring for Areca Palms
Areca palms (Dypsis lutescens) are attractive palms with thin stalks reminiscent of bamboo and many thin leaflets. While the plant can grow up to 30 feet tall outdoors, they remain smaller indoors and make excellent houseplants. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Areca palm plant care at home to ensure yours thrives in your own unique living space.
Caring for Areca Palm Plants at Home
Areca palms prefer a well-draining, slightly acidic soil. They require bright yet indirect sun, temperatures between 60ºF and 80ºF, and high humidity. Water when the top inch of soil is dry, and fertilize bi-weekly spring through fall.
About Areca Palm Plants
Etymology, Origins, and History
Areca palms go by several other names including butterfly palms, party palms, bamboo palms, and golden palms. The name ‘areca palm’ directly means tender palm.
These palms originated from the island of Madagascar, but they eventually made their way across the world. The palm is now nativized in locations including Brazil and Florida.
Historians aren’t sure when the palm was first used as a houseplant. What we do know is that the areca palm is currently grown as an outdoor plant and indoor plant.
Genus, Species, Plant Family
- Family: Arecaceae (palm family)
- Genus: Dypsis
- Species: lutescens
It’s important to note that while this palm is referred to as an areca palm, it is not a member of the Areca genus.
General Botanical Characteristics
Areca palms have many golden-green stems that are a few inches in diameter. All of these stems clump closely together.
Atop the stalks are wispy, green fronds. Each frond contains many narrow and long leaflets.
Areca palms can grow over 30 feet tall outdoors. However, they only grow as tall as an indoor space allows.
While plants rarely flower indoors, they produce yellow flowers atop a stalk outdoors. These flowers eventually turn into small, egg-shaped fruits.
Where do Areca Palms Grow Natively?
Areca palms are native to the island of Madagascar located off the coast of Southeast Africa.
However, due to habitat destruction, the palm is now endangered in its native range.
Most Popular Areca Palm Varieties to Grow as Houseplants
This is only one type of areca palm. While you can purchase areca palms of various sizes, they are all capable of growing over 30 feet tall.
Areca Palm Toxicity and Pet Friendliness
According to the ASPCA, areca palms are non-toxic to both cats and dogs. These palms are also safe for humans.
Areca Palm Plants Meaning & Symbolism
The areca palm is one of the best palms for purifying the air. Therefore, it’s often added to homes.
In Feng Shui, the areca palm is used for air-purifying as well as to bring good luck. Since it is a large houseplant, it helps fill up large spaces.
How to Grow Areca Palm Plants at Home
What to Do Before Planting
Before you plant an areca palm, you’ll need to find the proper location. These palms will grow tall as the area allows, so find a location with a lot of space if you want a large palm.
You’ll also want to ensure you have enough light. These plants do not thrive in dim rooms. They require lots of bright yet indirect light to remain healthy.
You will also need a container that is large enough to hold the palm. Make sure whatever pot you choose includes drainage holes.
Areca Palm Growth Expectations
Areca palms will grow as large as an indoor space allows.
If you provide the proper environment, they will typically grow 6-12 inches each year. Even if you have the palm in a space with short ceilings, it will grow wider over time.
If you buy a small palm, it’s a good idea to consider the space limitations as they grow over the next couple of years.
How to Plant an Areca Palm
The first step to planting your palm is obtaining the proper container. If you are transferring your plant from an old pot, choose a new pot that is only an inch or two larger than the old pot. Make sure the new container has drainage holes.
After you’ve obtained your pot, fill the bottom quarter of the container with a proper potting mix. Next, remove the palm from its container and place it in the new pot.
Fill the pot in with potting soil and gently tamp the soil around the palm’s rootball. Make sure the soil line does not cover the palm’s stalks.
After your palm is set in its new home, water it well.
What’s the Best Soil Mix for Areca Palms?
Areca palms prefer a well-draining soil mix with a pH of 5.5-6.0.
A peat-based potting mix is typically a great choice. Peat is naturally acidic, so it will provide the lower pH that these palms enjoy.
If you’d like to make your own soil mix at home, combine the following:
- 2 parts peat moss
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part compost
- 1 part pine bark fines
Areca Palm Light Preferences
Areca palms prefer bright yet indirect light. Direct light can burn their leaves, so you should avoid placing your palm in an area where it receives direct rays.
While these palms don’t like direct light, they do need lots of light. Low or medium-light is not enough for these light-loving plants.
Some locations that provide the proper lighting include near a south-facing or west-facing window. If your palm is receiving direct light from a window, you can always install sheer curtains to filter the light.
Areca Palm Temperature & Humidity Preferences
Areca palms do best at temperatures between 60ºF and 80ºF. However, they can tolerate temperatures slightly above and below this range.
These palms prefer high humidity that mimics that found in their native range. However, they can also tolerate medium humidity.
If your home is dry, you can increase the humidity with a humidifier.
How to Care for Areca Palm Plants
When and How to Water an Areca Palm
Like many other palms, areca palms enjoy moist soil. However, constantly saturated soils can lead to problems with root rot.
The best watering schedule allows the soil to dry out a bit between waterings. A good rule is to water when the top 2 inches of soil is dry to the touch.
These plants can be sensitive to fluoride and chloride in water, so avoid tap water. Rainwater and distilled water are both great options.
When you water, make sure excess water can escape from drainage holes.
Feed and Fertilizing Areca Palms
These plants benefit from regular fertilization. It’s best to fertilize the plants every two weeks spring through fall.
You can use a fertilizer that is designed for houseplants or palms. Dilute the fertilizer to half the recommended strength to avoid burning your plant.
How to Prune and Areca Palm
Areca palms are relatively low-maintenance, and they don’t require much pruning.
If you see any yellow or brown fronds, you can remove them with your hands or a pair of shears.
Propagating an Areca Palm
Horticulture professionals propagate areca palms via seed. They soak the seeds in sulfuric acid and then place them in a warm environment. The seeds can wait up to six weeks to germinate.
Indoor plants rarely produce flowers, fruits, and seeds. Therefore, propagation is rarely completed at home.
If you do wish to attempt to propagate a new palm, you will need to obtain viable seeds. Look for seeds that have been dried and treated to prolong storage.
Repotting an Areca Palm
Depending on your plant’s environment, you’ll need to repot every two to three years typically. When it’s time to repot, look for a container that is two inches large in diameter than your current pot.
Fill the new pot with a few inches of potting soil and add your palm. Be careful when handling the roots, as they are fragile. Fill the rest of the pot with potting soil and water well.
When you repot, make sure to plant your palm at the same depth. Planting your palm too deep can lead to unhealthy plants.
Common Areca Palm Problems & How to Treat Them
Fortunately, areca palms are quite hardy. While they don’t suffer from many diseases or pests, keep an eye out for the following issues.
Mealybugs are small, soft-bodied insects. One common type of mealybug resembles cotton.
Mealybugs use their sucking mouthparts to attack areca palms and other plants. As they suck sap from the plant, they can cause yellowing and spread disease.
If you notice mealybugs on your palm, remove them as quickly as you can. If only a few bugs are present, you can remove them with a cloth soaked in soapy water.
If your palm is covered with a larger number of mealybugs, you can spray the pests with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Make sure to make contact with any pests that are present.
Spider mites are very small pests. Therefore, you may spot the damage they cause before you spot the pests themselves.
Spider mites generally live and feed on the undersides of palm leaflets. If you notice stippling on the undersides of leaves, spider mites are likely to blame. If left untreated, this damage can eventually turn into completely yellow fronds.
To remove spider mites, spray the fronds with insecticidal soap. Make sure to thoroughly coat the undersides of the leaflets.
Numerous factors may lead to yellow leaves, but the most common causes are overwatering and a lack of light.
Overeating can lead to root rot which can lead to yellow leaves. Remember that while areca palms like moist soil, they don’t like sitting in saturated soil. Always allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again.
If you suspect your plant has root rot, remove the plant from its pot to inspect the roots. If you seed any mushy sections, your plant has root rot.
Trim away the infected roots and repot the plant in fresh soil.
A lack of light is another common cause of yellow leaves. Areca palms need at least 8 hours of bright light each day. If they don’t receive enough light, they may begin to lose their green color.
Consider moving your plant to a brighter location, but ensure it does not receive direct light.
The areca palm makes a great addition to any home. As long as you provide it with bright light and the proper environment, it will thrive.
Areca Palm Plant FAQs
Is Areca Palm a Good Indoor Plant?
Yes! The areca palm makes an excellent indoor houseplant, as long as you provide the proper environment.
Although this palm can grow up to 30 feet tall outdoors, it won’t grow this tall indoors. It will grow as large as its space allows.
How Long Do Areca Palms Live?
Areca palms can live over 50 years. The key to keeping them alive this long is providing the proper environment and care.
These plants need a lot of sun, and a dim room often leads to their downfall.
Is the Areca Palm Considered Lucky?
Yes. In Feng Shui, the areca palm is considered lucky. So if you need a bit of good fortune in your life, consider adding this graceful palm to your home or office.
Does Areca Palm Purify Air?
The areca palm is known for its air-purifying qualities. While it won’t remove large amounts of toxins from the air, it will improve the air quality.
Can Areca Palm Be Kept in Bedroom?
Yes, you can keep an areca palm in your bedroom. As long as the room receives plenty of bright, indirect light, your plant will be happy.
Since areca palms purify the air, keeping one of the plants in your room may also increase your health.
Can Areca Palm Take Full Sun?
While areca palms will do well in full, filtered sun, they don’t like full, direct sun. That means you should place them in a location with lots of indirect light. Avoid placing these plants in an area where they receive direct sun rays.