It is hard to believe that the areca palm was once an endangered species. Drive down almost any street in a warm climate, and you are likely to see dozens of these tall, attractive, clumping palms that look a lot like bamboo. The palms have smooth, sometimes golden trunks that are reminiscent of bamboo clumps. Their fronds are narrow and full, almost like bamboo leaves. When grown outdoors, they are often used as a privacy screen. They also are commonly grown as houseplants. These palms are best planted in the spring, and they have a slow to moderate growth rate.
When grown outdoors, it is important to start an areca palm off right in a planting site that has good drainage. Soggy soil can easily cause root rot on a palm. As a houseplant, a well-draining container is essential.
In terms of regular care, plan to water your areca palm whenever the soil starts to dry out. This is especially important for outdoor palms in hot weather to keep them healthy. Moreover, indoor palms often don’t get enough light unless you have a very bright window. So it can benefit your palm to bring it outdoors in warm weather to be exposed to diffused sunlight. Feed both indoor and outdoor palms throughout the growing season. These palms don’t need much in the way of pruning. Wait to remove any dying fronds until they are mostly brown, as they still can play a role in photosynthesis.
Areca palm is considered invasive in limited parts of the tip of South Florida.
Outdoors, these plants like bright, filtered sunlight, but they also can tolerate full sun. Ideally, they should have protection from the strong afternoon sun, as too severe of light can scorch the foliage. Indoors, areca palms do best with bright light exposure from a south- or west-facing window.
For potted indoor plants, a well-draining, peat-based potting mix is perfect. Outdoor specimens do best with a rich, slightly acidic soil that has very good drainage. Amending with sand and peat moss might be necessary to improve porousness and lower the pH of the soil.
Like many palms, areca palms like moist soil, but they are sensitive to overwatering and cannot tolerate being waterlogged or sitting in a water-saturated potting mix. So let the soil or potting mix dry out slightly between waterings. Areca palms also are sensitive to fluoridated water, so use distilled water or collected rainwater.
Temperature and Humidity
Indoors or outdoors, this plant does best in average temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It will do fine planted in the garden in regions where outdoor temperatures don’t dip below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. When grown as an indoor plant, keep the leaves away from cold windows, air conditioners, and heat sources. And if you place potted plants outside during the summer, be sure to bring them in before temperatures dip below 50 degrees. Sudden cold bursts can cause dark spots on the leaves. Furthermore, high humidity is essential to keeping an areca palm looking its best. The plant will acclimate to normal indoor humidity. But if the air is too dry, it is common for the leaf tips to turn brown.
The areca palm is a heavy feeder and requires fertilizing from spring to early fall with a liquid fertilizer, following label instructions. Do not feed during the late fall and winter when the plant is dormant.
Propagating Areca Palm
You can propagate areca palm by root division, which will give you a lush plant faster than from seed, but you will not be successful doing so with cuttings. Root division can be done at any time during the year, but the plant will be its strongest in the spring. To divide by root division from a potted areca palm:
- Choose a mature plant with multiple stems.
- Water well the day before dividing to loosen up the roots from the soil.
- Remove the palm from its pot by patting the sides of the container to loosen the root ball.
- Shake soil from the roots. Rinse soil from roots so you can see which roots go to which stems.
- Choose four to five stems and, with a sharp knife, cut them away from the parent.
- Gently place divided stems together in a pot with a 2-to-1 mixture of regular potting soil and coarse sand.
- Place the pot in bright and indirect light (not direct sun) and water normally.
Potting and Repotting Areca Palms
Areca palms like a somewhat cramped container with ample drainage holes, and crowded roots will aid in keeping the palm’s size in check for growth as a houseplant. However, it’s still ideal to repot every other year or so to refresh the potting mix and remove fertilizer salt deposits that have built up in the container. You may use the same pot if the palm’s root ball still comfortably fits it. Otherwise, use just one container size up. Replant the palm at the same depth as it was previously.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Areca palms don’t have serious issues with pests or diseases. Occasionally a palm will come down with lethal yellowing, an insect-transmitted bacterial disease that causes fronds and ultimately the whole palm to die. Outdoor palms are generally the ones afflicted with this, and because treatment usually isn’t effective it’s typically best to remove the palm before the disease can spread. Indoor areca palms are vulnerable to common houseplant pests, including mites, aphids, mealybugs, scale and whiteflies, which can cause foliage damage and discoloration. Treat any infestation as soon as possible.
Although the plant can be easy to care for, it’s prone to one particular issue that happens to both indoor and outdoor areca palms: Keep an eye out for leaf tip burn.
Leaf Tip Burn
Leaf tip burn means the tips and leaves have turned yellow or brown. This can happen from:
- Chilled air
- Poor soil conditions
- Compacted roots
The areca palm is self-cleaning, which means it typically will shed its brown fronds on its own. For an indoor areca palm, it may be best to first amend the soil to make sure it’s draining and the roots are not sitting in water. Or, move the pot to a spot with less light and higher humidity before thinking about the last resort of repotting the plant. You can also manually sheer off brown spots to tidy up your indoor or outdoor plant.
- Is areca palm easy to care for?
Areca palm is a relatively low-maintenance houseplant. The palm is also easy to care for outdoors once it is situated in the right light.
- How fast does areca palm grow?
Areca palm has a slow to moderate growth rate indoors and outdoors. It can grow to a mature height of 8 feet indoors and up to 30 feet outdoors.
- Can areca palm grow indoors?
Areca palm is commonly grown indoors, but it needs a consistently warm environment with high humidity and just the right lighting.
Information courtesy of TheSpruce.com