The Areca Palm is a statement plant used to decorate gardens as well as any interior. As its leaves resemble a palm tree, having one in your home will give that tropical vibe you only get from beach holidays. As you can imagine, this green beauty is very popular among interior designers and plant aficionados.
Dypsis lutescens, also known as Areca Palm, butterfly palm, yellow palm, or golden cane palm is native to the humid forests of Madagascar. However, it has been naturalized in many places, including Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Florida, Haiti, the Canary Islands, and others. A member of the Aceraceae family, the Areca palm is an endangered species in its native habitat. Luckily, it is commonly available in commerce worldwide.
When grown as indoor plants, Areca Palms looks similar to palm grass. Because they can grow quite tall and full, we recommend placing yours in large spaces with plenty of light, such as the living room or office. If you have large windows in the kitchen or bedroom, the Areca palm would look fabulous there too.
When planted outdoors, they are usually grown in clumps and used for decorative purposes or as a privacy screen. Placed in clusters about 10 feet (3 m) apart, they make a gorgeous natural fence that keeps prying eyes away from your yard. A stand-alone specimen will certainly be the main attraction of your garden.
About Areca Palms
- Dypsis lutescens (formerly known as Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) was given the name “Areca Palm” over a century ago due to an error in identification. Curiously, the name has stuck ever since.
- Despite its name, the Areca Palm is not closely related to Areca Catechu which produces the betel nut, famous for its medicinal and narcotic uses. The Betel Nut Palm is not typically used as houseplants and can be found only in its natural habitat.
- In Brazil, some bird species such as Coereba flaveola, Pitangus sulphuratus, and Thraupis sayaca feed on its fruits.
- Areca Palms are non-toxic to both cats and dogs, as stated by ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), so you don’t have to worry about your furry friends.
- This plant is great for purifying and humidifying homes with dry air. Although all plants clean toxins from the air, palms are among the best air-purifying species, according to Nasa’s Clean Air Study.
Areca Palm Features: An Overview
- Areca Palms have smooth, yellow cane-like trunks with narrow and full fronds. When suckers are removed, the stems sometimes resemble a bamboo.
- Outdoors, the Areca Palm will grow 20 to 39 feet (6-12 m) tall. Indoors, they grow up to 10 inches (25 cm) per year until they are 6 or 7 (1,8-2.1 m) high.
- You don’t have to worry about not having tall enough ceilings for your beloved plant. The Areca Palm can tolerate trimming, so mature plants can be kept indoors for up to 10 years, their full lifespan.
- To thrive, Areca Palms require plenty of bright, but indirect sunlight from a west- or south-facing window. If exposed to direct sunlight, the leaves turn yellowish.
- Potted, the Areca Palm rarely flowers, but if you are lucky you might see small yellow flowers growing from beneath its leaves. The flowers turn into small yellow egg-shaped fruits that blacken when mature.
Growing Areca Palms
Whether you want to place your Areca Palm indoors or out, make sure the temperature doesn’t drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10°C). This plant usually enjoys temperatures ranging between 65° F and 75° F (18-25°C). Try to keep it away from doorways or areas that are susceptible to cold drafts. Areca palms are sensitive to low temperatures and sudden temperature drops which can cause dark spots on the leaves.
Also, humidity is important to keeping your Butterfly palm healthy. Although it will get used to normal room humidity, if the air is to dry the leaf tips will start turning brown. Never prune the brown tips, unless the entire frond is dead. Clipping the tips might cause the foliage to stop growing. If the air in your home is too dry, lightly mist the plant with water daily. Alternatively, you can run a humidifier or place the pot on a tray of pebbles and water. The evaporation of the water will increase the humidity around the plant.
Outdoors, Areca palms prefer a part-shade setting. Indoors, many owners struggle to find an area with the right amount of light. Areca Palms need a lot of bright light but don’t do well in direct sunlight. If the room gets lots of sunlight, you can filter it with curtains or blinds. Your plant will be happy behind a see-through curtain or in front of a windowsill that receives a lot of natural daylight. If the leaves start to turn yellow, consider moving the pot to a brighter location.
In its native environment, the Areca palm enjoys a slightly acidic to neutral, well-drained soil. Poor drainage can result in waterlogged roots and rapidly yellowing leaves. Unless the drainage is naturally good, it is best to mix the soil with sand, peat moss, and bark mixture. In most indoor situations, it is unlikely that an Areca Palm will live long enough to need repotting. Although the plant likes tight containers, you might want to repot every three years to remove the old soil and fertilizer buildup. If your plant thrives, you may need to repot it every year.
Arecas prefer nutrient-rich soil, so once or twice during the growing season, you can use a weak liquid fertilizer. This is not necessary during the winter. Finding the right fertilizer can be a challenge, as the Areca Palm needs iron and magnesium to prevent yellowing leaves. Keep in mind that the plant is highly sensitive to salts. Experiment with different fertilizers until you notice the plant is responding well.
Watering Areca Palm
Areca Palms are very sensitive to overwatering, so water rarely and with caution. To ensure that the plant doesn’t get too much water, allow the soil to dry between waterings during winter and fall. The easiest way to test the soil is by dipping in a finger. If the top inch or two is still moist, wait a day or two and test again.
In summer and spring, your Areca Palm requires slightly moist soil. Make sure it never completely dries out, but also that it is not soggy. Soon you will be able to approximate how long it takes for the soil to completely dry and organize a regular schedule.
You mustn’t use tap water that contains fluoride. If you live in an area that has high-fluoride tap water, use distilled or bottled water instead. You can also place a container outside to collect rainwater and use it to water your Butterfly Palm.
Propagating Areca Palm
Propagating the Areca palm is very easy. You can either propagate it by collecting seeds or by transplanting the offshoots that grow at the base. Most gardeners prefer the separation method, as it is easier, takes less time, and guarantees that the new plant will grow to look like the parent. And besides, seeds are difficult to come by, as most indoor Areca Palms do not bear fruit.
If you are an amateur gardener, we recommend that you propagate your plant by separation. Before starting the separation process, you should not water the plant for a whole day. The container should remain semi-dry so that it is easier to handle the plant. You don’t need fancy tools for this process. Use a sharp knife and sterilize it before so that you avoid transmitting any disease to the new, fragile plant.
Split the offshoot away from the mother-plant. You can separate the entire root bowl into half or just the root attached to the offshoot. Make sure you gently pull it away together with its roots, without damaging the root system of the main plant. Next, place the offshoot into a pot that is large enough to fit it properly. Make sure the roots are not exposed and that the soil ensures good drainage. Water it properly and place it in a room where it gets enough light.
If you want to propagate Areca Palms by seeds, start by soaking them in water for a few days up to one week so that the outer shell softens. Next, fill a planting pot with well-drained soil, and place the seeds so that their top is barely visible beneath the surface. Germination temperature should be maintained between 80-85°F (26-29 °C). Within 6 weeks you should see the new plant starting to grow.
The Areca Palm is a statement piece in any garden or interior where it brightens the space and brings a tropical vibe. Although it is not hard to grow Areca palms, you should keep in mind that they need plenty of indirect light and little water. If the air in your house is too dry, moist your palm daily with water. Gardeners who love Areca palms can easily propagate them from seeds or by using the separation method.