The areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) is a graceful indoor palm that brings a touch of elegance to any room. Numerous stems emerge from the base to produce graceful, arching fronds that look a little like bamboo.
The areca palm is also sold as Dypsis lutescens or Areca lutescens. Native to the tropics of Madagascar, it's also known as the butterfly palm, golden feather palm, bamboo palm, golden cane or yellow palm.
The areca palm is good at humidifying the air and is a great air purifier too, capable of removing toxins and pollutants from the air.
How to grow areca palm
Areca palms like a warm spot in bright, indirect light. The secret of success with an areca palm is to get the watering right – the soil needs to be moist but not soggy. Areca palms also like humidity, so mist the leaves a few times a week or stand on a tray of moist pebbles.
More on growing areca palm:
Areca palm: jump links
- Where to grow an areca palm
- How to care for an areca palm
- How to propagate an areca palm
- Areca palm problem-solving
- Buying an areca palm
Where to grow an areca palm
Areca palms do best in bright, indirect light but will tolerate a bit of shade. Avoid direct sunlight, as this will scorch the leaves, and keep away from draughts. Areca palms need a warm room – ideally around 18°-24°C, with a minimum of 10°C in winter.
How to plant an areca palm
Plant in soil-based compost, into a pot that has drainage holes. Areca palms need to be snug within their pot so only repot in spring, into a slightly larger pot, if rootbound (you will see roots coming out of the bottom of the pot).
Caring for an areca palm
Water thoroughly whenever the top few centimetres of compost have become dry – this may be quite frequent in warm weather. Ideally, use rainwater, distilled water or purified water, especially if you live in a hard water area, as areca palms are sensitive to the chemicals in tap water. Ensure that the compost is evenly moist but not soggy and let any excess drain away. Water less in winter, keeping the soil just moist.
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Areca palms need a humid environment, so mist the leaves a few times a week with tepid water or stand on a pebble tray that is topped up with water. Feed every couple of months during the growing season with a balanced fertiliser.
Wipe the leaves occasionally to remove dust. A quick solution is to stand your plant under a tepid shower, or even better – stand it outside in summer rain.
How to propagate an areca palm
The best way to propagate an areca palm is by dividing it. When you repot the plant in spring, you may find that a clump at the edge comes away naturally. Alternatively, you can cut a clump away using a sharp knife. Ideally it should have four or five stems, with roots attached. Repot into a fresh pot of potting compost.
Growing areca palm: problem solving
Brown leaf tips are common on areca palms and can be due to a variety of reasons. The air is too dry or too cold, or the plant may have been underwatered. You can cut the brown tips off, but don’t cut into green growth as this will just create brown tips again.
Yellowing leaves is normal on lower leaves as they age. Widespread yellow leaves on your areca palm could mean that the plant is sitting in too much direct sun. It could also be due to underwatering.
Drooping, cracked or folding leaves mean that the plant needs more water.
Brown fronds at the base are normal – just cut these away. Widespread brown leaves could indicate overwatering – areca palms do not like sitting in cold, soggy compost.
Brown patches could be caused by sunburn. Move your plant out of direct sunlight.
Dull leaves that have lost their shine could mean that the atmosphere isn’t humid enough. mean that the plant is getting too much light – move to a shadier spot.
Red spider mite can affect areca palms. The leaves and stems of the plant will be covered in fine webbing and the upper surface of the leaf becomes mottled. If you look carefully, using a magnifying glass, you will see mites and eggs on the undersides of the leaves. Improve air circulation boost humidity. Alternatively, use sprays containing, fatty acids or plant oils.
Mealybugs may be a problem – look out for insects that look like white, fluffy blobs on the undersides of leaves. Wipe them off with a damp cloth or cotton bud that has been soaked in an insecticide that contains fatty acids or plant oils. Keep checking the leaves, as mealybugs can be hard to eradicate.
You may also spot scale insects – small, brown sap sucking insects that are around 6mm long. Wipe off as with a cotton bud or cloth soaked with an insecticide containing fatty acids.
Advice for buying an areca palmHere’s our guide to buying an areca palm, or Chrysalidopsis lutescens, including where to buy areca palms.
- Check that you have the right spot in your home for an areca palm. It will eventually reach 2m tall and 1m wide. It likes bright but indirect light and plenty of humidity, and needs regular watering.
- Ensure the areca palm is healthy, with shiny, dark green leaves and leaf-tips, and no signs of pests.