Areca palms are native to tropical regions around the world and in the U.S., they’re commonly found in South Florida where they thrive in warm weather climates.
These palm trees provide beautiful foliage throughout their lifespan if cared for well.
Let’s get into everything about them and cover many tips on how to care for areca palms.
Areca Palm Overview
With a resemblance to bamboo, the Madagascar native Areca Palm Tree is a beautiful clumping palm with long, narrow, flowing fronds (leaves) on smooth green or gold trunks that can grow to twenty-five feet.
Botanically named Dypsis lutescens or Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, the areca palm is a member of the Palmae family. Grown both outdoors and indoors as a houseplant, this perennial will bring color and elegance wherever it is positioned.
There are 51 types of areca palms. Other popular varieties and names include:
- Golden cane palm
- Butterfly palm
- Yellow palm
- Bamboo palm
The areca palm is also known to absorb harmful toxins in the air and release oxygen at night. They will help purify the air, so you can sleep better at night.
These plants are rapid growers. They will grow from five to ten inches yearly until reaching its mature height, which when indoors may be approximately seven feet.
When planted outdoors, the areca palm has a lifespan of about ten years, while indoors the lifespan is shorter.
Areca Palm Houseplant Care Tips
Soil for Areca Palm
If you decide to plant your palm outdoors, you must provide a very well-draining soil bed. Palms can be susceptible to root rot, so soggy soil is bad news. Indoors you will need a well-draining pot and soil bed for success.
For outdoor cultivation, your palm will need water when the soil bed begins to dry out, particularly in very hot weather or hot arid climates.
For indoor palms, a peat-based soil bed that is well-draining is best. Outdoor palms need an organically rich soil bed that is a bit acidic, but also with excellent drainage.
You can mix in some peat moss and sand to create the best soil bed, by improving the porousness and adjusting the soil’s pH. The pH should fall between 6.0 and 6.5.
Light for Areca Palm
Your indoor areca palm will need bright light to thrive, and it is a good idea to move your palm outdoors for the summer months.
If you are cultivating your areca palm outdoors, know that it will flourish in bright, indirect sunlight. It can tolerate direct full sunlight for short periods of time.
Ideally, a location that offers a minimum of protection from the hot afternoon sun is what you want to find. This will avoid the risk of the fronds scorching.
Indoor areca palms do fine with window exposure from the west or south that offers bright light.
Water and Humidity for Areca Palm
The areca palm prefers moist soil, but they like many other houseplants are at risk for overwatering. Their soil bed cannot be soggy or waterlogged. They must never be left to sit in water as this will lead to root rot.
Allow the soil bed to dry out a bit before you water again. Areca palms, in particular, are very sensitive to fluoride in tap water. If your city supplies fluoridated water, you should use either collected rainwater or distilled water.
The same is true for water treated with chlorine. If you must use tap water, place it in a large container overnight before watering. This will help dissipate chlorine and fluoride.
High humidity is important for the areca palm’s health. It will adjust to your home or office’s humidity level, but if the air is dry, you will see brown spots developing on the fronds.
A plant humidifier may help if your air is on the dry side. Daily misting can also help to maintain humidity requirements as can a humidity tray. Try to keep the humidity level above 45%.
Temperature for Areca Palm
Areca palm plants flourish in a temperature range of 65° to 75° Fahrenheit. It will do great in areas where temperatures never dip below 50 °F.
If you are cultivating the Areca as a houseplant, keep it away from areas that could cause significant temperature changes when close by:
- Drafts near doorways or hallways, cold windows or doors
- Heating elements such as radiators or vents
- Air conditioners and fans
If you do take your potted Areca outside for the summer months, be sure to have it back inside if the evening temperatures drop below 50 °F. Exposure to cold can cause the leaves to spot dark patches.
Fertilization for Areca Palm
This palm loves to eat! It is a heavy feeder and will require fertilization from the beginning of spring till the beginning of autumn. However, the Areca Palm is sensitive to fertilizer salts. Changing the soil annually will help with this as will occasionally leaching soil with extra water. Use a liquid fertilizer such as 12-4-12 (NPK) diluted to half-strength. It is unnecessary to feed the palm in fall and winter because it enters into dormancy.
Areca Palm Pruning and Repotting
Healthy canes on the areca palm will be yellowish gold. If canes appear to be gray or brown, they may be dead.
Check the health of canes by taking a small strip from their bark. If the cane is still green underneath, it is still alive. If it is dark, the cane is dead and should be trimmed off.
Smaller dead canes can be trimmed with gardening clippers. For large canes, you may need a saw.
Always prune at the ground level. If you will be pruning more than one areca palm, disinfect your cutting utensil before moving to the next plant. This can be done by dipping the tool in diluted bleach and rinsing it again before use.
Extensive pruning is not required, it’s more a question of removing dead fronds that have turned brown.
Avoid trimming non-brown leaf tips, as the entire frond may cease growth. Canes should not be pruned unless they are dead or damaged.
If you prune too many canes, the plant may die. Dead fronds will often drop off the areca spontaneously making pruning unnecessary.
Areca palms enjoy being a bit rootbound in their pots, as long as there are enough holes for good drainage. Keeping roots cramped for room in their containers will limit their size.
Repotting should generally be done every two years. That will provide a new and nutritious soil bed, as well as eliminate accumulated fertilizer salt deposits in the pot or container.
If the palm’s root ball still fits comfortably in the pot, you can reuse it. If not, go up one size. Clay pots are a good choice both for drainage and for weight. The extra pot weight will help when your palm grows in height to avoid a lightweight planter from falling over.
Propagating Areca Palm
The areca palm is propagated using seeds. Many seeds will be used in a single location or container.
While seeds are not easily found in nurseries or garden centers, once you do procure them, you can seed them in a seed-starting potting mix, covering them slightly. Older seeds that are orange-tinted offer more successful germination than new green seeds.
Your seeds will need about six weeks to germinate. The soil mix should be warm at about 80°F and it should be located where there is high humidity.
The seed-starting soil bed should remain moist, but take care to not overwater. Once they have germinated, wait until they reach about four inches in height and a few leaves appear. Then you can transfer them to their new pot.
Mature arecas may develop small new shooting stems at the base of the plant. You can divide these to create other palms. Loosen the soil gently and locate the roots. Divide by cutting with a clean sharp knife. Place the new sucker in its own container and water adequately.
Areca Palm Toxicity and Pets
According to ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the areca palm is non-toxic for dogs, cats, and horses, making it an ideal houseplant if you have pets.
Areca Palm Pests, Diseases, Problems, and More
While not seriously susceptible to houseplant pests or diseases, your areca palm can contract lethal yellowing, which is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by insects.
This infection causes the death of fronds and eventually the areca palm itself. This bacterial infection will generally infect plants cultivated outdoors. As there is no definitive treatment for curing this, it is recommended that infected plants be removed before spreading it.
Areca palms cultivated indoors as houseplants will face the typical issues with pests found in most indoor plants including aphids, mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, and scale. These common pests can cause some damage to the fronds as well as discoloration. Infestations should be treated with a natural organic insecticide or insecticidal soap.
Dead fronds may be due to a lack of sufficient light. Trim the fronds and move the palm to a brighter location. A yellowing palm can be indicative of leaf-spotting fungi. These palms should be removed and replaced.
Another potential infection is pink rot or Gliocladium blight, which is caused by Gliocladium vermoeseni. It is a fungal infection that will produce spores pink in color, that then cover the base of the stems, so they look pink. If it is left unattended it can rot any part of the areca palm.
Often, overwatering will create the ideal conditions for pink rot. If your areca palm is infected, you need to prune any affected parts. Repot the palm, sterilize the container, and provide a fresh soil bed. For severe infections, the plant should be eliminated.
Read a more in-depth article on areca palm problems and how to revive it.
Areca Palm Final Thoughts
The delightful areca palm can create the illusion of a tropical corner, regardless of where it is located indoors, thanks to long elegant arching fronds.
It is also a low-maintenance plant that is non-toxic making it ideal for families with pets and children.
For more low-maintenance houseplant grow guides, look at these other articles:
- Bamboo Palm Care and Grow Guide
- Parlor Palm Care and Grow Guide
- Majesty Palm Care and Grow Guide
- Anthurium Plant Care and Grow Guide
- Peace Lily Care and Grow Guide
Areca Palm FAQs
Is areca palm an indoor plant?
Yes, areca palms thrive best when grown inside under bright indirect lighting. They do require moderate amounts of sunlight but prefer less direct sun than many other types of indoor plants.
How big do areca palms get?
Areca palm plants grow up to about 7 feet tall. The trunk diameter ranges from 4 inches to 6 inches. These plants are rapid growers. They will grow from five to ten inches yearly until reaching its mature height.
Does areca palm produce oxygen at night?
Yes, the areca palm is one of the air purifying plants that’s great indoors. It’ll take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night.
Can areca palm be kept in bedroom?
Yes, if properly cared for, areca palms make great bedroom decor. It’ll turn your bedroom into a tropical paradise or at least give you some tropical flare.
Do areca palms attract rats?
No, Areca palms don’t attract rodents like mice or rats. However, they’re not completely rodent proof either. Rats have been known to chew on them. So keep all pet food stored out of reach. Also, place rat traps around the perimeter of the room if you see any.
What does areca palm smell like?
Like all palms, the leaves emit a sweet scent. Areca palms are known for their distinctive fragrance.
Can I use my areca palm outside?
No, although they can tolerate temperatures down into freezing weather, they cannot withstand extreme cold.