Areca Palm Plant Care at Home

One of my personal favorites, the Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens), is an attractive palm with thin stalks reminiscent of bamboo and many thin leaflets. While the plants can grow up to 30 feet tall outdoors, they remain smaller indoors and make excellent houseplants. In my experience, Areca palm care at home is reasonably straightforward as long as you get the foundations right. I find that these plants need well-draining, slightly acidic soil, plenty of bright yet indirect sun, temperatures between 60ºF and 80ºF, and high humidity. I water when the top inch of soil is dry and fertilize bi-weekly from spring through fall.

Ultimate Guide to Areca Palm Plant Care 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.

I position my areca palm in an east-facing living room, which gets lots of soft, bright sunlight in the morning and some partial light in the afternoon. South-facing or west-facing rooms would also work great, just protect your plant behinds a sheer curtain or partially drawn blind.

You will also need a large container 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. In my experience, 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

The first step to planting your palm is obtaining the proper container. If you are transferring your plant from an old pot, I always 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 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.

Best Soil Types

I find that Areca palms prefer a well-draining soil mix with a slightly acidic pH of 5.5-6.0.

A peat-based potting mix is typically a great choice. Peat is naturally acidic, providing the lower pH that these palms enjoy.

If you’d like to make your own soil mix at home, here’s my homemade recipe which works really well:

  • 2 parts peat moss
  • 1 part perlite
  • 1 part compost
  • 1 part pine bark fines

Simply mix the ingredients together in a bowl and add a little water to bring everything together. Then, you’re good to go.

Light Preferences

My Areca palms grow best when they receive plenty of 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 (typically sunny south-facing aspects).

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 an east, 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.

Temperature and Humidity

My Areca palms do best in stable temperatures between 60ºF and 80ºF. However, they can tolerate temperatures slightly above and below this range. I typically look to position them in a warm spot in my home, away from doorways or drafts.

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.

Watering

Like many other palms, areca palms enjoy moist soil. However, constantly saturated soils can lead to problems with root rot.

In my experience, the best watering schedule allows the soil to dry out a bit between waterings. A good rule that I follow 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 or simply leave tap water to stand out overnight (my preferred method).

Also – when you do water, make sure excess water can escape from drainage holes, and don’t let too much pool up in the tray underneath the plant pot. These palms don’t enjoy standing in water for long periods.

Fertilizing

My arece palms love a good dose of fertilizer throughout the growing season. I fertilize the plants every two to three weeks from spring through fall.

I use a liquid fertilizer that is designed specifically for houseplants or palms. I also dilute the fertilizer to half the recommended strength to avoid burning your plant.

Pruning

In my experience, Areca palms are relatively low-maintenance, and they don’t require much pruning.

If you see any yellow or brown fronds on areca palms, you can remove them with your hands or a pair of shears.

Propagating

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

Depending on your plant’s environment, you’ll typically need to repot every two to three years. When it’s time to repot, I look for a container that is two inches larger 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 and How to Treat Them

Fortunately, areca palms are pretty hardy. While they don’t suffer from many diseases or pests, keep an eye out for the following issues.

Mealybugs

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 drooping or wilting areca palm fronds, 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

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.

Yellow Leaves

Numerous factors may lead to yellow leaves on areca palms, 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.

About Areca Palm Plants

An Areca palm in a black wicker plant pot in a modern living room

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.

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.

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 Plant Care FAQs:

How Long Do Areca Palms Live?

Areca palms can live for over 50 years. Providing the proper environment and care is the key to keeping them alive this long.

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, 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. Your plant will be happy if the room receives plenty of bright, indirect light.

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.

Wrapping Up

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.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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