When placed indoors, Areca Palms (Dypsis lutescens) need a full day of bright, indirect light near a south or west-facing window. In my experience, they can handle some direct sunlight but not in the hottest parts of the day. For optimal growth, I place my Areca palm in front of a south-facing window covered by a sheer curtain.
Sunlight and Areca Palm Health
Sunlight is essential to all life on earth – the fuel that keeps nature going. In all plants, light provides the energy necessary to kickstart photosynthesis. This allows the plant to take all the water, carbon dioxide, and nutrients available and turn them into sugars to spur growth and maintain health, as well as oxygen released through the leaves.
Without sunlight and photosynthesis, plants cannot survive, as they cannot produce food to keep themselves alive.
However, the amount of light required to stay alive differs for each plant, based on the conditions in their natural habitats.
Since indoor lighting conditions differ significantly from what these plants experience outdoors, how can we ensure we provide the proper lighting for our houseplants?
Handy terms like bright indirect light or filtered light translate the preferred conditions to match what light plants receive indoors.
Here’s what the terms mean:
The sun’s rays are hitting the plant without any filtering or obstructions. This light is most intense between midday and the afternoon.
Bright Indirect Light
High light areas where the plants are not placed in direct sun. Usually close to south-facing windows or near objects that reflect sunlight around a room.
Bright direct light filtered by another object, such as a sheer curtain, creates similar conditions to bright indirect light.
Areas far away from windows or near a north-facing window that does not receive direct sun. This light is the lowest intensity but does not equal ‘no light’, as in rooms with no windows.
For more, see our guide to the best plants that thrive without sunlight.
Typical Light Conditions Areca Palm Receive in Their Native Habitats
Areca Palms are native to Madagascar, where they can be found in warm tropical forests or along riverbanks.
Unlike what you may typically picture when you imagine a forest, these palms are often found in open areas or towering over other plants, growing up to 40 feet tall.
This means they are often in full sun positions, receiving direct bright light for large parts of the day, or partial sun.
In full sun, you’ll notice the leaves toward the outside and top of the plant take on a yellow or brown hue and start to droop – especially in summer – while the inner leaves remain green.
In full sun positions, the leaves of this plant can quickly burn, causing them to change color. As the inner leaves are protected, receiving dappled light throughout the day, they appear the healthiest.
Signs Your Palm Is Receiving Too Much Light
The leaves will likely burn if the plant remains in direct sunlight for too long. They can turn a pale yellow, eventually brown, and dry out where sunlight hits.
The first sign your plant is receiving too much sunlight is browning at the delicate leaf tips, indicating a problem.
You can also look at the soil and stems of the plant. In high light areas, the soil inside the container will dry out incredibly quickly. The stems may begin to bend over due to lack of water, becoming dry along with the fronds.
Signs Your Palm Isn’t Receiving Enough Light
Palms are tropical plants that need sunlight to thrive. While Areca Palms are known to tolerate lower lighting conditions compared to some other palms, excessively low light for long periods will cause issues with growth.
The main sign that the plant is not receiving enough light is a lack of growth. If you don’t spot any new fronds, or if the existing ones begin to bend over and lose their shape, the plant needs more light.
The leaves may also turn a darker green as the plant produces more chlorophyll to make the most of the lower lighting conditions, indicating it would benefit from a brighter spot.
The Best Light Exposure for Areca Palms Grown Indoors
Areca Palms are labeled tolerant of a wide range of lighting conditions, from direct sun to low light.
However, they grow their best in positions with lots of bright, indirect light throughout the day. This protects the thin, delicate leaves from scorching and gives the plant enough energy for robust and healthy growth.
They can also handle some direct sun, as their natural habitats indicate. However, the leaves will likely turn yellow and may even burn if left in intense direct sun for too long.
They don’t mind an hour or two of the direct morning sun but should be kept in bright indirect light for the rest of the day.
Try a position in front of a south or west-facing window, covered by a sheer curtain. Ensure the plant is placed in the light from the window and not next to or below it where it can be obstructed.
Areca Palm Light Requirements FAQs:
Can Areca Palm live in low light?
Areca Palms are often labeled low-light plants. They can survive in low light for short periods but will not grow successfully or live for very long without bright light. Moderate light is tolerable, but low-light positions in dark rooms are unsuitable for this plant.
Can Areca Palm take full sun?
Areca Palms are often found in the direct sun outdoors, leading people to leave them in the direct sun indoors too. However, the leaves are very delicate and can quickly burn if exposed to sunlight for too long. They may also lose their green color and take on a yellow hue. They can handle a few hours of moderate direct sun at most, but leave them out of the harsh midday or afternoon sun to avoid burning the leaf tips.
What kind of light do Areca Palm need?
Areca Palms prefer a good amount of bright indirect sunlight through a south or west-facing window. Artificial lights are also suitable but will need to be left on for most of the day as the quality of light is far lower than real sunlight.
Will an Areca Palm live happily indoors?
Tolerant of shady conditions, Arecas are one of the few palms that can grow indoors for many years without any trouble. They appreciate the tropical-like conditions and prefer spaces with bright indirect light, found in abundance in our homes near bright windows.
How do you know if your plant is getting enough light?
Areca Palms in bright indirect light should have steady growth and strong fronds that stay bright green. If the leaves change color to yellow or darker green, the plant is getting too much or too little light.
Areca Palms, despite their reputation, are not particularly fussy when you plant them in the right conditions. Choose a bright spot in your home to allow your palm to completely brighten up any room.
For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position Areca palms indoors.
Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.