Everything You Need to Know About When and How to Water Areca Palms Indoors
When it comes to indoor palms, Areca Palms or Dypsis lutescens are one of the most well-known, offering a host of uses and benefits and symbolic value. Fond of shady tropical conditions, they happily grow indoors and thrive with the proper watering schedule. Take a look at this guide for everything you need to know about when and how to water Areca Palms at home.
- How to Water Areca Palms – The Essentials
- About Areca Palms
- The Role of Water in Plant Health and Development
- When to Water Areca Palms
- How to Water Areca Palm
- Signs You Might Be Overwatering Your Areca Palm
- Signs You Might Be Underwatering Your Areca Palm
- What to Do In Between Watering Cycles
- Watering Areca Palm FAQs:
- Wrap Up
How to Water Areca Palms – The Essentials
When placed in bright, indirect lights, Areca Palms require water every 1-2 weeks. Larger, more established plants will need water less often than young plants in smaller pots. Use filtered water or rainwater rather than tap water and only water when the top 2-3 inches of soil are completely dry.
About Areca Palms
Areca Palms are botanically known as Dypsis lutescens, or previously Chrysalidocarpus lutescens. This popular type of palm is part of the Arecaceae family, with around 2 600 species commonly known as palms. Plants in this family can be shrubs, climbers, or, most commonly – trees.
These impressive trees have many common names, including bamboo palm, golden cane palm, yellow palm, or butterfly palm. While they can grow up to 40 feet tall outdoors and in their natural habitats, they typically stick to around 4-5 feet tall indoors.
Native to the forests and riverbanks of Madagascar, these palms are considered threatened in their natural habitats. However, their use across the world, as well as their naturalization in tropical areas across continents, mean they are unlikely ever to become extinct. In suitable climates, these also make excellent potted palm trees for outdoor areas.
This plant has won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit and is incredibly popular among indoor plant enthusiasts. It is also relatively easy to care for, especially when it comes to watering.
The Role of Water in Plant Health and Development
Firstly, like humans, plant cells are primarily made of water. These cells hold the plant up and give the leaves shape. Without regular water, these cells are no longer plump as they should be, leaving the plant to wilt and fall over.
Secondly, water is the only way nutrients can be delivered to parts of the plant that need it. When water is taken up from the soil by the roots, the nutrients travel with them. No water means a potential nutrient deficiency and, ultimately, a lack of growth.
And finally, water is an essential part of photosynthesis. Plants use water and carbon dioxide, fuelled by energy from the sun, to produce their food in the form of sugars. Without these sugars, plants will not grow and cannot survive.
When to Water Areca Palms
Areca Palms are not particularly thirsty plants. The soil can be left to dry out slightly before the next watering but should not be left to dry out completely.
The delicate leaves of this palm need enough water in the cells to stay upright and cannot be left without water for long periods.
How Do You Know When a Areca Palm Plants Need Watering?
If you test the soil regularly, it will be easy to tell when to water your plant. Stick your finger into the top 2-3 inches of soil. If it’s dry, the plant needs water. Areca Palms in larger pots can go longer without water, as the soil below will retain more moisture, and the thicker stems will also hold more water.
How to Check When to Water an Areca Palm
There are many ways to test when to water your palm. The simplest method is to use your finger. If the soil feels dry and your finger comes out of the top 2 inches of soil clean, your plant is ready for more water. Alternatively, use a stick or skewer to complete the same test.
You can also keep a moisture meter in the soil to indicate when it is ready for another watering. Simply stick the bottom end of the meter in the soil and water when the meter indicates the soil is dry. Be sure not to leave the meter too far down, or your plant will go without water for longer than it prefers.
These tests aren’t always the most reliable for palms in larger pots. With deeper root systems, the roots sit lower down than the top 2-3 inches, and using these methods may cause you to overwater your plants.
In this case, lifting the pot is your best bet. You can gauge how much moisture is in the soil from its weight. If the pot is easy to pick up, it’s time to water.
How Often Do Areca Palm Typically Need Watering?
Like other large foliage houseplants, Areca Palms will need to be watered every 1-2 weeks. Plants in smaller pots will be closer to 7 days, while those in larger pots with soil that holds more moisture can hold out for longer.
That being said, it’s best not to come up with a watering schedule for these plants as you risk overwatering or underwatering with changes in environmental conditions and seasons. Test the soil every couple of days and only water when it’s really needed.
Environmental Considerations That May Impact Watering Cycles
Where you place your areca palm will impact how often you need to water. If the pot receives some direct sun, the soil will dry out far quicker than if it was placed in a low-light area. Temperature also impacts areca palm health, as water evaporates far quicker in higher temperatures than in lower ones.
Wind and drafts also impact watering cycles. If your palm is placed directly in front of an open window or door or the path of a draft going through the room, the soil will dry out incredibly quickly. This is also the case with air conditioners. It’s best to keep the pot away from any of these areas to prevent stress.
Seasonal Considerations That May Affect Watering Cycles
Environmental conditions are not the only thing to consider. Seasons can also have a great impact on how often you should water. During the peak growing period in spring and summer, these trees will require water every 1-2 weeks. In extremely high summer temperatures, the soil will dry out quicker, requiring more watering.
Around winter, when temperatures drop and growth slows, the roots take up far less water to keep the plant going. You can water every 2-3 weeks, sometimes waiting even longer depending on the age of the palm.
How to Water Areca Palm
The Fundamental Importance of Good Drainage
Gardeners tend to harp on about the importance of drainage to an annoying degree. But that is for a fundamental reason. Without good drainage, your plants will die. Some may take longer than others to show signs of struggle, but they will all ultimately struggle.
When planted in a pot with no drainage, any water you give your plant pools at the bottom of the pot or in the soil. This excess of moisture around the roots causes them to become soft and mushy, unable to take up any water and nutrients to service the plant. It also attracts bacteria and fungi as it stagnates, inviting a host of complicated problems for you and your plants.
No matter how pretty that container with no drainage is, don’t plant anything in it. Instead, use these pots as decorative covers for plastic pots, removing the cover when watering to stop the pot from sitting in water.
You can also drill your own drainage holes in suitable containers to keep your plants happy.
What Type of Water Is Best for Areca Palm
Areca Palms should be watered using filtered or distilled water, or even better, rainwater. These plants are pretty sensitive to the chemicals found in tap water. Excesses of these chemicals may cause changes in leaf color and even stunted growth.
If you don’t have any rainwater or filtered water available, leave the water out at room temperature for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate. To avoid shocking the roots, the water should be room temperature or slightly warm – never cold.
How to Water Areca Palm
Due to the tall stems and arching leaves, it’s easy to water Areca Palms with a watering can directly on the soil. Continue to water evenly until water leaves the drainage holes.
Smaller palms can also be watered in the sink or bath, leaving them to drain there before returning them to their homes.
If you have underwatered your palm, bottom watering will best saturate the soil and return the plant to good health. Since pots are typically large, it’s best to do this in a drip tray, rather than moving the entire pot to a container or sink. Fill the drip tray with water and continue topping up until the water level stops dropping. Remove any excess water from the tray and use it to drench the top layer of soil.
Compacted soil should also be aerated before watering. This will ensure the water evenly saturates the soil rather than running off the sides. Poke holes in the soil using a skewer, taking care not to damage the roots in the process. You can also squeeze the sides of the pot to loosen some of the soil before watering.
If your Areca Palm is permanently placed on a drip tray, ensure you remove any excess water 10-15 minutes after watering. This will allow the soil to take up all the water it needs but prevent stagnation and root rot from being left too long.
Signs You Might Be Overwatering Your Areca Palm
Like most houseplants, Areca Palms do not like to be overwatered. They will respond to excessive moisture by slumping over and turning yellow in addition to brown tips on the foliage. In severe cases, the roots may rot, becoming brown and mushy.
Once root rot has set in, the plant can no longer take up any water or nutrients, and will ultimately die. Any signs of root rot require immediate repotting into fresh soil. Remove all the affected roots simultaneously to stop the problem from spreading and open up the plant’s transport systems.
Signs You Might Be Underwatering Your Areca Palm
An underwatered Areca Palm will also begin to wilt and lose shape, accompanied by drying leaves and weak stems. Yellow or brown leaf tips can also indicate a watering issue but is more indicative of a problem with lighting conditions.
Test the soil regularly and up your watering frequency to return the plant to good health. If the soil has become incredibly dry and compacted, aerate it with a skewer first before watering to stop water from running down the sides of the pot.
What to Do In Between Watering Cycles
Check the soil every couple of days, along with the rest of your plants, to determine the right time to water. You can also use this time to check for signs of pests and diseases.
Some choose to mist their palms between watering to provide some moisture. Misting often should be avoided as it can attract pests and diseases to the foliage, so stick to around once or twice per week.
Watering Areca Palm FAQs:
What are the most common signs a Areca Palm plant needs watering?
Once the top 2-3 inches of soil dry out, it’s time to water your plant. If left to dry out too long, the tips of the leaves may turn yellow or brown over time, indicating the plant is in desperate need of water.
What is the best way to water Areca Palm?
These large plants with towering stems and leaves are easy to water with a watering can. Always water the soil directly, avoiding the foliage. Excessively dry soil will benefit from a bottom watering using a drip tray.
How much water do Areca Palms need?
Like other houseplants, Areca Palms appreciate a thorough watering every 1-2 weeks. Plants in larger pots that hold more moisture can be watered less often.
Is it ok to get water on Areca Palm plant leaves?
Areca Palms don’t mind a bit of moisture on the leaves, but this can attract pests and diseases over time. It’s best to focus only on the soil to deliver the water where the plant needs it – around the roots.
What do I do if I over water my Areca Palm?
In mild cases, you can simply leave the soil to dry out more before your next watering and the plant should return to normal. Plants with root rot should be immediately repotted into new soil, snipping off any of the affected roots in the process.
Can I water my Areca Palm with tap water?
As tap water contains chemicals Areca Palms are particularly sensitive to, it’s best to use filtered water or rainwater.
Should I mist my Areca Palm?
You can mist your plant every so often to increase moisture around the plant. However, don’t mist too often, as excessive moisture sitting on the leaves can encourage diseases.
Areca Palms are wonderfully tropical plants to keep in your home. With the proper watering schedule, they will continue to thrive for years on end.
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.