The majesty palm (Ravenea rivularis) creates a lush, tropical vibe in any room. Under suitable light conditions, these Madagascar natives are relatively easy to grow. In my experience, they thrive best with 6 to 8 hours of bright yet indirect light exposure daily. A sunny, south-facing window is a good choice. West-facing windows may also work, but too much exposure to bright light may lead to leaf scorch.
Why Majesty Palms Need Light to Grow and Thrive
You already know that plants need light, but why is it so important? Light (alongside water, soil, and the occasional feed) is essential to plant life and health. In fact, light drives multiple plant functions and processes.
Among the most important? Photosynthesis is a process in which plants use light to get the nutrients they need from air and water. Here’s how this process works.
Plants collect light through cells known as chloroplasts. Each is filled with chlorophyll, a green pigment that gives plant foliage its color and allows it to absorb light energy.
When light hits a plant leaf, proteins known as “light-harvesting complexes” (LHCs) get to work. The LHCs pass the light, now in the form of energy, throughout the plant. Along the way, chemical reactions cause water particles to split into oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Plants retain carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air. This process, known as photosynthesis, also creates glucose, which plants use for energy.
When plants don’t get enough light, they’ll grow very slowly. Eventually, they’ll sicken and die. But too much light isn’t good for plants, either. Too much exposure can cause soil and plants to dry out and die.
What Light Levels Mean
For a plant to thrive, it needs optimal light exposure. Remember that not all light has to be direct sunlight; the light that bounces off nearby surfaces or artificial grow lights may also give plants what they need.
The key to plant health is identifying plant species’ particular light requirements. General categories of exposure include:
- Bright direct light: Sunlight (or grow lights) shine directly on a plant’s foliage; while some succulents and cacti prefer bright direct light, it’s too intense for most houseplants. Often found in south, west, or south-west facing windows.
- Bright indirect light: Most indoor plants prefer this type of light, in which a plant receives light from a nearby window but isn’t directly hit by the sun’s rays and is often found in east-facing or near west-facing windows.
- Filtered light: Direct light that shines through something sheer, such as a light curtain; very close to bright indirect light
- Low light: Found in a north-facing window or a dark corner of a room (some types of plants actually thrive with no sunlight or minimal exposure).
How do you know which type of light exposure you have in your home? There are a few ways to test light levels. Let’s start with the simplest.
At the brightest time of the day, usually noon, stand in the room where you’re thinking of putting a plant. Hold up your hand and look at the shadow it casts. If the shadow has a well-defined outline and is easy to see, you’ve likely got high light levels. If the shadow is ill-defined and faint, that indicates low light levels.
Of course, this isn’t the most precise way to test. You can use your smartphone to measure light levels, often known as “foot candles” or FC. Several apps, such as Light Meter or Lux Light Meter Pro, will do the trick.
You can also purchase a light meter. These handy little devices measure the light in your space. Just be sure to angle the meter toward the light source rather than the plant.
Native Light Conditions Majesty Palms Receive
Majesty palms are native to the African island of Madagascar. Here, they grow along river banks and in swampy areas. R. rivularis is usually found growing as part of the understory. That means they grow underneath other, taller plants.
In their natural habitat, majesty palms thrive in a mixture of light and shade, known as partial shade exposure. When grown indoors as houseplants, the majesty palm’s natural habitat is best mimicked by bright indirect light or filtered light conditions.
Signs Your Palm is Receiving Too Much Light
Majesty palms grow best when they receive just the right amount of light. That means bright indirect light or filtered light. Too much light may cause growth problems for your majesty palm.
Leaf scorch is a sign that your plant is getting too much light. Symptoms include yellowing veins in foliage, leaf curling, and leaf edges that turn brown abruptly.
Signs Your Palm isn’t receiving enough light
While majesty palms thrive in partial shade conditions in their native habitat, they need bright indirect light or filtered light when grown indoors as houseplants. If your palm’s fronds start to turn yellow or look bleached, that’s a sign that the plant needs more light.
If your palm looks leggy, find it a spot with more light exposure. Similarly, if your majesty palm appears to be growing or stretching toward a window or light source, it needs more light.
The Best Light Exposure for Majesty Palm Grown Indoors
Majesty palms need plenty of light to thrive, but direct sunlight — such as the type provided by a west- or south-facing window exposure – can be too intense. Instead, place your palm in a site that receives bright indirect light or filtered light.
An east-facing window is a good choice. You may also place the palm near, but not directly in front of a west-facing window. For filtered light, choose a west- or south-facing window that’s covered by a sheer curtain.
You may want to rotate your majesty palm once a month. This will ensure it receives enough light and help sustain equal growth on all sides of the plant.
While majesty palms have the same light requirements year-round, they require more water if placed in a bright site. Conversely, if your palm is placed in a darker location, it may require less water.
For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position Majesty Palms in the home for optimal care and Feng Shui benefits.
Majesty Palm Light Requirements FAQs:
Can Majesty Palms live in low light?
Majesty palms do not thrive in low light conditions. Rather, they prefer bright indirect light or filtered light exposures.
Can Majesty Palms take full sun?
In their native habitat, majesty palms grow in the understory or partially shaded conditions. Full sun exposures are usually too intense for majesty palms and may result in leaf scorch.
What kind of light do majesty palms need?
Majesty palms prefer bright indirect light or filtered light. Place them by an east-facing window or a west- or south-facing window that’s shaded by a sheer curtain.
Will a majesty palm live happily indoors?
Majesty palms live happily indoors if their environmental needs are met. This includes bright indirect or filtered light, rich, well-draining, acidic soil, and moist (but never soggy) soil.
How do you know if your plant is getting enough light?
If a majesty palm’s foliage looks yellow or bleached, it’s likely not getting enough light. Similarly, a plant that looks leggy or reaches for a light source needs more light.
Majesty palms bring a lush look to any room with their lovely, arching fronds. They’re a great indoor houseplant when grown under the right light conditions. Provide your palm with bright indirect or filtered light, well-draining soil, and just enough moisture, and watch your majesty palm thrive.
Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.