It's hard to believe the areca palm was once on the endangered species list—drive down almost any street in a subtropical or warm climate, and you're likely to see dozens of these tall, attractive and clumping palms. To me, the areca palm looks somewhat like bamboo. The palms have smooth, sometimes golden trunks that are reminiscent of bamboo culms. Their fronds are narrow and full, almost like bamboo leaves. As far as indoor plants go, areca palms are typically sold clustered into smaller pots so they look almost like palm grass. They are not, unfortunately, the best palms to grow as houseplants, in part because they need fairly bright light and in part because they are especially sensitive to the build-up of fertilizer salts (have you flushed your pots lately?). Nevertheless, because of their sheer popularity and relatively low price, they're still a good short-lived palm for indoor growth.
Areca palms do best with bright light and last longer with some direct sunlight.
Like many palms, they are sensitive to overwatering and cannot tolerate being water-logged or sitting in saturated potting mix. Let the potting mix dry out slightly between waterings.
A peat-based mix is perfect, with lots of material for drainage. Palms appreciate good drainage to prevent water-logged roots.
Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer
once or twice during the growing season and not at all during the winter.
Areca palms are planted from seed, usually many seeds to a single pot or cluster. It's unusual to find areca palm seeds, but if you do, you can germinate them at home by planting them at a uniform depth in seed starting soil. Orange seeds, which are older, have a better germination rate than newer, greener seeds. Germination will take around six weeks under the best conditions (soil over 80˚F and relatively high humidity).
Areca palms are relatively fast-growing palms that are usually planted in clumps, or over time, will forms clumps on their own. In most indoor situations, it's unlikely that an areca palm will live long enough to need frequent repotting—they are typically short-lived indoors. If, however, your palm thrives, you may need to repot every other year or so, although areca palms also do well when slightly underpotted. When repotting a clump, be careful not to damage the root ball or bury the palm too deep.
The popular areca palm is the Dypsis lutescens. This is the one that's planted heavily all over the world. There are a few other palms in the same genus—the triangle palm D. decaryi and betel nut palm A. catechu—but these are very rare outside of tropical or subtropical regions.
Areca palms present the home grower with multiple challenges. First, there is the typical quest for light that afflicts many growers of palms—they like more light than the average indoor environment can supply. Second, there is the persistent challenge of feeding. Areca palms are heavy feeders that can develop yellowing leaves in the absence of magnesium, iron, and trace elements. However, they are also susceptible to fertilizer salts and dislike fluoridated water, which puts many growers at a disadvantage. Finally, there are several leaf-spotting fungi that attack areca palms. The end result is a palm that has a fairly narrow range of tolerances and isn't likely to last long. Rather than fret over it, it's probably easier to simply discard yellowing or declining areca palms and replace them. Areca palms are vulnerable to pests including mites, aphids
, mealy bugs
, scale, and white fly. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat with the leave toxic option.