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Majesty Palms—Growing Ravenea Palms Indoors

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Majesty Palms—Growing Ravenea Palms Indoors

Majesty palms are beautiful landscape plants

Photo © Shubhada Nikharge
In his excellent book on houseplants, Tropical Foliage Plants, Lynn Griffith Jr. describes the majesty palm as resembling a kentia palm when it's young and a royal palm when it's mature. It would be hard to find two more attractive palms to resemble. According to Griffith, the majesty palm is relatively new to the horticulture trade. They were introduced into commercial production around 1990 in Florida, after they were imported from their native Madagascar. In the wild, these palms grow in the swampy subtropics, meaning they prefer warm and very humid conditions. They are also fast-growing, meaning they can be very successfully grown in pots. The only drawback at this point with majesty palms is their relative newness to the trade, meaning that professional growers and nurserymen haven't yet mastered their growth habit. As a result, there is a bit of learning curve. For the average home grower, however, it should be enough to follow the general guidelines.

Growing Conditions:

Light: Although they are close to understory plants in their natural habitat, indoors it's a good idea to provide as much light as possible. Plants that are stretching and bleached should be moved into a brighter spot for a few weeks, but don't expose them to full sunlight.
Water: Keep the potting media evenly moist, but not waterlogged. Don't let them get too dry between waterings or you'll start to lose lower leaves.
Soil: A peat-based mix is perfect, with lots of material for drainage. Palms appreciate good drainage to prevent water-logged roots.
Fertilizer: Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer once or twice during the growing season and not at all during the winter. If your indoor plant starts to stretch out, reduce or stop fertilizing. Give a pinch of Epsom salts once a month to supply adequate magnesium.

Propagation:

Majesty palms are raised exclusively from seed, and thus far commercial production is comparatively limited. It's highly unlikely that home growers can get access to seeds. If, however, your plant flowers and produces seed, harvest and plant the seeds quickly in a shallow container. Germination is rapid for a palm tree.

Repotting:

These are fast-growing palm trees, so single specimen plants may need to be repotted annually. When repotting, be careful not to damage the root-ball and use a large and heavy enough container to prevent the palm tree from blowing over.

Varieties:

Although there are about a dozen species of Ravenea palms, only one is currently grown in the nursery trade: R. rivularis. This plant is commonly called the majesty palm and is not very common yet in the trade.

Grower's Tips:

Successfully growing majesty palms requires balancing a few factors: heat, light, and fertilization. Plants that are over-fertilized and grown in warm conditions, but not given enough light, will stretch out. Plants that are given too much light without a corresponding increase in fertilizer and water will scorch. The right balance inside likely means a bright corner, with plenty of water, and probably less fertilizer than you think. It's also a good idea to supplement with Epsom salts to provide adequate magnesium. Lack of magnesium generally shows up as leaf yellowing. Plants might also require supplemental iron to prevent additional yellowing and leaf loss. Finally, these are acid-loving palms that do best with a pH as low a 5, so don't worry about a peat-based mixture acidifying and hurting your majesty palm. Majesty 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.
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