The Areca Palm, native to Madagascar, is one of the most popular indoor houseplants sold today. Indoors it is a medium sized exotic looking plant that usually reaches a height of 6-8 feet; outdoors it may be as tall as 25 feet. The Areca Palm gets its nickname, the Butterfly Palm, because its long feathery fronds (leaves) arch upwards off of multiple reed like stems. Each frond has between 40-60 leaflets on it. When first bought, Areca Palms are a delight; they are inexpensive good-sized plants with beautiful green upright fronds. However, over time, no matter how attentive you are to the plant’s needs, the overall appearance of an Areca Palm often diminishes; the older bottom fronds turn yellow and the larger fronds droop and bend.
LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS: Areca Palms require bright indirect light. Too much light or direct sun burns the fronds and causes them to turn yellow.
CARE INSTRUCTIONS WATER: Allow the top 1-2” of soil to dry out before watering an Areca Palm. Never allow an Areca to sit in water as this causes root rot. The fronds of an Areca wilt when they need water but quickly perk up once the soil is drenched. Like all palms, Arecas do not like chemicals or salt so avoid water that has passed through a softener or contains fluoride or chlorine. Both chemicals and salt cause freckle-like spots on the leaves.
FERTILIZER: Feed an Areca Palm monthly when it is actively growing with a balanced liquid fertilizer at 1/2 the recommended strength. Too much salty fertilizer spots the leaves.
TEMPERATURE: Areca Palms prefer temperatures between 65-75 degrees during the day and around 55 degrees at night. This plant is very sensitive to low temperatures so if you place it outside during the summer be sure to bring it in before temperatures dip below 50 degrees.
HUMIDITY: High humidity is essential in keeping an Areca Palm looking good.
FLOWERING: The flowers of an Areca are very small and inconspicuous.
PESTS: Spider mites and Mealy Bugs can be a problem on an Areca Palm. Check frequently for pests by examining the backs of the fronds and new growth. If an Areca becomes infected, spray with warm soapy water or an insecticidal soap at 1/2 the recommended strength. Spraying with a product containing alcohol may damage the fronds.
DISEASES: Because Areca Palms require high humidity, they are susceptible to the fungus Pink Rot and Ganoderma. Pink rot develops in moist soil and causes the fronds in the crown (top) of the Palm to turn brown and droop. Ganoderma, which is spread through the soil and on pruning tools, causes the lower fronds to droop and turn yellow, then gradually works its way up the plant. Neither of these diseases is treatable but both are preventable by keeping the soil drier.
SOIL: Plant an Areca in a rich acidic soil that drains well. Add builder's sand if the soil is too heavy and clay like.