The areca palm is a wonderful clumping plant that is often kept as an indoor plant specimen and is popular in reception areas and other large spaces.
Botanically known as Dypsis lutescens (DIP-sis loo-TESS-enz), this perennial member of the Arecaceae family is native to Madagascar but naturalized in many parts of the world.
Rarely growing more than 10’ feet tall indoors and never flowering, areca’s true claim to fame is only evident when planted outdoors.
At that point, the common names of bamboo palm, butterfly palm, and cane palm become evident.
There are some important differences in Areca Palm care between growing this palm indoors and outdoors, which can often lead to poor plant health if not accounted for.
How To Grow Areca Palm Outdoors
Tending to an areca palm isn’t difficult, but it’s easy to deprive the plant of optimal conditions.
The more you give to this plant, the more it gives back, so it’s important to focus on its needs.
Where to Plant
Areca palms should only be planted outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11.
They dislike temperatures below 60° degrees Fahrenheit and may develop brown spots if temperatures begin falling below 55° degrees Fahrenheit.
As a tropical plant, the areca palm prefers moderate humidity.
As the plant is sensitive to getting water from above, avoid using sprinklers to augment the local humidity.
Bright indirect light is ideal for Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, but it will tolerate full sun in the morning or evening.
Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight, as this can scorch the tips of the fronds.
Beyond sheltering your areca palm from the direct midday sun, it should also have some shelter from sudden breezes.
Grown outdoors in optimal conditions, this plant can get pretty large, with a height anywhere up to 30’ feet and a mature width of 8 to 15’ feet.
As the number of stems can range from 1 to 50 (but is usually 12 or less at maturity), it’s important to set aside enough room for this plant to spread.
Preparing the Soil
Make sure your Areca plant gets rich, well-draining soil.
Add a gravel substrate before planting to help create a buffer zone for water drainage.
Consider mixing peat or organic compost and perlite to the soil before planting to ensure the soil is slightly acidic and has plenty of nutrients for this heavy feeder.
Giving your plant the right amount of food and water can be a little tricky compared to potted plants, so use the adage of “less is more” and adjust until you find the perfect balance when in doubt.
Use a slow-release fertilizer with plenty of micronutrients, applied according to the packaging instructions throughout spring and summer but cutting back in fall and winter.
You should also cut back on the dosage and/or frequency if the plant develops brown spots or leaf burn on the fronds.
More on Caring for Areca Palms
The tips of the fronds may be cut back as desired to restrict growth, but do not recommend pruning.
During dry spells with a little breeze, you may also need to wipe down the fronds occasionally as you would indoors.
Areca palm prefers consistently moist soil and cannot handle soggy or dry conditions.
Wait until the soil surface is dry to touch before watering Areca palms and never water the plant from above.
Avoid using tap water or from a municipal source, as the fluoride will cause chemical burns.
Do not let the soil dry too far, as this can easily damage the plant.
One of the greatest joys of growing an areca palm outdoors is the fact that you can get it to bloom.
The more ideal the conditions, the better the blooming period will be.
Generally blooming around July and August, the plant produces panicles of small, bright yellow flowers beneath the frond canopy.
Once fertilized, these flowers give way to 1” inch long oval fruits that start green to yellow.
While these fruits are inedible, they go through a showy change of color, becoming bright red before finally turning orange.
The seeds are viable for propagation, and some birds use them as a food source.
Speaking of propagation, seeds are the way to go with this plant.
Seeds can be difficult and time-consuming to use, so they’re not a popular method outside of commercial growers.
Meanwhile, the offshoots may be divided at the root and used to create new plants, but plants experience extreme shock.