Growing and Caring for the Unsung Areca Palm Outdoors

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The areca palm, otherwise known as butterfly palm, golden cane palm, bamboo palm, or its Latin name, Dypsis lutescens, is a native of Madagascar. 

The areca palm is a wonderful clumping plant often kept as an indoor plant specimen and popular in reception areas and other large spaces.

Areca palm outside in Winter Haven FLoridaPin

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.

No wonder it’s also commonly referred to as Butterfly Palm, and this makes it a popular choice for a privacy screen, accents, and garden drops in many American homes, especially in South Florida. 

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.

Areca palm seeds are hard to come by at garden centers, but the fruits that develop after the yellow flowers bloom can be harvested for their seeds.

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.

The right amount of light and high humidity is essential for successfully growing areca palm trees indoors.

It’s important to keep outdoor palms hydrated during hot, dry weather in order to maintain their health. Unless they are put near a very bright window, indoor palms frequently don’t receive enough light.

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. A rich, slightly acidic soil with very good drainage is perfect for growing outdoor areca palms. 

Add a gravel substrate before planting to help create a buffer zone for water drainage. Amending with sand and peat moss might be necessary to improve porousness and lower soil pH.  

Consider mixing peat or organic compost and perlite into the soil before planting to ensure the soil is slightly acidic and has plenty of nutrients for this heavy feeder.

General Care

Giving your plant the right amount of food and water can be a little tricky compared to potted plants, so use the adage “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 late fall and winter.

 Plant with organic peat moss or topsoil added to the hole. Plant spacing For a hedge-type planting, position areas 3 to 6 feet apart.

The areca palm is a heavy feeder, so it needs fertilizing with a liquid fertilizer from spring to early fall, according to the label instructions.  

You should also cut back on the dosage and/or frequency if the plant develops brown spots or leaf burns 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.

These palm trees are sensitive to fluoride in hard water, so water them when the soil is slightly dry with collected rainwater or distilled water. 

Avoid using tap water or from a municipal source, as fluoride will cause chemical burns. Ensure that the plant is in a well-draining pot because sitting in water will cause the roots to rot. 

Do not let the soil dry too far, as this can easily damage the plant.

Bloom Time

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. If you choose to propagate with seeds, it is best to do so in a controlled environment at home by covering them lightly with a seed-starting mix.  

A potting mix with a peat base drains well and is ideal for indoor pot plants. Plant the seedlings outdoors around 10′ feet apart when they have a few leaves. 

Seeds can be difficult and time-consuming, so they’re not a popular method outside commercial growers.

The germination rate is higher for older, orange-colored seeds than for younger, greener seeds.

Meanwhile, the offshoots may be divided at the root and used to create new plants, but plants experience extreme shock.

Common Problems With Areca Palm 

While the areca palm tree is a relatively hardy & robust palm species, you may still be facing some of the common problems below. 

Remember to observe and monitor your areca palm closely to identify any signs of problems early on. 

Leaf tip burn is the yellowing or browning of the leaf tips and fronds of the areca palm. This can be brought on by cold air, excessive or insufficient water, nutrient-deficient soil, and root problems. 

Indoor areca palms are susceptible to common pests, including spider mites, aphids, scale, mealybugs, and whiteflies, which can cause foliage damage and discoloration. 

Treat any infestation as soon as possible using our guides to get rid of the pests before they spread to other houseplants.

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