Finding a good evergreen palm can sometimes be a chore. However, Cyrtostachys renda is a highly attractive option for those needing a small to medium clumping palm.
This member of the Arecaceae family sometimes goes by the alternative scientific name of Cyrtostachys lakka and is perhaps best known by the common name of lipstick palm.
Lipstick palm is a tropical plant native to Malaysia, Borneo, southern Thailand, and Sumatra, where it grows in swampy areas, along riverbanks, and in coastal tidal areas.
Lipstick palm has a variety of common names, including:
- Maharajah palm
- Rajah wax palm
- Red sealing wax palm
- Sealing wax palm
- Sumatra wax palm
Most of these names are in reference to the bright green trunk, the vivid red crown shaft, and petioles (leaf sheaths), which resemble traditional sealing wax.
It’s short enough to be grown indoors, benefiting from the more stable environment, but it will also thrive outdoors under the right conditions.
Native to peat swamp forests and the tropical regions of Australia and Southeast Asia, the plant grows naturally in Borneo (Indonesia), Brunei, Malaysia, New Guinea, Singapore, Sumatra, and Thailand.
Cyrtostachys Renda Quick Care Tips
- Botanical Name: Cyrtostachys Renda
- Common Name(s): Lipstick Palm, Sealing Wax Palm, Maharajah’s palm
- Rajah wax palm, Red sealing wax palm, Sumatra wax palm
- Synonyms: Cyrtostachys lakka, Cyrtostachys renda var. lakka
- Pronunciation: Sir-toh-STAY-kiss REN-duh
- Family & Origin: Arecaceae family, native to Malaysia, Borneo, southern Thailand, and Sumatra
- Growability: Easy to grow
- Grow Zone: USDA zones 11-12
- Size: Can grow up to 8 to 50 feet tall and 10 feet wide, depending on the conditions
- Flowering: Produces small white flowers in clusters in July
- Light: Prefers partial shade or filtered sunlight
- Humidity: Requires high humidity levels
- Temperature: Thrives in warm temperatures between 75° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
- Soil: Well-draining soil or rich, loamy, moist soils with low acidity
- Water: Keep soil consistently moist but not waterlogged
- Fertilizer: Use a well-balanced, slow-release palm fertilizer should be applied twice a year during the growing season
- Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects. May also be affected by fungal diseases if overwatered.
- Propagation: Can be propagated through seeds or sucklers
- Plant Uses: Used as an ornamental plant in tropical landscapes, a popular privacy hedge, or a cover for sheds or jacuzzis, edible parts
The plant grows naturally in wet areas such as rainforests and riverbanks. It is widely cherished for its colorful and unique appearance.
Lipstick Palm Care
Size and Growth
What makes red palm a great plant for indoor growth is its relatively short height. The slow-growing plant will often only grow to between 8’ and 15’ feet tall in the wild with a spread of up to 10’ feet.
It has a potential height of 40’ to 50’ feet in ideal conditions. The approximate height is measured from the bottom of the pot to the highest leaf at the top of the plant.
As with other palms, a lipstick palm’s trunk is accented by attractive leaf scars which begin green, fade to an orange or brownish-green, then finally dull to grey.
However, as a suckering plant, it may produce a number of slender trunks within the clump, resulting in a naturally dense, multi-tiered appearance.
Each crown shaft gives way to petioles, both a bright red to maroon color. The many pinnate leaves which continue from the petioles are 4’ to 5’ feet long with a dark green upper surface and greyish green underside.
There are approximately 50 pairs of pinnae (leaflets) per leaf.
Flowering and Fragrance
Sealing wax palm in a monoecious plant that blooms in July.
Its inconspicuous greenish-white inflorescence grows in groups of three (one female and two males) on small panicles below the crown.
These give way to small, blackish ovoid palm seeds approximately .55” inches long.
Light and Temperature
It’s usually best to keep lipstick palm in partial shade or filtered sunlight until it’s older. Afterward, it handles part shade and full sun equally well.
This plant can survive outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 11-12 but is highly cold-sensitive and will die in frost conditions. They don’t tolerate drought, winds, salt, or cold temperatures.
Moreover, the ideal temperature for this plant ranges from 75° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
It should also be partially shaded in high-heat areas or places with high winds. Higher humidity is preferred for the plant’s health.
Some enthusiasts have managed to grow red palm in Zone 10 successfully, but the risk of a temperature drop makes this very difficult.
Watering and Feeding
Red wax palm requires a lot of water. It cannot survive in standing water for long periods of time, although it will tolerate it for a while. Ideally, the soil around it should be kept moist.
High humidity is also beneficial.
Fertilizing your palm tree will help ensure that nutrients are not washed away with constant watering. A well-balanced, slow-release palm fertilizer should be applied twice a year during the growing season.
You may use a fertilizer formulated for interior plants, preferably a slow-release fertilizer of 180 days duration, and fertilize during spring or fall based on label instructions.
Soil and Transplanting
While adaptable, the rajah palm can be temperamental due to its high sensitivity to change. The best soils are rich, loamy, moist soils with low acidity.
A well-drained soil is best, as overly soggy soil can harm the plant over time. Higher nitrogen levels are also preferred.
Just as this plant doesn’t do well in dry soil, it also doesn’t do well in dry air.
We recommend sampling the top soil an inch deep every 3-4 days. If you notice it is still moist, hold off on watering until it dries further.
Since most plant’s water needs may be different, this is a good way to determine each individual plant’s water requirements.
Instead, if only a few inches of soil have dried since your last watering, you can support healthy growth in the Lipstick palm by giving it about five to ten ounces of water every time you water.
Transplanting should generally be avoided, although it can be done with some care. Ensure the new container has good soil and fertilizer.
Add some root hormones and organic compost to help encourage root growth. Finally, you’ll want to soak the plant before transplanting and follow up by watering 2 to 3 times daily for the first 3 to 4 weeks afterward.
Once you’ve slid the plant and roots out of the pot, place the palm in a pot large enough to accommodate new growth and fill it in with well-draining potting soil.
Grooming And Maintenance
Red Palm requires a moderate amount of care. Frequent pruning of any damaged or diseased fronds that have lost their color can have a large effect on both the appearance and health of the palm.
Avoid pruning leaves while they’re still green unless necessary, as palms can only generate a limited number of leaves per year.
Indoor plants with brown or dry leaf tips will benefit from regular misting to keep the plant happy and thriving, preferably in the mornings, to allow the foliage to dry out completely during the day.
Excess suckers should be trimmed to limit spread. This is especially true for younger or potted plants.
How To Propagate Sealing Wax Palm
Lipstick palm can be very difficult to cultivate outside of the tropics, especially from seed. Great care must be taken to maintain temperature, humidity, and soil quality.
Use only fresh seeds, and expect a germination period lasting anywhere from 2 months to a year.
An easier way of propagation is by harvesting sucklers from an adult plant. Gently separate the suckers along with their roots using a sharp shovel and plant where desired.
Sumatra Wax Palm Pest or Diseases
This palm has a moderate salt tolerance and can handle short-term flooding conditions. It was previously listed as vulnerable from 1995 to 2000 due to over-harvesting.
In Indonesia, laws were passed in 1999 to protect the plant from harvesting.
It’s largely resistant to pests and diseases, although scales, mealybugs, and spider mites may prove problematic.
Suggested Lipstick Palm Uses
Red Palm is a popular, if difficult to cultivate, ornamental that brings a colorful touch to any tropical garden. The thickness of its clumps also makes it a popular privacy hedge or a cover for sheds or jacuzzis.
When planted outdoors, it should always be close to a source of water.
Traditionally, the plant has been used in building thatched huts and fishing rods. The stem tip, or palm heart, is edible.
Due to its sensitivity to change, lipstick palm is a great choice for growing indoors in a more controlled environment.
It will also work as a container plant that’s kept on the patio during warmer months and brought indoors to overwinter.