Areca palm: History, Lifespan, Varieties, Growth Rate & Care Guide

Areca (dypsis lutescens) is one of the more common and popular palms at garden centers. Areca is a genus of 51 species of palms in the family Arecaceae, found in humid tropical forests from the islands of the Philippines, Malaysia and India, across Southeast Asia to Melanesia. The generic name Areca is derived from a name used locally on the Malabar Coast of India.

It is also naturalized in the Andaman Islands, Thailand, Vietnam, Réunion, El Salvador, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Canary Islands, southern Florida, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, and the Leeward Antilles.

Areca palms grow in a clump of golden-yellow, smooth, ringed trunks that resemble bamboo. Arching feathery green fronds sporting a yellow midrib fill the canopy, which can grow 6 feet long. When grown outdoors, mature areca palms grow from 12 to 30 feet tall with a mature spread of 8 to 15 feet. However, when grown indoors as a houseplant, the palm averages around 6 to 7 feet tall. Areca palms’ growth rate averages around 10 inches of new growth yearly.

Although areca palms rarely flower indoors, those grown outdoors produce 2-feet-long panicles of yellow flowers in summer that aren’t showy. The spent blooms form into clusters of 1/2-inch orange fruits that eventually ripen to black. The fallen fruits can be messy, so don’t be surprised to see volunteer areca seedlings spring up around the mother plant and the surrounding beds.

The Areca palm, has a relatively long lifespan, living for 10 years or more when grown indoors. However, when planted outdoors in its native tropical environment, the Areca palm can live up to 40 years or more. Generally the lifespan is influenced by factors such as proper care, environmental conditions and the presence of pests or diseases.

This plant is hardy, U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. Other common names for the Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens) include:

  • Golden Cane Palm
  • Yellow Palm
  • Butterfly Palm
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Cane Palm
  • Madagascar Palm
  • Golden Feather Palm
  • Yellow Butterfly Palm

Varieties of Areca Palm

Areca catechuAlso known as the betel nut palm, this variety produces betel nuts.
Areca triandraNative to Southeast Asia, this variety has slender stems and arching fronds.
Areca vestiariaFeature orange to red petioles and midribs.
Areca lutescensCommonly referred to as the “butterfly palm” due to its graceful, feathery fronds.
Areca macrocalyxFeatures large, ornamental fruit and is native to the Philippines and Borneo.
Areca concinnaCommonly found only in Sri Lanka. It has slim, ringed, green trunks, lush, dark green leaves and scented flowers 
Areca triphyllaNative to New Guinea, and usually feature attractive three-parted leaflets.
Areca guppyanaA rare species from the Solomon Islands, with slender, arching fronds
Areca glaucaNative to India, it has glaucous foliage that give it a bluish-green appearance.
Areca palmataFeatures fan-shaped leaves and is native to Madagascar.
Areca macrocalyxHas large, showy fruit and elegant fronds. Its native to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Areca hookerianaHas slender, clustering stems and attractive arching fronds. Commonly in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Areca vestiaria “Red”A cultivar of Areca vestiaria, featuring vivid red petioles and midribs.
Areca triandra “Sumawongii”A cultivated variety of Areca triandra.

Arecas as Indoor Palm Plants

  • Light: Provide bright, indirect light for the plant. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can scorch the leaves.
  • Temperature: Maintain a temperature between 16-24°C (60-75°F). Avoid placing the plant near drafty windows, air vents, or heaters.
  • Watering: Water the plant when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Make sure the pot has proper drainage to avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot.
  • Humidity: These palms prefer high humidity. You can increase the humidity around the plant by placing a tray of water near it, using a humidifier, or misting the leaves regularly.
  • Soil: Use a well-draining potting mix. A mixture of peat moss, perlite, and sand is suitable.
  • Fertilizer: Feed the plant with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer during the growing season (spring and summer).
  • Pruning: Remove yellow or brown fronds as needed to maintain the plant’s appearance and promote new growth.
  • Repotting: Repot the palm every two to three years, or when it outgrows its current container. Choose a pot that is one size larger than the current one and has good drainage.
  • Pests and Diseases: Keep an eye out for common pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects. Treat the plant with insecticidal soap or neem oil if necessary.

Arecas as Indoor Palm Plants

In the landscape, plant areca palms in well-drained fertile soil kept moist through regular water applications. Outdoors, it performs well in full sun to partial shade. When selecting a permanent location, remember its ultimate mature size and give the palm room to spread without interference.

Planting a Sapling

  • Wait until spring or early summer to plant an areca palm sapling in fertile soil. Arcea palms grow best in moist soil that drains well. They thrive in bright, diffuse light, but you can grow one in the shade or full sun. Remove from the sapling’s root ball all synthetic ties, synthetic burlap and wire that eventually may constrict the roots.
  • Dig a hole that is as deep as the sapling’s root ball and three times as wide as the root ball. A hole that is a little too shallow is better than a hole that is too deep because the root ball will settle over time.
  • Water the root ball with water from a garden hose as you plant the sapling in the hole. Do not allow burlap, such as natural burlap on the root ball, to show above ground. Fill the area between the root ball and the sides of the hole with soil.
  • Apply a 3-inch-deep layer of grass clippings, wood chips or bark in the shape of a dish around the transplanted sapling’s base to direct water toward the tree’s roots. Keep that mulch material several inches from the sapling’s base. The mulch will suppress weeds, reduce watering needs and add nutrients to the tree’s root zone.
  • Water your areca palm tree’s soil daily for the next several weeks, though the amount of water it needs depends on how fast the water evaporates. Don’t let the soil dry out. Overwatering it for long periods, however, can lead to root disease.

How to Prune Areca Palm

  • Identify the dead or dying leaves on your Areca palm. These leaves will be yellow or brown and may be drooping or wilting.
  • Use a sharp pair of pruning shears or scissors to cut the dead or dying leaves off at the base of the plant, as close to the trunk as possible.
  • If the trunk of the Areca palm is brown or grey, it may be dead or rotting and should be removed to protect the health of the palm.
  • Be careful not to over-prune the Areca palm, as this can cause stress to the plant and slow its growth. It’s best to remove no more than 1/3 of the height of the Areca palm’s fronds.
  • If there are any brown leaf bases or petioles left on the trunk after pruning, you can gently remove them to improve the palm’s appearance.
  • After pruning, keep an eye on the Areca palm for any signs of stress or new growth. Continue to provide proper care, including watering, fertilizing, and pest control as needed.