Areca palm, whose botanical name is Dypsis lutescens is also known as golden cane palm, yellow palm, or butterfly palm. It is referred to as “butterfly palm” because the leaves curve upwards on multiple stems to create a butterfly look. It is a species of flowering plants in the Arecaceae family, native to Madagascar and South India and naturalized in the Andaman Islands.
Areca palms are propagated from seeds. Orange-colored seeds, which are older, have a better germination rate than newer, greener seeds. To encourage the seeds to germinate, plant them at a uniform depth of about 5 cm in the seed-starting soil, usually many seeds to a single pot or cluster. Germination takes about six weeks under the best conditions, with a temperature of about 27 °C and relatively high humidity.
Caring for the areca palm indoors isn’t very difficult, but like all plants, it will die off when ignored. In general, the following should be noted for Areca palms:
- It can tolerate drought for a medium period of time.
- Should be watered often enough to keep the soil lightly moist in the dry season.
- Allow the top of the soil to dry between waterings in the rainy seasons.
- Fertilize an areca palm plant during the rainy season using a time-release fertilizer.
- Expose it to partial sun.
- Grow in a well drained soil.
- Never prune the brown tips of the palm fronds unless the frond is dead, because clipping brown tips may cause the frond growth to cease.
- Areca palms are vulnerable to pests, including spider mites, aphids, mealy bugs, and whitefly. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat with the least toxic insecticide.
The Areca palm is known to grow slowly, and prefers to be somewhat root-bound, so it should only require repotting every two or three years. Repot during the rainy season to a pot 2-4 inches wider than the current pot as they tend to do well when slightly under-potted. This also helps to keep the size of the plant in check because the root is crowded in a tight container. Repotting also gives an opportunity to replace old soil in which fertilizer salt deposits have build up.
When repotting a clump, be careful not to damage the root ball or bury the palm too deep. Replace the old potting soil with a palm potting soil (can be purchased at a garden store) or you can use a general purpose soil amended with a cup of clean builder’s sand.
According to the NASA Clean Air Study and studies by Dr. B. C. Wolverton, the areca palm filters xylene and toluene from the air. Xylene and Toluene are components of many household and industrial products which are very dangerous to our health when ingested, inhaled or touched. Dr. Wolverton also specified that, at 1.8 m (5 ft 11’’) in height, the plant will transpire 1 liter of water per 24 hours, thereby making it an effective humidifier. This means that the Areca plant helps in detoxifying as well as conditioning the air in our homes, making it a perfect indoor plant of high necessity.