Areca Palms – How to Start from Seeds

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Areca Palm Production Guide #

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CFREC-A Foliage Plant Research Note RH-91-6 R.T. Poole, A.R. Chase, and L.S. Osborne

University of Florida, IFAS Central Florida Research and Education Center-Apopka 2807 Binion Rd., Apopka, FL 32703-8504


Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (Areca lutescens) is usually referred to as Areca palm, but has also been called yellow palm, butterfly palm, yellow butterfly palm, cane palm and golden feather palm. Stems are many clustered, slender, and sometimes branching. Areca palms may reach 30 feet tall. Leaves are ascending, curved at the apex with sheaths and petioles yellow or orange tinged. This palm originated in Madagascar and is widely grown outdoors in the tropics. In temperate zones they are popular as specimen plants for indoor use because they can tolerate relatively low light conditions.

Areca palm seedling plants are currently available as 2 1/4 to 3-inch liners established in small pots or cavity trays, or as 10 or 14-inch seedlings having bare roots or rooted in community trays. Seedlings should be transplanted at an early developmental stage (spike or 1st leaf stage). Finished plants can be obtained in a wide range of sizes growing in 6 to 52-inch size pots.


Arecas are propagated from seed with approximately 50 seeds to an ounce. Viable seeds, soaked for 10 minutes in a solution of hot sulfuric acid, can be expected to germinate in about 6 weeks. Fresh seed, yellow to ripe, should be planted with the top of the seed barely visible and germination temperature maintained between 80 and 85°F. Lower temperatures will increase germination time 100-200%. Seed storage at low humidity and low temperature is detrimental to germination. Cleaning seed is not essential if they are planted immediately. If seeds are to be stored, clean the yellow to fully ripened red seeds, air-dry them at 80-90%, treat with a seed protectant, and store at 75°F.

Best production light level for Areca palms is 5,000 to 6,000 foot-candles, or about 50% shade. Plants should receive a fertilization regime of 3.5 lb nitrogen per 1,000 ft2 a month from a 3-1- 2 ratio fertilizer. A level teaspoon of Osmocote 19-6-12 fertilizer (about 5 g) applied to a 6 inch pot every 3 months, or 200 ppm nitrogen from a 9-3-6 fertilizer applied weekly will supply the required fertilizer. Arecas respond equally well to liquid or slow release fertilizers when nitrogen levels are equivalent. Arecas need supplemental micronutrients to prevent chlorosis. Incorporating micronutrients (1.5 lb Micromax/yd3) to the soil is preferable to foliar sprays which can cause phytotoxicity. Phosphorus should be supplied only from fertilizers such as the 19-6-12 or 9-3-6 mentioned earlier.

Good quality Areca palms contain 1.5-2.5% dry weight of nitrogen, 0.1-0.3% phosphorus, 0.7-2.0% potassium, 1.0-1.5% calcium, 0.3-0.6% magnesium, 10-60 parts per million (ppm) copper, 50-300 ppm manganese and iron and 25-200 ppm zinc. Plants are tolerant of both atmospheric fluoride (F) and F in the medium if pH is maintained above 6.0. Tissue F levels of 16 ppm were found in leaves with no necrosis, while leaves with necrosis had only 21 ppm. Areca palms appear to be more tolerant to ethylene than most foliage plants.

The pH of the potting medium should be maintained near 6.0 with the addition of dolomite to keep fluoride unavailable to the plant. Mixes that have produced good quality palms include commercial mixes and peat:sand (3:1 by volume) and peat:pine bark:sand (6:3:1 by volume).

Areca palms can tolerate low soil moisture, but best growth is obtained if plants are not subjected to drought conditions. Arecas are hardier than most foliage plants and tolerate short durations of 32°F, but some necrosis might occur. Long durations of 32°F or lower will severely damage or kill the plants. For best growth, roots should be kept at 70-80°F with air temperatures up to 95°F. Plants can be shipped satisfactorily for 2 weeks at 55-65°F.

If spray or water residue causes the Areca to be unattractive, plant shines are a possible method of removal. Nine plant shines were used on Chamaedorea elegans with satisfactory results. Additionally, a 5% oxalic acid solution followed by rinsing cleansed Chamaedorea seifrizii of mineral salts.


1) Fluoride toxicity

Symptoms –
Foliar necrosis frequently starts as small spots, then progresses until entire leaflets are necrotic.
Control –
Maintain pH between 6.0 and 6.5 to keep fluoride unavailable. Avoid water, medium components and fertilizers (superphosphate) that contain fluoride.2) Excess soluble salts
Symptoms –
Fronds are necrotic and have tip dieback and root systems have few active hair roots.
Control –
Arecas are more sensitive to excess soluble salts than most foliage plants. Fertilizer suggestions should be followed closely with soluble salts monitored regularly.3) Leaf chlorosis
Symptoms –
New leaves are light yellow with either interveinal or overall chlorosis and may be small with necrotic tips. The probable cause is micronutrient deficiency due to iron, manganese or zinc. Iron deficiency causes interveinal to general chlorosis of newest leaves. An indistinct interveinal chlorosis of new foliage occurs when manganese is deficient. When zinc is lacking, new leaves are small with necrotic tips.
Control –
Iron, manganese and zinc chelate supplied at 400, 200 and 200 ppm of the element respectively, can cause foliar damage.4) Chlorotic-necrotic spotting
Symptoms –
Fronds may have numerous necrotic spots along their entire length.
Control –
Spots sometimes are caused by foliar applications of micronutrients or copper- containing fungicides. Both copper chelate, 100 ppm copper, and cupric hydroxide fungicides result in phytotoxicity and should not be used on this small areca palms.5) Poor or slow seed germination
Symptoms –
Seeds do not germinate properly.
Control –
Maintain proper soil moisture and temperature. Excess water will keep soil saturated and temperatures low and reduce or delay seed germination.


Reference to University of Florida/IFAS Pest Control Guides

1) Helminthosporium leaf spot – (Bipolaris spp., Exserohilum rostratum and

Phaeotrichoconis crotalariae)

Symptoms –
Lesions are usually 1/8 to 1/4″ long, reddish brown to black and found all over the frond surface. A yellow halo (margin) frequently surrounds lesions. Under optimum conditions, lesions coalesce and form large, irregularly-shaped necrotic areas on leaf tips and margins. Sometimes, the unexpanded newest leaf may become entirely necrotic.
Control –
Very little disease develops on plants which are not exposed to overhead irrigation or rainfall. Although many growers have reported that poorly fertilized plants are more susceptible to Helminthosporium leaf spot than well fertilized plants, research has not established this relationship. Plants which are grown in full sun are more severely affected by this disease than those grown under a reduced light (50% shade). This may be partially due to the stressful conditions of sun production which result in a somewhat chlorotic plant. Even weekly treatments with fungicides which are effective under shade conditions are not sufficient to control this disease under full sun conditions.2) Root rots and damping-off (many fungi)
Symptoms –
Poor germination, blackening of roots, or mushiness can be followed by yellowing, wilting and loss of the plant or seedling. Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, Pythium, and Phytophthora spp. each cause these symptoms.
Control –
Use of pathogen-free potting medium, pots and seedlings is essential. The soil moisture should be maintained as low as possible to reduce pathogen growth without reducing plant growth.3) Sclerotinia blight (Sclerotinia homeocarpa)
Symptoms –
Sclerotinia blight of palms occurs on small seedlings up to 2 ft. tall. Foliar blighting is accompanied by gray to white mycelium which frequently covers overlapping pinnae of affected fronds. Individual lesions are irregular in shape and surrounded by a water-soaked band of tissue. Lesions eventually turn tan to gray with a dark brown border.
Control –
Sclerotinia blight of Areca palms is most severe on plants less than 2 ft. tall, since they are densely planted (up to 100 seeds in an 8 in pot) creating ideal conditions for infection and disease development. Disease incidence is highest during March and April in south Florida.


Reference to University of Florida/IFAS Pest Control Guides

The major arthropod pests of Areca palms include caterpillars, root mealybugs, mites, scales, and thrips. In the control section for each pest, a few of the many registered and effective pesticides will be listed. For a complete listing please consult the references at the end of this report. Because the potential for phytotoxicity exists, a small group of plants should be tested for phytotoxicity prior to treating the entire crop. The list given in this section should be used only as a guide to the sensitivity to pesticides.

1) Caterpillars (worms)

Symptoms –
Infestations are easy to detect because worms, their excrement and the damage they cause, are usually quite visible to the unaided eye. The palm leaf skeletonizer spins a protective web of silk. Damaged leaves become blotched, turn brown or shriveled and then die.
Control –
Very little is known about controlling these pests on Areca palms.2) Mealybugs
Symptoms –
Mealybugs appear as white, cottony masses in leaf axils on the lower surfaces of leaves and on the roots. Honeydew and sooty mold are often present on plant foliage and infested plants become stunted. With severe infestations, plant parts begin to die.
Control –
Systemic material are preferred. Control of root mealybugs is accomplished with soil drenches with an insecticide.When pesticides are applied to the soil, care must be taken to assure that the pots have good drainage and that no saucers are attached, or phytotoxicity may result.3) Mites (Two-spotted spider mite)
Symptoms –
Two-spotted spider mites are very small and go unnoticed until plants become severely damaged. Damaged foliage begins to turn yellow or become speckled due to mite feeding. Webbing, loss of leaves and plant death can occur when mite populations reach high levels. Often the presence of this pest is overlooked because the cast skins and webbing produced by this mite are confused for dust on undersides of leaves. Mites have round pale yellow to reddish eggs deposited on the undersides of leaves; nymphs and adults have two dark patches on either side of their bodies.
Control –
The critical point in any control program is thorough coverage with a pesticide. The best control program is to minimize the possibility of introducing mites into the growing area on infested plant material. Biological control programs have worked in small scale studies but remain unproven in commercial greenhouses.4) Scales
Symptoms –
Two species of soft scale have been reported to feed on Areca palms in Florida; brown soft scale, and tessellated scale. At least fifteen species of hard scales feed on this plant and thus hard scales appear to be one of the most important insect pests of larger plant material grown outdoors. The shape, size, and color of scales are variable and many are hard to distinguish from the plant material on which they are feeding. Scales can be found feeding on leaves, petioles, or stems and infested plants become weakened or stunted and then die.
Control –
See Mealybugs5) Thrips
Symptoms –
Infested leaves become curled or distorted, with silver-gray scars or calloused areas where feeding has occurred.
Control –
Many materials are registered and effective at controlling thrips.

Pesticides should be applied according to label directions.

Regardless of the pesticide or mixture of pesticides used, it is
strongly recommended that the effects be evaluated on a few
plants, under your particular conditions before treating all plants.

Mention of a commercial or proprietary product in this paper
does not constitute a recommendation by the authors,
nor does it imply registration under FIFRA as amended.

Reference to University of Florida/IFAS Pest Control Guides


1. Broschat, T.K. 1984. Nutrient deficiency symptoms in five species of palms grown as foliage plants. Principes 28(1):6-14.

2. Broschat, T.K. and H. Donselman. 1986. Factors affecting storage and germination of Chrysalidocarpus lutescens seeds. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 111(6):872-877.

3. Chase, A.R. 1990. Phytotoxicity of bactericides and fungicides on some ornamentals. Nursery Digest 24(5):11.

4. Chase, A.R. and R.T. Poole. 1984. Influence of foliar applications of micronutrients and fungicides on foliar necrosis and leaf spot disease of Chrysalidocarpus lutescens. Plant Disease 68:195-197.

5. Conover, C.A. and R.T. Poole. 1986. Factors affecting shipping of acclimatized foliage plants. CFREC-Apopka Research Report RH-86-11.

6. Lyhne, M., J. Hegnelt and A.S. Andersen. 1988. Improved germination of seeds of Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (Palmae). Acta Horticulturae 226:263-269.

7. Poole, R.T. and C.A. Conover. 1981. Dolomitic and fluoride affect foliar necrosis of Chamaedorea seifrizii and Chrysalidocarpus lutescens. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 94:107- 109.

8. Poole, R.T. and C.A. Conover, 1985. N, P, and K fertilization of Brassaia actinophylla, Calathea makoyana and Chrysalidocarpus lutescens. J. Environ. Hort. 3(1):1-3.

9. Rauch, F.D., P. Yahata and P.K. Murakami. 1988. Influence of slow-release fertilizer source on growth and quality of Areca palm, Chrysalidocarpus lutescens Wendl. J. Environ. Hort. 6(1):7-9.

10. Short, D.E., L.S. Osborne and R.W. Henley. 1983. Phytotoxicity of insecticides and miticides to foliage and woody ornamental plants.
Extension Entomology Report #57.

11. Short, D.E., L.S. Osborne and R.W. Henley. 1982. 1982-83 Insect and related arthropod management guide for commercial foliage and woody plants in Florida.
Extension Entomology Report #52.

12. Simone, G.W. and A.R. Chase. 1989. Disease control pesticides for foliage production (Revision #4). Plant Protection Pointer. Extension Plant Pathology Report #30. [also in Foliage Digest 12(9):1-8]

2139-10.28.20, JRS #

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