Houseplant Care Tips

Various Houseplant Care Tips Including Watering and Lighting Requirements.


Houseplant Care Tips

Friday, December 04, 2009

Areca Palm Care FAQs

Problem
How often should I water my Areca Palm?

Answer
Areca Palms prefer high water levels so keep the soil moist at all times. The soil should be kept moist but not soggy. Be sure your pot allows for proper drainage by putting 2 inches or more of pebbles at the bottom of the pot as well as a water tray. The foliage of your Areca palm will tell you if the plants needs water. If the leaves droop, close-up or dry up then the palm probably needs more water.

In winter months, like many other houseplants, Areca Palms require less water. Areca Palms also prefer high humidity levels, so running a humidifier or a daily misting will be beneficial too.

Brown, then black, leaf tips are caused by salt build-up in the root zone. Cut off the black tips, but realize that the salt in the root zone is causing the problem, and you need to flush them out with lots of water, outside, where they can dry out and you can do it again, and again. Or transplant them into new soil mix. Tolerate the burn until the weather warms up, if you live where it's cold.


Problem
Can Areca Palms be split into multiple plants?

Answer (Courtesy of Denis)
Clustering palms can be propagated by dividing the root ball. Seeds are the normal way, but for indoor plants, dividing them is the easiest. Trim them back to a few healthy stems, because damaged roots will reflect back in the head leaves, so don't expect a weaker root system to support the many leave stems it had before.


Problem
How much light does my Areca Palm need?

Answer
Areca Palms prefer full sun, so keep your palm within 3 to 5 feet from a window receiving 4 to 5 hours of sunlight. East and West windows are good choices for this lighting requirement.

Remember Areca Palms are not dark green normally, but when in dark areas, all plants increase the amount of chlorophyll in their leaves to help get the most out of the minimum light. Yellow green is the color of a happy Areca's leaves, with plenty of light (Golden cane palm).


Problem
Do you have any tips on pruning an Areca palm?

Answer (Again courtesy of Denis)
You can save a lot of worry and prayer by doing a simple test on almost any plant, to see if it is viable. Using a fingernail, or some small knife, remove a bit of the outer tissue of the stems (bark) and check for green tissue, underneath. If there is none, the stem is dead; remove that stem or cane.

In fact, a distressed plant is better off with less leaf mass to support. If sick, 90% of plants will show it, and "you can tell".

If a plant was exposed to freezing temperatures long enough for the water in the cells to freeze, the ice formation will expand and break the cell walls, generally killing that section. Leaves can come back, but not on dead canes or stems. Root cells can survive more easily because the earth around them has to freeze first.

Generally, the best thing you can do for a sick plant, is give it a "haircut". Cut it back and you relieve the stress; keep cutting until you get to green tissue. Simpler, you can see if the stem bends; if it is dead, it will snap and break. This is true for roots too. Remove the dead tissue (that snaps) and keep the top area proportional to the remaining root mass. New stems should come up from a living root system.

You may not want to have the plant in your living room after it is cut back; put it someplace where it can rest and recover, --if the roots are alive. With few or no leaves, it needs little light or water. Too much water can induce rot, and cool, wet conditions cause fungi to thrive. Once new leaves start to emerge, gradually bring it back to some sunlight.

Healthy areca palms have a yellow tint, as they are not shade plants and do not need as many chlorophyll cells. The house plants we like, are usually natives of the under-canopy (jungle) world, where they produce wide leaves saturated with chlorophyll cells to compete for the available light.
Water: The leaves will close to reduce water loss area, first, so that signals their stress.


Problem
How do I cut off dead or browned branches on my Areca Palm?

Answer
Snip the dead branch where it meets the soil. Just cutting the ends or dead portion off will not help the palm; it may actually stunt your plants growth. Pulling the frond from the root is also not a good way. Doing so you may disrupt the other roots and do more damage.


Problem
My Areca Palm is infested with some sort of pest. How do I get rid of it?

Answer
Whatever the type of pest (scale, mites, spider, fungus, etc.) I always try my homemade remedy first. Mix together some soapy dishwater (water and dish soap), spray the entire plant twice a day for a few days. If you are seeing improvement, then continue for at least one week. If the pest doesn’t seem to be going away, local garden center for a pesticide safe for houseplants.


Problem
My Areca Palm looks sickly and isn’t doing well. What could be the problem?

Answer
With a sick palm, remove canes where the crown pulls out, then remove the dead, rotting roots. It’s easy to tell if you have any living roots that aren't rotten yet, from fungi. Sniff test will confirm if they are rotten. Remove all the dead tissue, top to bottom, and re-pot in new clean mix. Do not give the plant any fertilizer or houseplant food until new growth has started.

You can use Hydrogen peroxide to determine if it’s a fungi problem. In the crown of palms, Hydrogen peroxide will bubble when it hits fungi protein. The same is true for the roots. The Hydrogen Peroxide won't hurt the plant, but will kill fungi. The bubbling will stop when no more fungi is present.
Without good drainage, plants will drown and even faster if during the winter months. Fungi will spread more quickly in an over watered plant. Adding some vinegar to the water will keep the soil slightly acidic and kill residual fungi. You can check pH with pool or aquarium test paper.


Miscellaneous Tips

Remember, that when you transplant any type of houseplant, many will go through a down period due to shock. The shock from the transplant will cause the houseplant to look worn out, even yellow for a short time period. Usually within a month, your houseplant will be back to normal.

Additional tips from the always knowledgeable, Dennis:
They are tough, 27F doesn't bother them, surprisingly, and like most plants, will decline if given too much "care".

Cold temps will "burn" them and the look resembles heat burn, as the cell tissues are burned by heat transfer, in or out. Once the tissue is burned, get rid of it because it becomes a target for disease or fungi. Palms only grow from the crow of each stem, so when the crown dies, that whole stem will never recover, so cut it off. Once the plant, any plant, is damaged, it goes into shock and stops growing. Never fertilize a sick plant, or over water it!

Stems that are too long will bend, normally. Tie them together with green nursery tape or cut the big ones down.

Be sure to also read the complete Areca Palm Care post for detailed information on how to care for this houseplant.

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