Areca - Areca catechu - Chrysalidocarpus lutescens

Areca - Areca catechu - Chrysalidocarpus lutescens


Areca is a palm native to the Philippines and Malaysia, cultivated in most of the hot-humid areas of Asia and Africa, which rarely reaches two meters in pot. It has a striped trunk and long, pointed, bright dark green leaves, divided into lanceolate leaves, sometimes with a yellowish petiole. In nature it produces large white flowers, and rounded fruits gathered in panicles, called betel nuts, which are usually chewed in the countries of origin. Areca hardly flowers in pots, but it can happen if the growing conditions are very favorable. In the apartment the Chrysalidocarpus lutescens species is also often cultivated, with very decorative leaves, more leafy than those of the Areca catecu.

The areca catechu is a palm that, in recent years, has become very popular as a houseplant. In fact, it grows very well in environments where there are rather high and constant temperatures; moreover, its slender and elegant shape, the beautiful trunk and the luminous leaves go well with any type of furniture and style. Permanent cultivation outside is impractical throughout our peninsula, but it can be moved to the garden or terrace from mid-spring. It is also an excellent subject for well exposed and heated verandas, as well as for temperate greenhouses.

Characteristics and origins of the Areca

The Areca genus belongs to the Arecaceae family and includes about sixty species, although only a few can be found in cultivation. The best known and most widespread is undoubtedly the Areca catechu, also known as the Palm of Betel, native to Sri Lanka and Malaysia, but widespread wherever there are the conditions for its cultivation (in particular throughout the Suud- East Asia). In the open ground it can reach 25 meters in height by about 3 in width: in Italy it rarely exceeds 2 meters. It is made up of a single "trunk", fine and with several rings (hence the nickname "bamboo palm"). The young parts are bright green and turn gray over time. The leaves are very large, glossy, medium green, with an entire margin.

It is a monoecious species: this means that the male and female flowers are on the same inflorescence, but separated, on top of the tuft of leaves. They form very dense cobs and are noticeable for their light yellow color and the scent that they spread abundantly in the air. However, it should be noted that we are rarely able to obtain flowering: in any case, it is necessary to wait many years and grow the specimen in ideal conditions. The fruits then develop from the flowers: orange oval berries when ripe, about 6 cm in diameter. In the countries of origin they are sliced, wrapped in leaves with lime and various spices and then chewed for a long time: they have been appreciated since ancient times for their content of stimulating alkaloids and digestive effects.

Family, genus, speciesArecaceae, Areca catechu, Betel palm
Type of plantTall palm
OriginSri Lanka, Malaysia
UseFrom vase; in the apartment, on the veranda or heated greenhouse
Height to maturity2 meters
Growth speednormal
Water needaverage
Minimum temperature10 ° C
Ideal temperature20-25 ° C
ExposureVery bright, no direct sun
Ground50% acidophilic soil, 25% garden soil and 25% perlite
FertilizerLiquid, for green plants; Once a month
Soil pHNeutral or subacid
Soil moistureAlways fresh
Ambient humidityhigh

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Exposure must always be extremely bright, but avoid direct sun, especially during the hot months.

The advice is to place the pot near a window facing south or west, where the light is intense for many hours a day. From May onwards, especially in the afternoon, we can screen it with light-colored curtains.

It is therefore good to choose a place not far from a window. This plant, like the Chrysalidocarpus lutescens variety, fears the cold, since the ideal growth temperature is around 20-25 degrees, so it should be kept indoors in winter and it is recommended to shade it during the hottest periods of the year.

It is often cultivated as a houseplant precisely because the areca catechu needs mild temperatures and sudden changes in temperature can cause serious problems to this kind of plants. However, it is advisable to provide a correct exchange of air, since these plants love the air, always with the attention not to create currents that can harm the specimens.

Areca watering and irrigation

Chrysalidocarpus lutescens and, in general, all the varieties of this plant, need a good dose of water, the soil must be kept constantly humid; it is preferable to vaporize the fronds with distilled water, both in the hottest periods of the year and in winter if the plant is placed near a radiator. It should be checked that no stagnation of water forms and the soil is not too soaked.

From April to September it is advisable to add fertilizer for green plants to the watering water, at least every 15-20 days.

The areca always wants fresh soil: irrigation must therefore be frequent, especially in periods of strong heat. However, it is absolutely necessary to avoid water stagnation, which is a frequent cause of root rot or of the lower part of the trunk. When we administer water, we check that it flows abundantly in the drainage holes and we absolutely avoid the use of saucers as a liquid reserve. To avoid the onset of physiopathies, we use demineralized or rain water as much as possible.

FloweringJuly-August (rare)
Vegetative restUnnecessary; possibly in October to the end of March
Vegetative growthAlways; from March to October
Cleaning / pruningAlways, when needed
FertilizationEvery month; from March to October if there is vegetative rest
SowingMarch April

Soil and fertilization

To grow the Chrysalidocarpus lutescens and also the variety areca catechu a good balanced universal soil is recommended, suitable for the cultivation of this palm, provided it is very well drained, for this reason it is advisable to place some coarse material on the bottom of the pot to avoid water stagnation.

To stimulate its growth, a monthly administration of a liquid fertilizer is recommended. Let's choose a specific one for palm trees or green plants: the important thing is that the main macro-element is nitrogen. In winter, if we keep the plant in a slightly less heated environment, we can also suspend it.

Multiplication and propagation

The multiplication occurs by seed, using in autumn the fresh seeds, which are buried in a mixture of sand and peat in equal parts already in the final pots; the containers must be kept at a temperature around 20 ° C until the following spring, in a very bright place. If the plants grow too much, it is also possible to divide the thickest tufts, directly repotting the portions taken into the final container.

Areca can be propagated quite easily by sowing: we can get the seeds from specialized internet dealers.

Germination takes place in 60-90 days: the seeds must first be placed in the refrigerator for about 5 days. This helps the softening of the integument and the escape of the first radicle. Then put them in a mixture of 50% soil for sowing and 50% perlite, one per jar. We keep it humid at a constant temperature of 20 ° C. After about 5 months we will be able to repot the plants in their final compost.

Areca potted plant">Parasites and diseases

Plants belonging to this genus can present different problems linked to parasites and diseases, such as, for example, the problems caused by the red spider or the cochineal that can conspicuously ruin the leaves. To counteract its presence, it is possible to increase the vaporization of the leaves or use specific anti-mite products. It is also possible to intervene with water and neutral Marseille soap to spray on the affected leaves. Water stagnation, on the other hand, can cause the onset of root rot.

Arecas are subject to various parasites: the main ones are the red spider, the white fly and the cochineal. The first is frequent when the ambient humidity is too low: we increase the vaporizations.

In other cases, a mild insecticide (and manual removal) is usually sufficient. Otherwise we resort to something systemic (combined with white oil for the cochineal).

Physiopathies are also frequent: leaf drying or widespread malaise are seen: they are often caused by low humidity or excess irrigation. In the second case we check the roots and eventually eliminate those that appear soft and not very turgid.

Climate for the Areca

To live well, the Betel palm needs a climate very similar to what it would find in its areas of origin: temperatures on average high and constant throughout the year, high ambient humidity, few currents.

In general, we keep in mind that the minimum temperature to which it can be exposed is 10 ° C: below the plant will certainly begin to suffer and suffer damage. It is therefore evident that in Italy it is practically impossible to grow it in the ground: it should be kept in pots at home or in heated greenhouses. The ideal temperature must oscillate between 20 and 25 ° C, with little difference between summer and winter.

Areca in the garden

With the arrival of summer (roughly from June to September) it is possible to move our palm outside, to an area sheltered from the currents and slightly shaded: the ideal is under a pergola or in the shade of a deciduous tree.

Ambient humidity

In order to grow vigorously and not incur physiopathies (for example the dry tips of the leaves) it is extremely important to keep the ambient humidity high. In this respect, its needs increase with increasing temperatures.

In any period, but especially in summer, it is very important to steam the foliage often with demineralized water. It is also useful to use electric humidifiers, saucers with expanded clay and water (which must not touch the roots!) Or often wet the surrounding floor.

Composition of the vase

It is good to buy and repot the plant in the months from April to June. We choose a deep vessel with a volume of 25 to 50 liters. On the bottom we place a thick drainage layer based on gravel or expanded clay. The ideal compost is obtained by mixing 50% of soil for acidophilic plants, 25% of garden soil and 25% of sand. The addition of a little perlite or expanded clay can help us to obtain excellent water drainage.

We pay attention to the collar: it must not be too buried (it rots easily) nor too high. We irrigate a little at a time and leave for a while in partial shade, in a position well protected from the currents.

Pruning and cleaning of the Areca

These palms do not need interventions in this sense. However, it may be necessary to cut diseased or dry leaves with sharp and disinfected shears, as close to the base as possible. This operation can be done at any time of the year.


In the home, the leaves tend to get very dirty, mainly accumulating dust. For this purpose it may be useful to clean them with a soft damp cloth. An excellent alternative is a nice shower or exposure to a not too violent storm. Instead, we avoid the use of polishes which, over time, close the stomata on the leaves, preventing transpiration.


The genus Areca is made up of about 60 species, but only some are widely used for ornamental purposes.

Here are the most common on the market:

Areca catechu

The most widespread and known. It has a single stem, up to 2 meters long, green when young, then gray. The leaves are deep green, up to 1.5m long and curved. It has a very elegant bearing and gives a tropical touch to any environment.

Areca vestiaria

The stem is green-gray, very fine; sometimes it is solitary, others in groups. In culture it reaches 180 cm. The leaves are very wide and act as a windbreak. When young it has a very particular orange-pink color.

Areca triandra

It is not very bushy, with green stems up to 2 meters high in cultivation. Overall, it appears yellowish-green. Its flowering spreads an excellent lemon scent.

Areca gurita

Cespitosa and small in size (maximum one meter, with us). The stems are light brown, light green on top. The leaves are short, consisting of 4 leaflets. Suitable for small environments.

Areca parens

It has a single stem with many rings. In cultivation it rarely exceeds one meter in height. The leaves have a very light back and are very attractive.

Areca macrocalyx

It has a single trunk, gray at the base, green at the top. In cultivation it reaches almost 2 meters in height. It has beautiful glossy leaves, up to 2 meters long.

Watch the video

Video: Areca Nut Tree - Areca Catechu - Areca Nut Palm - Areca Palm - Betel Tree