Features and origins of the Areca
The genus Areca belongs to the family of Arecaceae and includes about sixty species, although only some can be found in cultivation. The most known and widespread is undoubtedly the Areca catechu, also known as the Betel Palm, native to Sri Lanka and Malaysia, but widespread wherever there are conditions for its cultivation (particularly throughout Southeast Asia). In the open land it can reach 25 metres in height and about 3 metres in width: in our country it rarely exceeds 2 metres.
It is formed by a single “trunk”, fine and with several rings (hence the nickname “bamboo palm”). The young parts are of a beautiful bright green and become greyish with time. The leaves are very wide, shiny, medium green, with entire margin.
It is a monoecious species: this means that the male and female flowers are on the same inflorescence, but separated, at the top of the tuft of leaves. They form very thick cobs and are appreciable for their light yellow colour and the scent that they spread abundantly in the air. However, it must be pointed out that we rarely manage to obtain its flowering: in any case, we have to wait many years and grow the specimen in ideal conditions.
From the flowers then the fruits develop: 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 are appreciated since ancient times for their content of stimulating alkaloids and for their digestive effects.
LA ARECA IN BREVE
Famiglia, genere, specie
Arecaceae, Areca catechu, Palma di Betel
Tipo di pianta
Palma ad alto fusto
Sri Lanka, Malesia
Da vaso; in appartamento, in veranda o serra riscaldate
Altezza a maturità
Velocità di crescita
Molto luminosa, no sole diretto
50% of terrestrial per acidofile, 25% of terra da giardino and 25% of terra da perlite
Liquid, per piante verdi; a volta al mese
Neutro o subacido
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Exposure should always be extremely bright, but avoid direct sunlight, 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 coloured curtains.
It is therefore good to choose a place not far from a window. This plant, like the variety Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, fears the cold, as the ideal growing temperature is around 20-25 degrees, so it should be kept indoors in winter and we recommend shading during the hottest periods of the year.
It is often grown as an indoor plant because the areca catechu needs mild temperatures and changes in temperature can cause serious problems for this type of plant. It is advisable, however, to provide a proper exchange of air, since these plants love the air, always with the care not to create currents that can harm the specimens.
Watering and Irrigation Areca
The Chrysalidocarpus lutescens and, in general, all the varieties of this plant, need a good quantity of water, the soil is to be kept constantly humid; it is better to vaporize with distilled water the leaves, both during the warmest periods of the year, and in winter if the plant is placed close to a radiator. It should be checked that there are no water stagnations and that the soil is not too soggy.
From April to September it is advisable to add fertilizer for green plants to the water of the watering, at least every 15-20 days.
The areca wants a soil that is always cool: irrigation must therefore be frequent, especially in periods of high heat. Water stagnation, which is a frequent cause of root rot or the lower part of the trunk, must be avoided. When we give water, we check that it flows abundantly in the drainage holes and we absolutely avoid the use of under pots as a reserve of liquids. To avoid the onset of physiopathy, we use demineralised or rainwater as much as possible.
IL CALENDARIO DELLA ARECA
Not required; possibly in October to end of March
Always; from March to October
Always, when necessary
Every month; from March to October if there is vegetative rest
Soil and fertilization
To cultivate the Chrysalidocarpus lutescens and also the variety areca catechu it is advisable to use a good balanced universal soil, suitable for the cultivation of this palm, provided that 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 stagnations.
In order to stimulate its growth, it is advisable to administer a liquid fertilizer monthly. Let’s choose a specific one for palms or green plants: the important thing is that the prevailing macroelement 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 takes place by seed, utilizing in autumn the fresh seeds, which are to be buried in a mixture of sand and peat in equal parts already in the final pots; the containers are to be kept at a temperature around the 20° C till the following spring, in a very luminous place. If the plants grow too much, it is possible also to divide the thicker tufts, repotting directly the portions taken in the final container.
The areca can be propagated quite easily by sowing: we can get the seeds from retailers specializing in the Internet.
Germination takes 60-90 days: the seeds must first be refrigerated for about 5 days. This helps to soften the tegument and release the first rootlet. Then let’s put them in a mixture of 50% seeding soil and 50% perlite, one per pot. Let’s keep them moist at a constant temperature of 20°C. After about 5 months we can repot the plants in their final compound.
Pests and diseases
Plants of this kind can present different problems related to pests and diseases, such as, for example, the problems caused by the red spider or the cochineal that can visibly ruin the leaves. To counteract the presence of the leaves, it is possible to increase the vaporization of the leaves or to resort to specific anti-mite products. It is also possible to intervene with water and neutral Marseille soap to be sprayed on the affected leaves.
Water stagnation, on the other hand, can cause the onset of radical rottenness.
The areca are subject to several parasites: the main ones are the red spider, the white fly and the cochineal. The first one is frequent when the ambient humidity is too low: we increase the vaporization.
In other cases, a mild insecticide (and manual removal) is generally sufficient. Otherwise, we use something systemic (combined with white oil for cochineal).
Physiopathies are also frequent: foliar desiccation or widespread malaise can be seen: they are often caused by low humidity or by excesses in irrigation. In the second case, we check the roots and eliminate any roots that appear soft and not very turgid.
Climate for the Areca
To live well, the Betel palm needs a climate very similar to that which it would find in its areas of origin: average high and constant temperatures all year round, high ambient humidity, few currents.
As a general rule, we must bear in mind that the minimum temperature to which it can be exposed is 10°C: underneath the plant it will certainly begin to suffer and to suffer damage. It is therefore clear that in Italy it is practically impossible to grow it in the ground: it must be kept in pots at home or in heated greenhouses. The ideal temperature should be between 20 and 25 ° C, with little difference between summer and winter.
Areca in the garden
With the arrival of the summer season (approximately from June to September) it is possible to move our palm outside, in an area sheltered from the currents and slightly shaded: the ideal is under a pergola or in the shade of a deciduous leaf.
In order to grow vigorously and to avoid physiopathies (e.g. 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 vaporize the foliage often with demineralized water. It is also useful to use electric humidifiers, under pots with expanded clay and water (which must not touch the roots!) or to wet the surrounding floor often.
It is good to buy and repot the plant in the months from April to June. We choose a deep pot with a volume of 25 to 50 liters. On the bottom we place a thick draining layer of gravel or expanded clay. The ideal compound is obtained by mixing 50% acidophilic soil, 25% garden soil and 25% sand. The addition of a little perlite or expanded clay can help us to achieve excellent water drainage.
Let’s pay attention to the collar: it must not be too underground (it rots easily) or too high. Let’s irrigate little by little and leave for a while in the middle of the shade, in a position well protected from the currents.
Pruning and cleaning of the Areca
These palm trees do not need to be repaired in this way. However, it may be necessary to cut sick or dry leaves as close to the base as possible with sharp and disinfected shears. This can be done at any time of the year.
In a domestic environment the leaves tend to get very dirty, accumulating mainly dust. For this purpose, it may be useful to clean them with a soft, damp cloth. A good alternative is a nice shower or exposure to a not too violent storm. Instead, let’s avoid the use of polishers that, over time, close the stomata on the leaves, preventing perspiration.
The genus Areca is composed by about 60 species, but only some of them are widely employed for ornamental purposes.
Here are the most common in commerce:
The most widespread and well-known. It has a single stem, up to 2 metres long, green when young, then grey. The leaves are deep green, up to 1.5 m long and curved. It has a very elegant appearance and gives a tropical touch to any environment.
The stem is green-grey, very fine; sometimes it is solitary, sometimes in groups. In cultivation, it reaches 180 cm. The leaves are very wide and act as a windbreak. When young, it has a very particular orange-pink colour.
It is not very caespitose, with green stems tall up to 2 meters in culture. Overall, it is yellowish-green. Its flowering spreads an excellent lemon scent.
Cespitose and small size (maximum one meter, by us). The stems are light brown, on top light green. The leaves are short, composed of 4 leaves. Suitable for small environments.
It has a unique stem with many rings. In cultivation it rarely exceeds one metre in height. The leaves have a very clear back and are very attractive.
It has a single trunk, grey at the base, green at the top. In cultivation it reaches almost 2 metres in height. It has beautiful shiny leaves, up to 2 meters long.
Watch the Video
- In nature there are two different species of plant of the Areca, we have the Areca catechu and the Areca chrysalidocarpus lutescens
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