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Areca is a palm tree originating from the Philippines and Malaysia, cultivated in most of the hot-humid areas of Asia and Africa, which rarely reaches two meters in pots. It has a striped trunk and long pointed dark-green leaves, divided into lance-shaped leaves, sometimes with a yellowish petiole. In nature it produces large white flowers, and round fruits gathered in panicles, called betel nuts, which in the countries of origin are usually chewed. Areca hardly flowers in pots, but it can happen if the cultivation conditions are very favorable. In the apartment the species Chrysalidocarpus lutescens is also often cultivated, with very decorative leaves, more leafy than those of the Areca catecu.
The areca catechu is a palm which, in recent years, has become very widespread 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 bright leaves go well with every type of furnishing and style. Permanent cultivation outside is impassable throughout our peninsula, but it is possible to move it 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 genus Areca belongs to the Arecaceae family 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, originating in Sri Lanka and Malaysia, but widespread wherever there are conditions for its cultivation (in particular throughout the Suud- East Asia). In the middle of the ground it can reach 25 meters in height by about 3 meters: we rarely exceed 2 meters. It is formed by a single "trunk", fine and with different rings (hence the nickname "palma bambщ"). The young parts are a beautiful bright green and become greyish with time. The leaves are very large, shiny, 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 thick panicles and are appreciable for their light yellow color and the scent that they spread abundantly in the air. However, it must be pointed out that we rarely succeed in flowering it: in any case we have to wait many years and grow the specimen under ideal conditions. The fruits then develop from the flowers: orange oval berries at maturity, about 6 cm in diameter. In the countries of origin they are made in slices, wrapped in leaves with lime and various spices and then chewed for a long time: they are appreciated from antiquity for their content of stimulating alkaloids and for the digestive effects.
ARECA IN BRIEF
Family, genus, species
Arecaceae, Areca catechu, Betel palm
|Type of plant||Tall palm tree|
|Origin||Sri Lanka, Malaysia|
|Use||From vase; in the apartment, on the veranda or heated greenhouse|
|Height at maturity||2 meters|
|Minimum temperature||10 ° C|
|Ideal temperature||20-25 ° C|
|Exposure||Very bright, no direct sun|
|Ground||50% of soil for acidophilic, 25% of garden soil and 25% of perlite|
|Fertilizer||Liquid, for green plants; Once a month|
|soil pH||Neutral or subacid|
|Soil moisture||Always fresh|
The exposure must always be extremely bright, but avoiding direct sunlight, especially during the warm months.
The advice is to place the vase 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 shield 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 advisable to shade it in the hottest periods of the year.
It is often grown as a houseplant because the areca catechu needs mild temperatures and temperature changes can cause serious problems for this kind of plants. It is advisable, however, to provide a correct air exchange, as these plants love the air, always with the attention of not creating currents that could harm the specimens.
Watering and Irrigation Areca
The 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 water does not build up and the soil is not too wet.
From April to September it is advisable to add fertilizer for green plants to the irrigation water, at least every 15-20 days.
The areca wants an always fresh soil: the irrigations must therefore be frequent, especially in periods of strong heat. However, water stagnation, 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 drain holes and we absolutely avoid the use of saucers as a liquid reserve. To avoid the onset of physiopathologies we use as much demineralized or rainwater as possible.
THE ARECA CALENDAR
|Vegetative rest||Unnecessary; possibly in October to the end of March|
|Vegetative growth||Always; from March to October|
|Cleaning / Pruning||Always, when necessary|
|Composting||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 we recommend a good balanced universal soil, suitable for the cultivation of this palm, as long as it is very well drained, so it is advisable to place coarse material on the bottom of the pot to avoid water stagnation.
To stimulate growth, monthly administration of a liquid fertilizer is recommended. Choose one specifically for palms 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 takes place by seed, using fresh seeds in autumn, which are then buried in a mixture of sand and peat in equal parts already in the final pots; the containers should be kept at a temperature of 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, by repotting directly the portions taken in the final container.
The areca can be propagated quite easily by sowing: we can get the seeds from specialist internet retailers.
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 release of the first radicle. Then put them in a mixture of 50% soil per seed and 50% perlite, one per jar. We keep wet at a constant temperature of 20 ° C. After about 5 months we can repot the seedlings into their final compost.
Pests and diseases
Plants belonging to this genus may present different problems related to pests and pathologies, such as, for example, problems caused by red spider mites or 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 mild Marseille soap to vaporize on the affected leaves. Water stagnations, on the other hand, can cause the onset of radical rot.
The areca are subject to various parasites: the main ones are the red spider, the white fly and the cochineal. The first is frequent when the environmental humidity is too low: we increase the vaporisations.
In other cases a mild insecticide (and manual removal) is generally sufficient. Otherwise we resort to something systemic (combined with white oil for cochineal).
Physiopathies are also frequent: leaf desiccation or widespread malaise can be seen: they are often caused by low humidity or excess in irrigation. In the second case we check the roots and eventually eliminate those that appear soft and not very firm.
Climate for the Areca
In order to live well, the Betel palm needs a climate very similar to the one it would find in its areas of origin: average high and constant temperatures all year round, strong environmental 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 surely start to suffer and suffer damage. It is therefore clear that in Italy it is practically impossible to cultivate it in the open ground: it must be kept in a pot at home or in heated greenhouses. The ideal temperature should range between 20 and 25 ° C, with little difference between summer and winter.
Areca in the garden
With the arrival of the warm season (indicatively 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 tree.
To grow vigorously and not to suffer physiopathologies (for example, the dry ends of the leaves) it is extremely important to keep the humidity high. Its needs, in this respect, increase with increasing temperatures.
In every 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, 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 from April to June. We choose a deep vessel with a volume of 25 to 50 liters. On the bottom we lay a thick draining layer based on gravel or expanded clay. The ideal compote is obtained by mixing 50% of soil for acidophilic, 25% of garden soil and 25% of sand. Adding a bit of perlite or expanded clay can help us get good water drainage.
Pay attention to the collar: it must not be too buried (it rots easily) or too high. Let us stir up little by little and leave for a while half-shadowed, in a position well protected from the currents.
Pruning and cleaning of the Areca
These palms do not need intervention in this regard. It may, however, be necessary to cut, with sharp and disinfected shears, diseased or dry leaves, as close as possible to the base. This operation can be done at any time of the year.
In domestic environments 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 thunderstorm. Instead we avoid the use of polishes that, over time, close the stomata on the leaves preventing transpiration.
The genus Areca is composed of about 60 species, but only a few are widely used for ornamental purposes.
Here are the most common on the market:
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 1.5 m long and curved. It has a very elegant bearing and gives a tropical touch to any environment.
The stem is green-gray, very fine; sometimes it is solitary, others in groups. In cultivation it reaches 180 cm. The leaves are very large and act as windbreaks. When young it has a very particular orange-pink color.
It is little cespitose, with green stems up to 2 meters high in culture. On the whole it appears greenish-yellowish. Its flowering spreads an excellent lemon scent.
Cespitosa and of small size (at most one meter from us). The stems are light brown, on top light green. The leaves are short, composed of 4 leaflets. Suitable for small rooms.
It has a single stem with many rings. In cultivation it rarely exceeds a meter in height. The leaves have a very clear back and are very attractive.
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.
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In nature there are two different species of Areca plant, we have the Areca catechu and the Areca chrysalidocarpus lutescens