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Houseplants to discover - Butterfly Palm or Areca Palm

Dypsis lutescens, formerly Chrysalidocarpus lutescens

This popular palm tree lends a tropical touch to any decor. It grows in clumps, with long, feathery, arching fronds up to 1.2 m (4 ft) in length creating an attractive green fountain shape. The medium green leaflets are numerous, narrow and ribbonlike, rather like grass leaves. Its Latin name, lutescens which means yellowish, and as specimens mature, their lower petioles do take on a yellowish coloration.
As it grows, when the old fronds turn yellow and are replaced by new ones, a short yellow-green stem ringed with darker markings emerges, creating a bamboo effect. The plant suckers from the base, becoming denser over time.
Only mature specimens grown outdoors in the tropics flower.


This understory palm from the rainforests of Madagascar adapts well to indoor lighting. Place it under intense to medium light with, if possible, a little direct sun every day, especially during winter.


The soil must remain slightly moist at all times, but nevertheless, the plant won't tolerate soggy soil. Therefore, water abundantly, but only when the soil surface is clearly dry to the touch.


Apply an all-purpose or foliage plant fertilizer during the growing season, that is, in spring and summer.


This plant adapts well to normal indoor temperatures. Minimum: 13 ºC (55 ºF). You can put it outdoors in a partially shaded spot during the summer.


It needs a humid atmosphere at all times, so a humidifier could be useful during the winter months. The plant is prone to red spiders when the air is too dry.


Repot into houseplant potting mix every 3 years. Don't bury the upper roots: replant with the root ball at the same depth as it was in the previous pot.


While you can theoretically divide this clumping palm into individual plants, that's very hard to do successfully. Normally, if you want another butterfly palm, you have to buy it.


Non-toxic to humans, dogs and cats.

Further Information

According to a NASA study, this palm is one of the most effective plants for filtering the air of its pollutants.