Caring for areca palms requires you to recreate a tropical environment to an extent because the areca palm is an exotic tropical palm from the African island of Madagascar. Arecas are widely planted in Florida and other tropical climates in the United States and you can also grow areca palms as houseplants. Arecas, also known as butterfly palms, can be a bit difficult to grow. They often look very beautiful when you purchase them, then slowly turn brown. This is because arecas require rich, fertile soil and humid air. If you are running your air conditioner or heater all year, you can help your areca out by also running a humidifier or at least misting the plant on a regular basis.
You can buy your areca palm at a nursery as either a seedling or a finished plant. If you choose a seedling, pick one that is at least ten to 14 inches tall. Look the plant over carefully and choose a healthy areca that does not appear to be dehydrated. Arecas grow very slowly, but they can eventually grow to over 30 feet tall. If you choose a finished plant, you can get one in a range of sizes growing in six to 52 inch sized pots.
If live somewhere warm, you can plant your areca outdoors. Arecas can tolerate temperatures down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but will thrive in warmer climates. They shouldn't be exposed to freezing temperatures on a regular basis. If you live somewhere where it occasionally freezes, you have the option of keeping your areca in a pot and bringing it indoors during the winter.
Choose a shady spot for your areca. These palms grow best in half shade. This is why they are popular as houseplants. If you plant your areca outdoors, find a spot with well drained soil. Arecas can tolerate drought, but standing water will make them turn brown. Dig a hole for your areca that is twice as deep and twice as wide as the plant's roots. Fill the hole halfway up with a mix of half compost and half soil. Compost is good for all of your plants but absolutely necessary if you want to keep your areca green. Plant the areca to the same depth it was planted in the pot. Carefully fill the hole with your soil and compost mixture, making sure that you don't leave any air pockets. Air pockets can kill your plant. Pat the soil around your roots down and use leftover soil to build a two inch high ridge around the roots. Fill this basin with water several times and allow it to sink into the ground.
Keep the soil around your areca moist but do not allow it to stand in water, especially if it is potted. You areca will need to be fertilized on a regular basis. Give an areca in a six inch pot one teaspoon of Osmocote 19-6-12 fertilizer every three months. You can also give your areca a liquid or slow release fertilizer with similar levels of nitrogen. You can keep your areca healthy by also misting the leaves with water on a regular basis. If water residue is causing the plant to look dull, spray it with some plant shine.