House Plants/Areca Palm

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QUESTION: I purchased an Areca palm a few years ago from a grocery store because they were killing it.  The palm has grown immensely.  However, I have a concern that perplexes me.  I water my plant when there are first signs of the dirt being dry, however, whether it was in a pot that drained to a pot that does not, I have noticed yellow spores that seem to grow from the base of the stalk/trunk of the plant.  Sometimes it looks like pollen, and other times, it actually grew up to look like spores.  

At first, I figured my plant was being over watered in a pot that drained.  However, as it outgrew that particular pot and as I watered it less, the spores continued even after transplanting the Areca to a larger pot that gives it at least three years of superior growing room.   The only difference is the pot, unfortunately does not drain so I am very careful in making sure that the soil is dryer than usual, since I do not want the plant to suffer from root rot.

The plant has both a plant light that comes on from 7:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. and it is placed by a large window that faces my balcony.   I take care to make sure that the blinds do not allow direct sunlight.  Therefore, I am at a loss as to what is causing these fungi, or is it something that is symbiotic since my plant never seems to suffer and only apparently affecting my behavior in trying to make a change.  Whenever I see an overgrowth of the yellow fungi, I remove it immediately.

Thanking you in advance,

ANSWER: Hi Lisa,

I am having a hard time deciphering just what you are seeing. A good photo would be most helpful.

Areca palms have naturally yellow spotted lower stems. I suspect that is what is alarming you unnecessarily. The only other possibility would be scale insects, but you did not mention any stickiness, so that is unlikely. A fungus is very unlikely.

I think you are bit confused about repotting, watering and light for Arecas. Like most potted plants, they do best when kept quite potbound. As long as there is enough soil to retain water for three days or more between thorough waterings, then the plant should not be repotted.

In  addition, moving a plant to a pot without drain holes is never a good idea. The surface of the soil may feel dry even while water is collecting in the bottom of the pot and causing root rot where you cannot see it until it is too late. I suggest you move your Areca to the smallest pot that it will fit into and one that has drain holes. When you repot, never add soil to the top  surface of the original rootball.

Plant lights do not help much with Areca Palms, which require quite a bit on natural sunlight. Open your blinds all the way and let the sun shine it for best results.

I have written detailed articles on repotting and on Palm care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com. I have also written an indoor plant care book in a PDF format that I can sell you if you contact me at my email address.

Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.

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Regards,
Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC

Visit my website at: A link to HorticulturalHelp.com




---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Will:

Unfortunately, I removed the issue before I wrote.  I will keep your information on file and send a pic when it arrives again.

The yellowing is not on the stalk of the plant but begins at the base in the dirt and grows upward like fungi grows.  Not a mushroom effect but a more spiral effect.  These are not insects, because they do not move and with me being an allergic being, I will not touch it with my bare hands.  So, let us wait until the next time (and there will be another time), and I will give you a copy of what I am seeing.

Though the palm apparently is known for being root bound, it has done better in what it is now, than ever before.  I am not doubting any of your words because after becoming more worried, I researched and also read what you are stating.

Again, thank you,

Lisa

Answer
Hi Lisa,

If you were able to remove the substance, then it is not part of the natural coloring of the lower stems. I now suspect that they are scale insects. Scale do not look like insects. In their juvenile stage they are transparent and virtually invisible to the naked eye. They do move very slowly and when they find a permanent location and develop a grayish outer covering to protect themselves and they no longer move. That is what you see. What you don't see is the live insect under the protective outer covering.

The best treatment for scale insects is a solution of 5 parts water, 1 part alcohol and a squirt of liquid dish soap. Then, thoroughly spray drench the lower stems so the the mix gets down deep into the crevices where the lower frond stems attach to the main stem.

Do be careful not to over water now that your Areca Palm has been repotted and has no drain holes.

~Will

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Will Creed

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I am the only expert in this category with professional hands-on experience and knowledge of all indoor plants. I can answer questions regarding light, water, fertilizer, repotting, pruning and humidity and temperature requirements. I can identify plant pests and provide information on safe, effective treatments. My answers are based on 35 years of professional experience and scientific research and are clear and easy to understand. I do NOT use search engines to find answers to your questions. If you read my previous posts here, you will get a good idea as to how thorough and professional my answers are.

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I have over 35 years of professional indoor landscaping experience caring for plants in homes, offices, building lobbies, stores, restaurants, and other adverse environments. I have written extensively on the care of indoor plants, including a 260 page book. My specialties include Ficus trees, low light plants, repotting, pest control, and re-blooming holiday plants. Be sure to check my ratings and nominations to learn why I am the top-rated indoor plant expert. I am the only House Plant expert consistently ranked in the AllExperts Top 20.

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BA, Amherst College

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