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Majesty Palm Care

Ravenea rivularis, commonly known as majesty palm, is indigenous to Madagascar, attaining heights of more than 90 feet when grown outdoors. It is a houseplant that takes a long time to grow, reaching a mature height of 10 feet when grown indoors in pots. Its graceful, bright green leaves and grayish-brown trunk adds a tropical feel to the home or office.

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As with most indoor plants, the majesty palm can help filter and improve the quality of air indoors. It also has a somewhat dubious reputation for being difficult to grow among some enthusiasts since some extra care is needed to cultivate it. This growing guide will help you in successfully growing and caring for the palm properly.

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Sunlight

The majesty palm requires plenty of bright indirect light to thrive, requiring six to eight hours of light every day. While it adapts well to low-lighting environments, extended exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided as the leaves can get leaf burn. Transfer the palm to a brighter area if the leaves appear to become bleached.

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Water

This palm is usually found thriving along river banks and lakes in its native habitat of Madagascar and as such, requires sufficient water to keep the growing media damp but not water-logged. Less watering will result in the leave tip becoming brown and too much watering will result in leaves turning yellow, overwatering also resulting in root rot. The palm should be watered more frequently in very warm locations. It will also require more watering if it is planted outdoors.

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Humidity

This is what makes it difficult to cultivate for some growers. As it is a tropical plant, it requires at least a 50% humidity level but it can thrive well enough in normal household humidity levels. Using distilled water, spray the leaves – this will help satisfy some of the palm’s humidity requirements. Since humidity levels typically drop during winter, a humidifier might be necessary to keep the palm happy. The leaves will start changing color if humidity levels drop low.

A DIY humidity solution can be prepared by filling a wide, shallow container with pebbles or sand and water. Place your majesty palm pot on the pebbles/sand, making sure that the pot is not standing in the water. Moisture evaporating from the tray will circulate around the fronds and provide the necessary humidity. Top up the water occasionally when you notice the level dropping. The palm can also get enough humidity by placing it in your bathroom if it is large and bright enough. 

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Temperature

It does well in temperature ranges of 65 – 85°F, however, care should be taken in the winter months to make sure the temperature doesn’t drop too low. Keep the palm away from cool/hot air draughts.

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Soil

Fertilizer mixes intended for cacti are best. Feed the palm half the recommended dose a couple of times in spring and summer as too much fertilizer can damage the palm instead of helping it thrive. The palm also needs magnesium and iron supplementation to prevent the leaves from yellowing. Applying about 5ml Epsom salts once monthly is enough to provide sufficient magnesium for the palm. 

Potting mixes meant for growing cacti and succulents are the best since the majesty palm requires well-drained soil to avoid water-logging and root rot. One good mix is 3 parts cacti mix with 1 part peat to keep the soil slightly acidic.

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Repotting

The majesty palm requires enough space to grow well so repotting is necessary every 2 years or so. It’s very simple to know when – roots appearing over the growing media will tell you when repotting is necessary.

Look for a large and heavy ceramic pot to be at least 2 inches bigger than the previous one every time you repot to prevent the palm from tipping over. Be careful handling the root ball, gently untangling the roots using clean, sterilized tools. Spray the roots thoroughly with a water hose to remove old soil.

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Propagation

As always, make sure your equipment is clean and sterilized. Pruning the palm is very simple and easy – just cut off any fronds or leaves that turn brown or yellow or look diseased. This will create space for new fronds to sprout and can be done a week after you’ve fertilized the plant, which helps new growth. Avoid damaging the healthy green leaves.

Majesty palms can only be grown from seed. Make sure to harvest the seeds if and when your palm happens to flower and fruit – a rather difficult matter since majesty palms rarely flower indoors. Seeds must be planted as fast as possible as they don’t keep long. Using a shallow tray filled with cacti soil mix, sow the seeds and keep them in a warm area of at least 75 – 85°F. Seeds will usually germinate very fast in the right conditions.

Additional Care

The majesty palm requires the appropriate balance of light, water, and well-draining growing media to thrive properly. Too much or not enough light can affect the palm. Similarly, too much or not enough watering is not ideal.

Common Problems

Majesty palms are vulnerable to insects such as mites, aphids, mealybugs, scale, and whitefly. 

One method to eliminate bugs is to use neem oil, a natural pesticide, with equal quantities of water, spraying the area affected by these pests. 

Another method is to make your own insecticidal spray by combining 8oz (240ml) of any vegetable oil with ½oz (15 ml) of dishwashing liquid – make sure it doesn’t contain bleach. Store the mixture in a small bottle and set it aside to be used several times.  

Combine two teaspoons (10ml) of this liquid with 8oz (240ml) of warm water in your spray bottle and spray the affected areas.

Wipe the leaves and fronds regularly with a wet cloth to help remove dust as well as any bugs.

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