Updated: Feb 7
Ravenea rivularis or Majesty Palm is a semi-tropical tree native to the warm, humid habitats of Madagascar off the coast of East Africa. Majesty Palms are one of the most common houseplants grown today because of their lush, green foliage and the minimal care they require. Although the care for a Majesty Palm is minimal, they can be sensitive to certain environmental factors such as low humidity, inconsistent watering and diseases.
The Majesty Palm can grow up to 12 feet high in the home, but much larger if grown outdoors. Their long, fan-like leaves are often referred to as fronds and form from the center of the canopy, eventually maturing and moving down to the bottom of the canopy where they will eventually brown and die. Once an entire leaf has died, it can be removed or left to naturally shed from the plant. We often get calls about entire leaves dying on palms. It is the natural progression of the plant’s life cycle to shed its bottom leaves and should not be of concern. If new leaves are dying, this can be a sign that the plant is diseased or there are environmental stresses. Please book a plant checkup with us so we can diagnose the issue further!
Another common question we get calls about is why the leaf tips on a Majesty Palm are browning. The Majesty Palm often struggles a bit in the home environment because of how dry our homes tend to be, especially when running the A/C in the summer and winter months. Drafts from A/C vents, open windows or doors dry the Majesty Palm’s leaves out.
The tips of each leaf on a Majesty Palm have thin cell walls, making them sensitive to low humidity environments. These thin cell walls can be thickened to reduce browning by applying a product called Silica Blast to your watering regime. Apply one teaspoon per gallon of water. The silica in this product acts as an immune booster for the plant, making it stronger. Another way to provide more humidity for a Majesty Palm is to let a humidifier run near the plant most of the day.
Majesty Palms don’t need a ton of sunlight, but instead prefer dappled, indirect sunlight. Place the plant near a window that gets morning sunlight or set back from a window that gets strong, afternoon sunlight. A Majesty Palm’s leaves can burn if they are up against windows that get strong afternoon sunlight. Avoid placing a Majesty Palm in an area of your home that is shady most of the day. One of the most common mistakes we see on our calls are Majesty Palms being placed in a dark corner of a room. A lack of sunlight causes the plant to lighten in color from a lack of chlorophyll and also leads to over-watering because the soil does not dry out fast enough.
The Majesty Palm likes to have consistently moist soil to keep its foliage looking nice. When watering, it is best to water deeply, but less often as opposed to lightly watering often. We often find that plant owners are reluctant to water their Majesty Palm deeply because they are scared to over water it. Deeply watering allows the entire root system to get water and helps the soil absorb more moisture. Lightly watering doesn’t allow the roots to absorb enough moisture, causing some roots to die.
As long as the plant is getting sufficient sunlight, the plant should be able to absorb all the soil moisture within a week or two. If the Soil on your Majesty Palm is staying moist and not drying out after a couple of weeks, move it to a spot where it gets ample sunlight.
To help reduce the chances of over-watering, ensure your Majestic Palm is potted into a coarse, well draining soil designed for palms, cacti or citrus. If the roots are allowed to sit in too much moisture, they will suffocate from a lack of oxygen and begin to rot.
If you notice the water running out the drainage holes immediately and the soil seems to dry out too quickly, it may be time to re-pot your Majesty Palm into a larger pot with more soil. This typically occurs when the plant is root bound in its pot and there is not enough soil in the pot to hold onto moisture.
Soils Ideal for Majestic Palms
Majesty Palms are heavy nutrient feeders and are known for having nutrient deficiencies, especially in magnesium and potassium, so it is important to regularly fertilize them throughout the growing seasons of spring and summer. Ensure you are applying a palm specific fertilizer that has high levels of potassium and other micro-nutrients such as magnesium and iron.
A supplement of Epsom salt along with regular fertilizing will be beneficial for a Majesty Palm. Epsom salts provide palms with an extra boost of magnesium. Mix one teaspoon per gallon of water twice a year in the spring and summer. Pour the Epsom salt/water mixture into the soil during your next regular watering.
Common signs of nutrient deficiencies in Majesty Palms are yellow to bronze spotting throughout the leaf surface of the older leaves. Damage from nutrient deficiencies cannot be reversed. However, the damaged leaves will instead die off through the natural shedding of the bottom leaves of the plant.
Fertilizers Ideal for Majestic Palms
Majesty Palms are prone to infestations of soft bodied insects such as spider mites, mealybugs and scale. These insects often hide in the crevices at the base of the leaves or on the underside of the leaves. The first sign of spider mites is webbing on the bottom of the leaves and white or brown spotting on the surfaces of the leaves caused by the insects sucking the sap out. Mealy bugs are covered in a white, protective substance that makes them look like cotton or mold.
These soft, bodied insects can be treated with an insecticidical soap. First, wipe down the leaves with a damp cloth to remove as many of the bugs as possible, then spray the entire plant, including the bottom of the leaves with horticultural oil. The oil prevents the insects from moving and they will eventually suffocate in place. Apply the oil weekly until there are no new signs of insects.
One of the most common calls we got on Majesty Palms are about the leaves developing spots from fungal spores or powdery mildew. Palms are prone to fungal infections. The fungal spores often live in moist soils or in the crevices of the foliage growth and are most prevalent in humid environments. Majesty Palms love moist, humid conditions but these are also the perfect conditions for fungal spores to live in. Since fungal spores are always living in the environment, the goal is to stay on top of them before they spread.
Your Majesty Palm should be treated with a copper fungicide at the first sign of a fungal infection. Signs of infection are circular mosaic patterns, yellow - brown spots throughout the leaf surface or white or black powdery mildew on the leaves and stems.
Fungal spores suck the sap out of leaves like insects do, leaving behind dead spots on the leaves. Treat fungal infections with a Copper fungicide. Spray the entire plant, including the bottom of the leaves and apply again a week later.
Although Majesty Palms are pretty low maintenance plants, understanding how they grow and what ails them is important in keeping their lush, tropical foliage looking fresh in your home. This goes for not only the Majesty Palm, but other types of palms as well.
If you have any more questions about how to care for your Majesty Palm, we will be happy to assist you in a virtual telehealth appointment with one of our Plant Specialists. Please click on one of the options below to book an appointment.