Parlor Palm vs. Areca Palm: How Are They Different?

Parlor palms, or the Chamaedorea elegans, and areca palms, or the Dypsis lutescens, are palm trees typically grown indoors. They both belong to the Arecaceae family.

While they are similar in their benefits of purifying the air and being non-toxic to pets, they are different in their structure, height, growth rate, and maintenance.

Parlor Palm vs. Areca Palm
Parlor Palm (Left) / Areca Palm (Right)

Before purchasing either palm for your home, finding out which one will be a better choice for you is best.

The Parlor Palm

The parlor palm is also known as the table palm, as it is usually bought as a young houseplant. Even though it is a slow-growing plant, the palm can reach up to 6 to 9 feet in height indoors.

The table palm is a low-maintenance indoor plant that can handle underwatering or drought, any type of soil, and any kind of water. It can be placed decoratively on your tables, countertops, or even placed in corners if you buy a larger size.

The parlor palm is usually purchased for its benefits as it filters out air, helps with allergies, and is non-toxic to dogs and cats.

The Areca Palm

The areca palm is native to the rainforests of Madagascar. The palm is usually grown indoors and outdoors due to its ability to grow at a moderate rate and grow immensely over three years.

It is pretty picky about what kind of water is used while watering it. This plant can only handle filtered water and must be watered once a week.

The tropical palm can reach up to 10 feet tall indoors. However, if grown outdoors, it can reach heights of 35 feet.

Like the parlor palm, it is excellent for allergy sufferers, filtering out the air in your home, and is non-toxic to dogs and cats.

 Parlor PalmAreca Palm
Native EnvironmentCentral AmericaMadagascar
Plant FamilyArecaceae Arecaceae 
Leaf ColorLight GreenDark Green
FoliageWispy, feathery foliageWide but wispy foliage
HeightGrows up to 6 to 9 feet indoorsGrows up to 10 feet indoors
Light RequirementLow and Bright LightBright Light and Full Sun
Low-Maintenance?YesNo
Toxicity to PetsNon-toxicNon-toxic
Purify Air?YesYes
Where to Grow?Indoors and OutdoorsIndoors and Outdoors

Parlor Palm and Areca Palm: How Are They Different?

The main differences between the parlor palm and the areca palm are how they grow, their size, and their maintenance.

A few other differences may affect your buying decision depending on your home, along with how often you will be taking care of them.

Foliage Shape

The parlor palm’s leaves are small and grow upright. They can even grow to be eight inches in length.

However, the areca palm leaves are smaller but have more leaves on each stem. Making the stems look fuller than the parlor palm.

The areca palm’s leaves arch out, resembling a butterfly’s wings. At the same time, the stem itself grows upright, making it look straighter than parlor palm leaves.

Leaf Color: Dark Green vs. Light Green

While the difference is subtle, the areca palm leaves are a deep, dark green. The parlor palm, however, has a light green color.

Depending on the colors in your home and how you want it to look, this may make a big difference. One palm may be better suited to your aesthetic needs than the other.

Flowers

When growing indoors, the areca palm can produce flowers in the spring and summer. These flowers are tiny yellow buds that grow under the leaves of the palm.

The parlor palm does flower. However, rarely will it ever flower indoors. This palm needs natural sunlight and to grow outdoors for it to flower at all.

The conditions must be optimal for it to produce anything in the spring or summer.

Height

The parlor palm is typically purchased as a small plant to fit on countertops and tables. Throughout the years, the parlor palm can slowly grow up to 6 to 9 feet indoors. However, this can take many years of ownership and care.

The areca palm is different in this way. It will reach its mature size in about 3 years. Indoors, it can grow as tall as 10 feet.

Eventually, you will need to move the plant outside to give it the proper room, care, and light for it to stay healthy.

Trunk Growth

While both palms grow from multiple trunks, the areca palm trunks stick together and grow upright. This type of growth gives them a bamboo appearance, giving them the nickname known as the “bamboo palm.”

The parlor palm, however, grows multiple trunks throughout its potted space and grows arching out of its pot. While it does grow upright, it will spill out of its area more than the areca palm.

Growth Requirements

The parlor palm can handle low light along with less water at times. If you forget to water your parlor palm, it can survive until the next time you water it.

The areca palm is quite different. It needs bright light and cannot tolerate low light. It must also be watered once a week; it can not handle too much neglect.

The water must be filtered and can not be tap water. It is essential to keep up with the areca palm and ensure it receives the correct care.

If you plan to be out of the house often and forget about your plant, the areca palm may be too much of an intermediate plant to own.

The parlor palm is excellent for new owners or those who cannot care for their plants every week or more.

Origin: Madagascar vs. Central America

The parlor palm is native to Central America and Guatemala. Meanwhile, the areca palm is native to the rainforests in Madagascar.

Both environments are humid, tropical conditions. However, since they are from different places, the areca palm behaves differently when it comes to water and light.

The areca palm must have filtered water and prefers bright light. The parlor palm prefers low or bright indirect light and is not sensitive to the water you give it.

Cost

While both plants are affordable, the parlor palm may be slightly higher in price. Since the parlor palm is typically grown indoors, it is more sought after as a small palm or a palm for a corner in your home.

The areca palm is a popular houseplant. However, it is slightly cheaper as it is grown outdoors.

The price difference is not too significant, but it does exist.

Still, both palms are affordable and easy to place in your home, making it more tropical and filled with greenery.

Related: Parlor Palm vs. Kentia Palm, Parlor Palm vs. Cat Palm, Parlor Palm vs. Majesty Palm

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