Betel Palm/Arecha catechu
The Betel Palm is thought to originate from the Malay Peninsular, and the common name is the local name for the plant and for the edible fruits. In the wild, mature plants may grow to as much as 30m (100ft) tall: fortunately, containerized specimens rarely grow this big and tend to stabilize at around 3m (10ft), with leaves often to 2m (6ft) long.
This is an ideal foliage house-plant in youth; in its native habitat, it is an under-storey plant, so it does well in shady conditions. The other needs of the Betel Palm are not as easily satisfied in the average home; the warmth and level of humidity required for optimum growth are more suited to a conservatory than to a living room, and special measures are necessary to keep the plant in good health. It is worth the effort, however, as the stately appearance of the Betel Palm will enhance any display.
Grow the Betel Palm in warm conditions: it needs a cool Winter minimum of 16°C (61°F) and grows well within the optimum temperature range of 18-27°C (65-80°F). Cold conditions will kill this plant.
Grow this Palm in light shade; any light should be indirect, or diffused through other plants.
Use the moisture level of thesurface as a guide to watering needs: water well, then allow the surface to dry out before watering again. This plant needs moisture at the roots, without being over-watered, all year through.
This plant needs a high level of humidity to thrive: mist it every day throughout warm periods. In addition, raise the humidity around the plant by standing its pot on a tray of moisture-retentive pellets, making sure that the plant’s roots are clear of any water.
Feed established examples of the Betel Palm every three weeks during the growing period, using a suitable proprietary feed.
Repot any overcrowded plants in Spring, using a free-draining, loam-based mixture: these large plants need the extra stability offered by a loam compost. Firm the compost in place around the rootball. Larger plants should be top-dressed in Spring.
Young plants of the Betel Palm are ideal for use in temporary small-scale arrangements: their stature gives an immediate (if inaccurate) air of maturity.
Red Spider Mite can be a problem, although the high humidity levels required by the Betel Palm will help to deter this pest. Alternatively, use an insecticide-impregnated plant spike, which often can control minor attacks. Isolate the affected plant if possible; if a cure is impossible, discard and burn the plant.
Mealy Bugs nestle in the leaf joints, almost unseen under their waxy covering, and brown Scale may dot the undersides of the leaflets. Remove both using methylated spirit and cotton bud.