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Cat Palm vs Areca Palm: 4 Major Differences

Palm trees, with their exotic charm, greatly enhance the liveliness and appeal of home environments. Thanks to Mother Nature’s generosity, we have a diverse array of palm tree species, each adding its unique touch to our surroundings.

The main difference between Cat Palm and Areca Palm lies in their appearance and growing conditions. Cat Palm, also known as Chamaedorea cataractarum, is smaller with denser, darker green fronds and thrives in low light conditions, making it ideal for indoor spaces. Areca Palm, or Dypsis lutescens, is larger and prefers bright, indirect light, showcasing feathery, light green fronds.

While Cat Palm is more tolerant of lower temperatures, Areca Palm requires a warmer climate to flourish. Both palms add a tropical touch to any space but have distinct care needs and visual characteristics.

Cat Palm vs Areca Palm

Cat Palm and Areca Palm

Cat Palm Areca Palm
USDA Hardiness zone 10-12 10-11
Mature height in the pot 3-4′ (0.9-1.2 m)

in the ground 7-8′ (2-2.4 m)

in the pot 6-9′ (1.8-2.7 m)

in the ground 15-30′ (5-10 m)

Mature width 3-8′ (0.9-2.4 m) 7-15′ (2-4.5m)
Growth rate medium medium
Light exposure partial sun partial sun, full sun
Soil moist, drained moist, drained
Soil pH 6.0-7.0 6.0-7.0
Watering 1-2 times per week in a drought 1 time per week in a drought
Diseases fungus fungus
Pests insects, mites insects, mites

Size

One key distinction between these two palms is their size. The Cat Palm typically reaches up to 3 feet tall in a pot, and can grow up to 4 feet if given a larger pot and placed outside during summer. In its natural outdoor environment, it may stretch up to 7 feet tall and 8 feet wide.

In contrast, the Areca Palm is notably larger. It often surpasses 7 feet in both height and width when potted. In its native habitat and under optimal conditions, it can soar beyond 30 feet.

This implies that the Areca Palm demands more space for indoor growth, while the Cat Palm is suited for smaller areas in the home.

Another difference lies in their growth styles. The Areca Palm has slender stems, resembling bamboo, in contrast to the Cat Palm’s thicker, bushier stems at the base. This makes the Cat Palm more bush-like, whereas the Areca Palm resembles a multi-trunked tree.

Sun tolerance

The Cat Palm is sensitive to direct sunlight, naturally thriving under the shade of larger trees. Exposure to full sun can cause its leaves to burn and turn yellow.

Ideally, position the Cat Palm near a sunlit window where it can receive diffused or indirect light. The farther north you are, the more light it should get, but avoid direct sunlight.

During summer, avoid placing the Cat Palm in direct sunlight outdoors. It’s best situated on the north side of your house or under the shade of another tree. If the Cat Palm is planted in the ground and well-established, it can handle a few hours of direct morning sun.

Conversely, the Areca Palm tolerates direct sunlight better, especially if it’s a large, outdoor tree. It can withstand almost full-day sun exposure unless it’s potted. When indoors, placing it in front of a south-facing window works well, as the glass filters some of the sun’s intensity.

Leaves

The Cat Palm boasts dark green leaves, lending it a robust and solid appearance. In contrast, the Areca Palm’s leaves are a lighter green, conveying a fresher look reminiscent of a young spring shoot.

Another notable difference is in leaf size. The Cat Palm’s leaves are about one foot long and one inch wide, while the Areca Palm’s leaves are similarly one foot long, but only about 0.5 to 0.6 inches wide, giving them a sharper, more elongated appearance.

The narrower leaves of the Areca Palm also mean it has more leaves per stem, contributing to a more intricate and captivating look.

Lastly, the leaf density differs between the two. The Cat Palm has denser foliage compared to the Areca Palm. While this doesn’t significantly impact their appearance, denser leaves often have better resistance to fungal diseases.

Water

The Areca Palm typically requires watering every ten days. However, in hot summers or if the plant is large, you may need to water it every seven days.

Conversely, the Cat Palm needs watering more often, generally once a week. In dry and hot conditions, it may require even more frequent watering.

To determine if these palms need water, check the soil’s moisture level. This can be done either with your fingers or a moisture meter. Ensure the soil in the pot doesn’t dry out more than an inch deep.

Be cautious with the Cat Palm, as it’s prone to overwatering due to its higher water needs. Assessing a plant’s exact water requirements can be tricky, so it’s crucial to use pots with sufficient drainage holes to prevent water from accumulating around the roots.