Exotic palm trees are what make the home environment more lively and interesting. As with other plants, Mother Nature has been generous and has given us many different kinds of palm trees.
So how do you choose what is right for you?
Among the popular ones are the Cat palm and the Areca palm. Unfortunately, these are both heat-loving plants that in most parts of the U.S. can only be grown indoors and only taken outdoors in the summer.
Although at first glance these plants are similar they have several features which distinguish them quite strongly. This is what we will talk about today.
|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)|
|Light exposure||partial sun||partial sun, full sun|
|Soil||moist, drained||moist, drained|
|Watering||1-2 times per week in a drought||1 time per week in a drought|
|Pests||insects, mites||insects, mites|
The Areca palm is twice the size of the Cat palm
The first noticeable difference between these two palms is size. The Cat palm grows up to 3 feet tall when planted in a pot. If the pot is large and you take it outside for the summer it can be up to 4 feet tall.
If this palm grows outdoors (in the ground) it can reach 7 feet tall and 8 feet wide.
The Areca palm, on the other hand, has a much larger size. It can be over 7 feet tall in a pot and about the same in width.
In its native climate and under favorable conditions, the Areca palm can easily exceed 30 feet in height or even more.
The conclusion to be drawn from this is that Areca palm will require more space to successfully grow indoors. The Cat palm, on the other hand, will require a relatively small area in your home.
The second difference is the growth habit. The Areca palm has thin stems compared to the Cat palm which has thick stems at the base. The Areca palm has more stems that look like bamboo stems.
Cat palm is more like a sprawling bush than a tree. While Areca palm is a full-fledged multi-trunked tree.
Areca palm tolerates the sun better
Cat palm hardly tolerates direct sunlight. In nature, these plants grow in the shade of large trees. In full sun, the leaves will burn and turn yellow.
It is best to place it near a sunny window so that it receives either scattered or indirect light. The further north you are, the more light you should give to this plant, but again, not direct sun.
In summer under no circumstances take the Cat palm outside in the blazing sun. Place it on the north side of your house or under the canopy of another tree.
If this palm grows in the ground (in the garden) and is well established, it can tolerate a few hours of the direct morning sun. But it will still not be bright green but yellowish-green.
Areca palm, in turn, is not bad in direct sun. It is a big tree and can tolerate almost all day without shade as long as it is not growing in a pot.
When growing this palm in pots you should also avoid direct sun. But indoors it can be placed in front of a southern window and it will do well because the glass reflects some of the sun’s rays.
Cat palm leaves are darker
Color is the main difference between the leaves of these two palms.
Cat palm has dark green leaves. The green color is deep which makes this palm more solid. At the same time, Areca palm has light green leaves and looks fresher, just like a young shoot in spring.
The second difference is that the leaves of the Cat palm are a bit wider. They are one foot long and one inch wide. Areca palm leaves are also 1 foot long or slightly longer but 0.5-0.6 inches wide. This makes the Areca palm leaves look sharper and more elongated.
Also, the smaller width of the Areca palm leaves means that there are more leaves on the leaf stem. As a result, this palm has a more complex and fascinating appearance.
The last difference is the density of the leaves. Cat palm has denser leaves than Areca palm. This does not affect anything in particular, especially not the appearance. But usually the sturdier the leaf, the harder it is for fungal diseases to affect it.
Cat palm needs more water than the Areca palm
Areca palm needs to be watered about once a week. If the plant is large and the summer is hot, watering can be increased to once every 5 days.
Cat palm, on the other hand, needs more frequent watering. On average, you will need to water twice a week. Dry, hot weather may require more frequent watering.
The best way to see if this palm needs watering is to check the moisture content of the soil. This can be done with your fingers or with a moisture meter. The soil in the pot should not dry out more than an inch.
The Cat palm is very easy to overwater due to its higher water requirement. Sometimes it is very difficult to determine a plant’s needs. For this reason, you should definitely use pots with enough drainage holes to get the excess water away from the roots.
Although Cat Palm and Areca Palm have many differences, they have something similar.
Both of these palms need good soil. A loose and drained peat-based soil is best. Never plant them in heavy clay soil. It is also good if the substrate is slightly acidic.
The second is that these palms need regular fertilization. You need to fertilize at least a few times a season or more often. There are many good palm fertilizers on the market, but use only quality products from well-known brands.
And finally, Cat Palm and Areca Palm have one common enemy – spider mites. These pests are very dangerous and hardly visible. As soon as you suspect a mite attack, get rid of it right away. The most effective way to defeat them is to spray your palm tree with an acaricide.
A more organic way is to mist the leaves regularly. Mites don’t like high humidity and will leave your plant. You will also achieve a more comfortable environment for your palm as they like at least 55% humidity.