Rich, well-draining soil is important for Madagascar palm health.

The Best Soil for a Madagascar Palm

by Sarah Moore

The Madagascar palm (Dypsis lutescens) has many names, and is also known as the golden cane palm, the butterfly palm and the bamboo palm, among others. It is notable for its yellow, bamboo-like canes as well as its feathery, sweeping foliage. A low-maintenance palm, Madagascar palm does grow better with the correct soil.

1. Identification

As the name suggests, Madagascar palms are native to Madagascar as well as the Comoros and Pemba Islands. Although they are widely grown in gardens in the United States and around the world, they are actually endangered in their native Madagascar due to deforestation and loss of habitat. They are tall, and can grow to an eventual height of 30 to 35 feet when planted outdoors. They are relatively slow growers, however, usually only adding about 12 inches to their height in a single season.

2. Soil Type

Madagascar palms prefer rich soil, so if you are planting outdoors and your garden soil isn’t naturally rich, consider amending with an organic supplement like compost. While they like moist soil, Madagascar palms do not tolerate wet roots because they are susceptible to root rot, so plant in a well-drained site. They are very tolerant of soil types, however, and will grow in sand, clay or loam soils. They will also grow in a range of pH types as long as they are not too acidic.

3. Outdoor Culture

Outdoors, Madagascar palms grow well in full sunlight to full shade. Their yellow coloration is largely due to the amount of sun they receive, however, so if you prefer a greener palm, grow them in shadier conditions. For full yellow color, locate in direct sun. The best locations are bright partial shade areas. Madagascar palms have considerable salt tolerance, so do well in gardens next to oceans. Be careful with how much water you give them, as they are susceptible to root rot. They may also have problems with scales and sooty mold.

4. Indoor Culture

Although Madagascar palms will put up with outdoor temperatures down to an average of 35 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit, they dislike indoor temperatures to fall below 60 degrees. Site them where they’ll receive bright, indirect light, and avoid full sunlight so that their fronds do not scorch. Soil and water preferences are consistent indoors, so keep soil moist and well-drained for best growth. Watch out for spider mites.

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