Bring the tropics indoors with a Majesty palm tree

February 22, 2023

Palm trees come in all sizes. The wax palm can grow up to 200 feet high, as tall as a 20-story building. Luckily, some palms are small enough to use as houseplants, and one of these is the Majesty palm (Ravenea rivularis).

Majesty palms have long, arching, green leaves called fronds on top of multiple stems. This is a very attractive plant, and its fronds make it among the most soothing of all indoor plants.

Because they are native to wet areas in Madagascar, keep them well watered, keeping in mind the season, the humidity and the temperature. As a rule of thumb, Majesty palms need less water in the winter when they are not actively growing. During the active growing season of spring and early summer, you might water once or even twice a week, but be sure the soil is never waterlogged or soggy. By the same token, do not let the soil totally dry out, as this can permanently damage the roots.

If your majesty palm begins to wilt or the fronds show signs of yellowing, you could be watering too much or too little, so just make sure the top inch of soil is dry before adding water.

Make sure the pot or container your majesty palm is planted in has at least one drainage hole, and set the pot on a plate or tray to collect runoff water. Never overwater any houseplant, because it encourages fungus growth and root rot, and can actually suffocate the roots. It also leaches minerals from the potting soil. If you are using tap water on houseplants, let the water sit out for at least 24 hours before using to dissipate the chlorine.

Majesty palms are different from many other palm trees in that they don't mind shade; indeed, they actually prefer it. This is one reason they are one of the easier palms to grow indoors. They grow best away from direct, hot afternoon sun, so majesty palms make good companions for houseplants with similar needs, such as coleus and impatiens. Majesty palm grows perfectly in the average home temperature of 65-75°F or warmer, as high as 85°F.

One big challenge to growing Majesty palms indoors, especially in winter, is that they prefer lots of humidity in the air. Your average household humidity will probably be fine, but you will notice a huge improvement in growth if you add moisture to the air. Try misting the plant daily and setting the pot on a water-filled tray of pebbles.

In their native range of Southern Africa, majesty palms can reach 80 feet tall or more, with fronds up to 8 feet long. Luckily, as indoor plants, they are not fast growers and tend to stay at a manageable size. Because palm trees grow from a central tip, never top-trim a palm tree, or it will kill the plant.

Bring home a Majesty palm and enjoy the air-purifying fronds and the soothing grace of a tropical forest. It’s the perfect background for a salad with palm hearts.


  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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