How to Grow, Care and Propagate Traveller's Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis)


Traveller's Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) or Traveller's Tree is a palm-like plant which bears paddle-shaped leaves on long petioles, arranged in a fan-shape in a single plane.

The fan comprises of about 30-45 leaves. Each fan is about 10 ft long and about 2-3 ft wide. With age, it progressively loses the lower leaves and reveals a sturdy gray trunk.

The Traveller's Palm has sheaths on the stems hold rainwater which could be an emergency source of water for needy traveller's, hence, the common name, 'Traveller's Palm'.

Though called a palm, Ravenala madagascariensis, is not a true palm. It belongs to the family, Strelitziaceae.

The genus name, 'Ravenala', comes from 'ravinala' or 'ravina ala' in Malagasy which means, 'forest leaves'.

There is only one species in this genus which comes in 4 forms (subspecies); Bemavo which is the most common, Hiranirana, Malama and Hororona which is the smallest.

Traveller's Tree can grow outdoors in warm climates and is ideal for USDA Zones 10 and 10. In the cold regions, it is grown in containers which can be brought indoors during the winter season.

Traveller's Palm, Ravenala madagascariensis

Botanical name: Ravenala madagascariensis
Family: Strelitziaceae
Common names: Traveller's Palm, Traveller's Tree, East-West Palm

Origin

Ravenala madagascariensis (Traveller's Palm) is native Madagascar where it is found growing in humid lowland forests, montane forests, grassland or rocky areas 1500 metres above sea level.

Size

Outdoors, Traveller's Palm can grow to a height of 30-50ft. Indoors, it grows to aheight of 8-10 ft.

When young it grows fast and requires very fast, therefore, it requires space but as it matures is grows much slower.

Flower

Traveller's Palm's inflorescence comprises of green bracts and white flower which are less attractive than those on Bird of Paradise.

The flowers appear in summer, on maturity, after about 10 years. Once pollinated, brilliant blue seeds are formed.

Toxicity

Traveller's Palm is toxic to humans and pets. If ingested, it can cause digistive upset and other side effects. Keep the plant away from children and pets.

Related Plants

Ravenala madagascariensis is related to Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise Plant) and Strelitzia nicolai (White Bird of Paradise Plant).

Where to Buy

If you would like to add this elegant plant to your collection, Traveller's Palm seeds are readily available online on Etsy.

Ravenala madagascariensis Care Indoors

Traveller's Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) prefers bright light with 6-8 hours of direct sunshine, average warmth, humid conditions and consistently moist, fertile, well-drained soil coupled with monthly feeding during the growing season.

Traveller's Tree requires repotting every 2 years when pot-bound. Pruning is needed to keep the plant neat, to discourage pest and disease infestations and improve ventilation. Keep on reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Traveller's Palm, Ravenala madagascariensis

Light Requirements

Traveller's Palm grows best under bright light with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunshine. Rotate the pot regularly to ensure that the plant receives light on all sides for uniform growth.

If the plant does not get adequate light, it will grow slowly. Therefore, place the plant next to a very bright window or a brightly lit place. Where the natural light is not adequate, consider investing in a grow light. Take a look at these full spectrum grow lights on Amazon.

Outdoors, Traveller's Tree can be grown under direct sunlight but it needs to be protected from too hot sunshine. Do not expose the plant to direct sunlight before acclimating it as it can lead to sunburn marks (brown leaf spots).

Water Requirements

Water Traveller's Palm deeply during the growing season and keep the soil moist while allowing the top 1-2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings.

Cut down watering during the cold season to maintain the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal at this time but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Use water that is at room temperature to water Traveller's Tree to avoid shocking this tropical plant.

Ensure that the water is chlorine-free as the plant is sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals dissolved in water and it responds with brown speckled leaf marks.

Confirm that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot disease which is indicated by brown and yellow leaves.

Temperature and Humidity

Traveller's Palm prefers average warmth between 18-290C with a minimum of 130C. Keep it away from drafts like air vents, radiators, heaters, windy doors and windows among others.

Traveller's Palm requires humid conditions inorder to thrive. Set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity as low humidity will result in brown, crispy leaf tips and edges. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Occasionally, clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust to ensure adequate surface area for light absorption and also minimize pests infestation.

Potting Soil

The best soil for Traveller's Palm should be acidic, rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients.

Most multi-purpose potting mixes are ideal this plant. Buy quality Potting Mix from Amazon.

Fertilizer

Feed Ravenala madagascariensis with a nitrogen-rich, water-soluble fertilizer monthly during the growing season to promote growth.

Do not feed Traveller's Tree during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time therefore the plant does not need it. Excess feeding can result in brown leaves.

Flush out accumulated salts (which may have arisen from the water or fertilizers) regularly from the soil by running for a few minutes a steady stream of water through the soil until it comes out through the drainage holes. Repeat the process several times.

Repotting

Repot the young Traveller's Palms at the beginning of the growing season in a pot one size larger than the current one to provide adequate space for growth.

The mature Traveller's Trees require repotting every 2 years as the plant prefers to be root-bound into a pot 1-2 sizes larger than the current one. Use a heavy pot to prevent the plant from toppling over as it can become top heavy. Check out these Pots with Multi Mesh Drainage Holes on Amazon.

Make sure that the pot has a drainage hole and that the soil is free-draining soil to prevent it from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot disease.

Traveller's Palm Outdoor Care

Traveller's Tree can be grown outdoors in the warm climates and is ideal for USDA Zones 10-11 where there is no threat of frost, though it can tolerate upto 00C for a short period without much damage.

Grow Traveller's Palm in full sun to light shade. However, protect the plant from harsh hot sunshine to prevent scorching (brown leaf spots).

Where the summers are very hot, grow Traveller's Tree in a shaded spot or in containers which can be easily moved to a shaded area when the sun is too hot.

Plant the Traveller's Palm in a sheltered place away from strong winds as they cause the leaves to be torn and ragged.

Ensure that the soil is well-drained and rich in organic matter. Avoid heavy clay soils as they retain too much water which can lead to root-rot and death of the plant.

Keep the soil moist through out the growing season while allowing the top 1-2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings for optimum growth but avoid soggy soil. Cut down on watering during the cold season as growth is reduced at this time.

Fertilize Traveller's Palm with a nitrogen-rich, water-soluble fertilizer monthly during the growing season.

Withhold fertilizer during the cold season as growth is reduced at this time and excess fertilizer can lead to brown leaves.

Space Traveller's Tree 6-8 ft apart as it is a large plant. Keep it 8-10 ft away from buildings as the roots are invasive.

Pruning

Pruning Traveller's Palm involves removal of dead blooms and yellow leaves to maintain the plant neat as well as discourage pest and disease infestations. Cut the dead leaves with sharp knife or a pair of scissors.

Get rid of suckers from the base of the trunk to avoid overcrowding and improve ventilation to reduce pest and disease infestations.

Always use sterilized tools to prune your plants to minimize cross-contamination. Ensure that the cutting tool is sharp enough inorder to make clean cuts to avoid unnecessary injuries which can lead to disease infestations.

Propagation

Traveller's Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) propagation can be done at the beginning of the growing season from seeds or by plant division at repotting time.

How to propagate Traveller's Palm from seeds

Sow the Traveller's Palm seeds about 1 in. deep in moist, well-drained soil.

Cover the set up with clear polythene to a create warm and humid conditions to hasten germination and establishment of the plants.

Place the set up in a warm, well-lit place and maintain the soil moist thorough out and avoid soggy soil as it can cause rotting.

Germination should occur in about 6-8 weeks. Allow the Ravenala madagascariensis to be well established before transplanting after which you can begin routine care.

How to propagate Traveller's Palm by plant division

During repotting, divide the mother Traveller's Palm into several sections while ensuring each divison has some roots to hasten establishment.

Pot the sections in moist, free-draining soil in individual pots.

Place the set up in a well-lit place and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges on the sections.

Ensure that the crown of the sections is above the soil level to avoid rotting.

Allow the new Ravenala madagascariensis to be well established before transplanting after which you can begin routine care.

Traveller's Palm, Ravenala madagascariensis

Ravenala madagascariensis Problems

Traveller's Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) growing problems include brown leaf tips and edges, yellow leaves, brown leaves, leaf spots and marks, pests and diseases among others. Read on for more on these problems and how to fix them.

Pests

The common pests in Traveller's Palm are Spider Mites, Mealybugs and Scales. Spray the plant with an Insecticidal soap or Neem oil to get rid of the pests. Make sure to cover the entire plant.

Diseases

Traveller's Palm is prone to root-rot disease which is promoted by soggy soil brought about by poor drainage of the soil.

Confirm that the pot has a drainage hole and that the soil is free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy.

Decrease watering during the cold season to maintain the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal at this time. Read on how to treat root-rot in houseplants.

Yellow leaves

There are two possible causes of yellow leaves in Traveller's Palm. One possible cause is soggy soil (too wet soil) due to poor drainage.

Make sure that the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining soil to prevent the soil from getting soggy.

In addition, reduce watering during the cold season to maintain the soil slightly moist as growth is reduced at this time thus the plant does not require much water.

The second possible cause of yellow leaves in Traveller's Tree is underfeeding. Feed the Traveller's Palm with a nitrogen-rich, water-soluble fertilizer monthly during the growing season.

Withhold fertilizer during the cold season as growth is reduced at this time and excess fertilizer can lead to brown leaves.

Brown leaves

Brown lleaves in Traveller's Palm are caused by three possible reasons. One reason is soggy soil (too wet soil). Ascertain that the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining soil to prevent it from getting soggy.

The second possible reason for brown leaves in Traveller's Tree is overwatering. Water the plant deeply during the growing season and keep the soil moist while allowing the top 1-2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings.

During the cold season reduce watering to maintain the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal at this time, therefore, the plant requires very little water.

The third possible reason for brown leaves in Traveller's Palm is overfeeding. Fertilizer the Traveller's Palm with a nitrogen-rich, water-soluble fertilizer monthly during the growing season.

Do not fertilizer during the cold season as growth is reduced at this time thus the plant does not require much feeding.

Brown, crispy leaf tips and edges

Brown and crispy leaf tips in Traveller's Palm are caused by too dry air (low humidity) as it thrives in warm, humid conditions.

To increase humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier. Learn more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Brown leaf spots

Brown leaf spots in Traveller's Palm are sun scorch marks caused by exposure of the plant to direct hot sunlight before acclimating it.

Gradually acclimate the plant before exposing it to the hot direct sunshine outside. Move it to a slightly brighter spot every so often until it can withstand direct sunlight.

Brown speckled leaf markings

Brown speckled leaf markings in Traveller's Palm are caused by accumulation of salts in the soil from the water used or from overfertilizing. The plant is sensitive to excess salts in the soil.

To get rid of these accumulated salts, flush (leach) them out occasionally by running for a few minutes a steady stream of water through the soil until it comes out through the drainage holes. Repeat the process several times.

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