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How to Grow Travellers Palm (Ravenala) in Australia

As the travellers palm is a tropical plant hailing from Madagascar, it prefers a warm and tropical climate.

The travellers palm makes an excellent landscaping plant with its large banana-like leaves. It’s perfect for creating a tropical landscape around your pool area or other outdoor space.

This palm is fast-growing and extremely hardy. It can also be grown in a pot but you need to make sure that you select one large enough to accommodate the vigorous growth.

You might be interested to note that Ravenala madagascariensis is not a true palm but is related to both banana plants and the bird of paradise family of plants.

Here’s how to grow this attractive plant in your garden.

Light requirements

The travellers palm will grow in full sunlight but it can also handle a semi-shaded spot in the garden.

Travellers Palm Ravenala 1 | Plant care

Temperature and humidity

As the travellers palm is a tropical plant hailing from Madagascar, it prefers a warm and tropical climate.

It is not frost-tolerant so only gardeners in the northern parts of the country will be able to grow this plant successfully in the garden. Alternatively, it can be grown indoors in cooler regions.

It’s especially important to protect young plants from cold temperatures. You should also protect this plant from strong winds as the large leaves can easily be damaged. 

Travellers Palm Ravenala 2 | Plant care

This plant really doesn’t like temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius so this should give you a good idea of whether or not you can grow this in your garden.

Soil requirements

Ravenala madagascariensis prefers moist but well-drained soil that has been enriched with compost or other organic matter. 

Water requirements

It’s a good idea to lightly water your travellers palm during summer to ensure that the soil is moist at all times. Take care not to overwater your plant though.

Interestingly, this plant is actually semi-succulent in that the stems that produce the leaves have the ability to hold water. So, it’s best to test the soil for moisture content before giving the plant extra water.

You can use a soil moisture meter for this. The most important thing to remember is not to allow the soil to remain soggy or waterlogged, but it should be moist and not allowed to dry out either.

Fertiliser

To ensure that your travellers palm thrives, feed it every couple of months with a fertiliser that is designed for tropical plants. 

Lawn Fertilizer 4 | Plant care

Alternatively, you can use a slow-release fertiliser and apply this once a year in spring.

Pruning

The only pruning that is required is the removal of old outer stems once they start to die off.

Travellers Palm Ravenala 3 | Plant care

You might also want to deadhead the spent flowers so that the plant does not self-seed in other spots in your garden.

Any suckers that arise from the ground beside the main trunk should also be removed.

This will give you a nice single-trunk plant with its spectacular display of leaves arranged in a fan shape on top of long stems.

Problems, pests and diseases

There are a number of pests and diseases that mainly affect tropical plants that your travellers palm might be susceptible to. Here’s a quick rundown.

Colletotrichum gloeosporioides

This is a fungal disease common in tropical plants. It can attack various parts of the plant including the flowers, seeds and leaves. 

Dark spots or lesions can appear on the flowers and seeds while the leaves will display colour changes and have unusual patterns on them.

The best way to deal with this disease is to remove the affected leaves, flowers and seeds and dispose of them.

Other fungal diseases to watch out for are leaf spot and root rot.

Spider mites

If you notice yellow or white spots on the leaves, your plant might be infected with spider mites. The tiny insects will create a fine web usually on the undersides of the leaves.

To get rid of these pests, spray them with an oil-based product such as neem oil. Make sure you spray both sides of the leaves.

How to grow travellers palm indoors

If you’re intrigued by the travellers palm but live in a colder region, you might like to grow this plant indoors. You’ll need a large pot that can accommodate the growth of this plant.

Fill the pot with premium potting mix and find a spot indoors that receives bright, indirect sunlight to position your plant. 

Make sure that the room your plant is living in is constantly kept warm with a temperature above 15 degrees Celsius. Remember that these plants really don’t like the cold and a sudden drop in temperature will stress your travellers palm.

Bear in mind that this is quite a large plant and can reach a height and spread of around 2.4 metres even when grown in a large pot.

Make sure that you keep the soil moist and apply a liquid fertiliser once a month to keep the plant growing well.

Travellers palm vs bird of paradise

Strelitzia reginae Bird of Paradise 2 | Plant care

The travellers palm is distantly related to the bird of paradise and at first glance, you might notice some similarities between the two. However, there are distinct differences between these two plants.

General Appearance

While the leaves might be somewhat similar on both plant species, their general growth habit differs greatly.

The travellers palm has a single trunk with the leaves forming a fan shape on top of long stems. On the other hand, the bird of paradise grows in large clumps with the leaves forming on much shorter stalks. The bird of paradise also doesn’t form a trunk.

Growth

When planted in the ground, the travellers palm can reach a height of up to 12 metres while the bird of paradise usually only reaches a maximum height of 6 metres.

Leaf size

While the leaves of both plants look somewhat similar, the leaves of the bird of paradise are much smaller than those of the travellers palm.

Flowers

The flowers of both plants do look very similar with their bird-like shape. However, the flowers of the bird of paradise are more vibrantly coloured while travellers palm flowers are generally just white or green.

FAQ

Are travellers palm roots invasive?

In general, the roots of the travellers palm are not invasive so it can be safely planted around your swimming pool

Can you propagate a travellers palm?

Travellers palms can be easily propagated from seeds. The seed pods should be allowed to develop after flowering and left to dry on the plant. Once you remove the seeds from their pods, they need to be soaked in warm water for around two to three days. Seeds can then be planted into a moist seed-raising mix but need to be kept at a temperature of around 21 to 27 degrees Celsius. It may take up to two months for the seeds to germinate.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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