Cyrtostachys renda: Lipstick palm

Family: Arecaceae
Common name: Lipstick palm, Red wax sealing palm, Red palm, Rajah palm, Maharajah palm, Sealing wax palm, Sumatra wax palm, Pinang Rajah

Lipstick palms are without question one of the most beautiful palm trees you can have in your garden, with their bright red trunks. They are also called Red wax sealing palm, though this plant has nothing to do with the actual wax that was used to seal envelopes.

It’s just the red color of the trunk and the stem that gives it the name Lipstick palm and Red wax sealing palm. Petioles connecting the leaves to the trunk are also deep red in color. These plants can grow to a height of 15 meters, though most house plants only grow 8-9 meters.

They are natural clump-formers, with many suckers or small plants growing around the parent palm. These small plants can be replanted after carefully separating them from the parent plant. But Lipstick palm propagation is not easy, making it a collector’s palm.

Lipstick palm under the ‘Vulnerable list’ because of the difficulty in propagation and slow-growing nature. They are threatened in their natural habitats due to urbanization and reduction in lowland forest areas.

These plants have pinnate leaves with about 50 pairs of leaflets, growing on long petioles that are about 15 cms long. Leaves are bright green on top and greyish-green on the lower surface.

The plants produce large bunches of flowers that are initially green, later turning red. Fruits are oval in shape, about 1-1.5 cms in diameter, and bluish-black on maturity.

The name Cyrtostachys means bent or curved ears of grain, and renda is the Malayalan word for palm. They are native to Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Sumatra, but they are now grown as ornamental plants all over the world.

They make beautiful border plants because thick clumps of stems can prevent animals from crossing them. Beautiful red trunks make them accent plants or centerpieces that will lift your garden’s ambiance.

These palm plants grow very slowly, giving gardeners enough time to repot them once in 2-3 years. Lipstick palm plants do not like to be shifted, so it’s better not to repot them frequently. Young plants should be kept away from direct sunlight for a couple of months, but older plants prefer good sunlight.

Since Lipstick palms grow in swamp-like areas in their native habitat, they need good moisture and frequent watering. In fact, they can stand waterlogging for a few days without suffering root rot. But make sure the plant is not waterlogged for a long time. Lipstick palms don’t need too much fertilization, only twice a year with a slow-release fertilizer mix.

Propagation is through seeds and suckers. Seeds are slow to germinate and take 2-4 months to form new plants.