Livistona rotundifolia (Round Leaf Fountain Palm): Complete house plant care guide

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Written By Martin Cole

Plantsman, gardener, plant-obsessive

Livistona rotundifolia, the round leaf or footstool palm

With its glossy, circular fronds, the Livistona rotundifolia, the round leaf or footstool palm, adds a striking, tropical look to any indoor space. As a plantsman, who has encountered this magnificent palm in Northern Australia and South East Asia, I can really recommend this as one of the best indoor palms even in cooler climates like the UK.

In the wild, Livistona rotundifolia grows in abundance near streams and rivers of, where it can reach heights up to 10 meters.

Indoors, you can expect a mature plant to get to around 2m (6 feet) tall.

Unlike the pinnate (fishtail) leaves of other indoor palms like the Golden Cane Palm or the Parlour Palm, Livistona rotundifolia has the classic palmate leaves – large, broad, and hand-shaped. Even young, footstool palms make a statement with their big palmate foliage.

Caring for this tropical palm as a houseplant presents some challenges, but the rewards are great.

Livistona rotundifolia needs diligent watering, frequent misting, and protection from drafts to thrive indoors.

Remember that this palm comes from the hot tropics, so it needs warm, humid conditions and plenty of filtered sunlight.

Saribus or Livistona?

Although usually still known as Livistona rotundifolia, in 2011 this palm, as a result of DNA testing, was re-classified as being a member of the genus Saribus. Technically, therefore it is properly known as Saribus rotundifolius.

If you are looking to buy the plant you might find it labelled under either name, but since it still most commonly gets referred to as a Livistona, that is what we’ll call the palm here.

Livistona rotundifolia overview

Livistonia rotundifolia key facts

  • Scientific name: Livistonia rotundifolia (Saribus rotundifolius)
  • Meaning of name: Livistonia refers to Patrick Murray, Baron of Livingston, financier of Carl Linnaeus. Rotundifolia means “round-leaved” in Latin
  • Common names: Round leaf fountain palm, footstool palm, Malayan footstool palm
  • Plant family: Aracaceae
  • Place of origin: Borneo, Maluku, New Guinea, and Sulawesi, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines
  • Type of plant: Palm
  • Size: Up to 10m (33ft) outdoors; 2-3m (6-10ft) indoors
  • Foliage: Rounded fan shape, about 1m wide when mature.
  • Flower: Small yellow flowers on branched clusters; rarely flowers indoors
  • Fruit: 11-25 mm in diameter, at first yellow, ripening though to orange-red to red or to dark violet or bluish-black (rarely indoors).

Natural Habitat

  • Native to tropical and subtropical forests in Southeast Asia and Australia
  • Grows near streams and rivers at elevations up to 1000m
  • Prefers partial shade when young, can tolerate sun or shade
  • Also found on slopes and ridges in open forest areas

Livistona rotundifolia care

Livistona rotundifolia care guide

  • Light: Bright indirect light, a few hours of sun
  • Water: Allow top inch of soil to dry between waterings
  • Humidity: Mist leaves to increase humidity
  • Temperature:
    • Ideal: 18-24°C (64-75°F)
    • Minimum: 10°C (50°F)
    • Avoid cold drafts and sudden temperature changes
  • Soil: Well-draining palm soil mix
  • Fertilizer: Balanced liquid palm fertilizer in growing season every third or fourth time you water.
  • Propagation: Seeds or division of basal offsets (or pups)
  • Repotting: Every 2-3 years in spring, size up 2-4″ pot
  • Pruning: Remove dead fronds and stems. Leaves develop sharp spines on the base, so beware of these when handling or pruning.
Livistona rotundifolia, the round leaf or footstool palm
Beware the leaf spines when pruning

Light

As per the image below, Livistiona rotundifolia prefers bright, indirect light, although it can tolerate lower light to some extent.

House plant bright light

Livistona rotundifolia toxicity to cats and other pets

  • Livistona rotundifolia is not known to be toxic to cats or other pets. However, wear gloves when handling the plant. because of the spines on the leaf bases.

Fruit

  • The palm produces small round fruits about 1cm in diameter
  • The fruit is black when ripe and contains a single seed
  • The ripe pulp is edible and tastes sweet and coconut-like
  • Fruits are eaten by indigenous peoples and wildlife where native
  • Indoors, plants rarely produce flowers or fruit
  • All parts of the unripe fruit contain calcium oxalate and are toxic

Common problems

Livistona rotundifolia troubleshooting guide

Leaves and shoots

  • Yellowing leaves
    • Cause: Overwatering.
    • Prevention: Adjust watering frequency.
    • Solution: Allow the soil to dry out before watering.

Roots

  • Root rot
    • Cause: Poor soil drainage.
    • Prevention: Use well-draining soil.
    • Solution: Trim affected roots and repot in fresh soil.

Pests

  • Spider mites, scale, mealybugs
    • Cause: Dry indoor conditions.
    • Prevention: Increase humidity.
    • Solution: Spray with neem oil or soap solution.

Diseases

  • Fungal issues, e.g. botrytis and southern blight
    • Cause: Overwatering and poor air circulation.
    • Prevention: Improve drainage and air circulation.
    • Solution: Apply a fungicide.

Winter Care

In winter, reduce watering frequency as the Livistona rotundifolia experiences slower growth. Place the plant away from drafts and cold windows to prevent chilling.

For full detail on care for your Livistona in winter, read our complete winter care guide.

Livistona rotundifolia, the round leaf or footstool palm

Livistona rotundifolia FAQ

  1. Q: How often should I water my Livistona rotundifolia?
    • A: Water when the top inch of soil feels dry, typically every 1-2 weeks.
  2. Q: Can I place my fan palm in direct sunlight?
    • A: While it can tolerate some direct sunlight, it’s best to provide filtered or indirect light to prevent leaf scorch.
  3. Q: What should I do if I notice brown tips on the leaves?
    • A: Trim the browned tips using clean scissors. Adjust watering and humidity levels.
  4. Q: Is misting necessary for my Livistona rotundifolia?
    • A: Misting can benefit the plant, especially in dry indoor environments, but ensure good air circulation to prevent fungal issues.
  5. Q: When is the best time to repot my fan palm?
    • A: Repot in spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing. Use fresh potting mix and choose a slightly larger pot if needed.

Other indoor palms

Read our guide to the 16 best indoor palms to grow and our individual guides to caring for these other indoor palms:

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