The parlor palm is a great houseplant for any newbie as it isn’t demanding and it is very adaptive. This plant makes for a stunning and tropical centerpiece in a hallway, office space, or home.
Throughout this article, we will guide you through the best practices to caring for and growing a prosperous parlor palm.
The parlor palm’s Latin name is neanthe bella palm, and it is also referred to as the bamboo palm. Its botanical name is chamaedorea elegans. It belongs to the Arecaceae family, which also includes the areca palm and majesty palm.
The palm is native to rainforests in southern Mexico and Guatemala. This means that it loves a humid and tropical environment.
It has deep green fronds attached to thin, bamboo-like trunks, which is where its common nickname stems from. These stunning fronds are grown from small clumps attached to the mother plant.
The parlor palm shouldn’t be confused with a cat palm, as they may look similar but there are a few notable differences. Below, we’ll start off by discussing the variations between the cat palm and parlor palm.
Fun fact: The parlor palm became very popular during Victorian times as palms were a symbolism of wealth. So the more palms you owned, the wealthier you were perceived to be.
Cat Palm vs. Parlor Palm
The major difference between the cat palm and parlor palm is their fronds. A parlor palm has elongated, arching fronds with a slight curl at its tips. The leaves are also shorter than the cat palm’s and the stems grow in clusters.
The cat palm, on the other hand, has long, pointy leaves that grow upright. It also has multiple stems that are attached to one base.
How Big Do They Get?
A healthy parlor palm can grow around 2 to 6 feet (61 – 183cm) tall. If adequately cared for it can produce a spread between 2 to 3 feet (61 – 91cm).
How Fast Do They Grow?
Typically, it is a slow-growing plant that may take a few years to reach its mature size. If well cared for, you can expect it to grow an additional 6 to 8 inches (15.2 – 20.3cm) a year.
How Long Do They Live?
The average lifespan of the parlor palm is between 10 to 15 years. Few cultivators have managed to extend its lifespan beyond that.
Fun fact: An outdoor palm can survive for a whopping 70 or 80 years!
Are They Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
Chamaedorea elegans is a non-toxic houseplant and is safe for both cats and dogs. Not only is it pet-friendly but it is good for your health too. This plant is a natural air purifier and can remove toxins from the air we breathe.
Parlor Palm Care
Now, we can take a look at the key care requirements and environmental conditions for a thriving parlor palm.
How Often to Water It
Similar to other palms, this plant is highly susceptible to root rot and is very sensitive to overwatering. The soil should never become soggy or saturated and it is best to maintain a slightly moist potting mixture.
Typically, you should water it once every 1 to 2 weeks during the spring and summertime. When it becomes cooler during winter and autumn then you can water once every 2 weeks. Additionally, you should always feel the top inch (2.5cm) of the soil and make sure that it is dry before watering it.
When watering the plant ensure that you allow any excess water to drain out in order to avoid a waterlogged plant. Overwatering it is the quickest way to kill your poor palm.
A bamboo palm requires excellent drainage. If it is left to sit in soggy conditions, the plant may suffer from various fungal diseases.
You need to use a container with around 3 or 5 drainage holes and it is imperative that the houseplant is grown in aerated and well-draining soil.
How to Prune It
Chamaedorea elegant does not need to be regularly pruned, and it may even damage the plant. It is a self-cleaning plant which means that the older, brown fronds will naturally drop off.
If you are concerned with the brown tips then you may snip them off but be wary that you don’t over-prune it.
It is best to leave a browning frond as if the leaf contains any green then you mustn’t remove it. The fronds may still be absorbing nutrients that are directed to the motherplant.
Follow the steps below to trim the edges off:
- Sterilize a pair of scissors or shears.
- Snip the brown or diseased tips of the fronds.
The bamboo palm has a weak rooting system and is sensitive to disturbances. You should repot it every 3 years or once it has become pot bound. During the springtime, you should carefully transplant it as the roots need time to settle before winter.
Follow the simple guide below:
- Gently remove the plant from the container and untangle the roots.
- Prepare a new pot by filling it about one-third of the way with soil.
- Place the palm in the pot and cover its roots. Make sure that it is planted at the same depth that it was previously.
- Water the palm well and pat down the soil.
- Finally, you can put it back in its original location.
It thrives in bright, indirect sunlight, but it can withstand low-lit areas. Bright light will encourage healthy growth whereas full sunshine will damage the foliage.
You need to find an area where it only receives filtered sunshine. If it is grown in a shady area for a prolonged period of time then the growth may slow down or become leggy.
Chamaedorea elegans flourishes in peat-based potting soil with a pH of 5.1 to 7.5. It does well in perlite and sandy mediums too as this allows for quick drainage. Just like the spider plant, it can thrive in loamy soil as well.
The potting mix must be light as a heavy one will retain way too much moisture. You can mix together 1 part potting soil and 1 part coarse sand. Additionally, you could combine 1 part compost, 1 part peat moss, and 1 part perlite for nutritious and well-draining soil.
During its active growing seasons, you can feed it with a slow-releasing fertilizer or a liquid, water-soluble fertilizer. The plant only requires light feeding so make sure to dilute the liquid fertilizer before use.
The slow-releasing fertilizer will only last about 3 months, so it is best to use it at the beginning of spring and again at the beginning of summer. If you decide to use a liquid fertilizer then apply it once every 3 to 4 weeks.
To prevent a build-up of nutrient salts you can refrain from feeding the plant during winter and flush the salts every 3 months.
Pot Size and Type
A bamboo palm must be grown snuggly in a container with ample drainage holes. The plant needs about 2 inches (5cm) of space between the rootball and pot. This way the houseplant has enough room for extra growth and it isn’t too big as this can cause root rot.
The best type of container is one made of porous material such as a terracotta pot. It will allow the soil to dry out faster and any excess moisture can evaporate easily.
The ideal temperature range for this houseplant is 65 to 80°F (18.3 – 26.7°C). It can tolerate a temperature of 50°F (10°C), however, if it dips below this then your plant must be relocated to a warmer area.
The parlor palm isn’t frost tolerant, so make sure that it is not placed by a window or in a cool room during the winter.
A chamaedorea elegans prospers in high humidity levels, but it can withstand the average household humidity. The ideal humidity level is around 60 percent, and it should never fall below 40 percent.
If you want to encourage faster growth then you should increase humidity levels surrounding the plant by misting it frequently and positioning a humidifier nearby.
You can also build a humidity tray by filling a shallow container with some water and pebbles. You can then place the pot on top of the pebbles. The water will then evaporate and increase humidity levels around the pot.
Outdoors vs. Indoors
You can grow the parlor palm outside in USDA hardiness zones of 10 through 12. It can be grown outdoors during the summertime as it cannot withstand cool temperatures during the winter.
When it is left outdoors, you must ensure that it is placed in a shady location. The plant will need to be grown in rich soil, and it will require more moisture. You will need to spritz its fronds regularly to maintain adequate humidity levels.
Does It Bloom?
Chamaedorea elegans rarely blooms indoors. The plant may bloom insignificant flowers in a branching shape.
When grown outdoors it will bloom small, yellowy-cream clusters of flowers. They are not very noticeable and only bloom once the plant reaches its mature size.
How to Grow It
The chamaedorea elegans are tricky to propagate as the roots are sensitive to division and the seeds are unlikely to germinate. Many experts recommend that you purchase a new parlor palm from your local nursery instead.
If you are up for a challenge then you have two options; you can divide its rooting system and plant its seeds during the springtime.
The houseplant can be divided into separate clumps, and these can be planted in soil. It is risky as your mother plant may die, but when carefully done it should be fine.
Follow the step-by-step guide below:
- Examine your plant and look for some healthy stems.
- Slide the houseplant out of its pot and check that the roots are not diseased or damaged. Then choose the clump with a decent amount of roots.
- Slice the clump away from the main plant and separate the roots.
- Fill a container with potting soil and plant the division. You must cover the roots and plant the clump at the same depth that it was previously.
- Position the division and mother plant in a warm and shady area so that they can recover.
- After 7 days you can care for them as you normally would an adult plant.
How to Plant Its Seeds
The bamboo palm needs to be grown from freshly harvested seeds. The rate of germination is low, so you may want to plant several seeds to increase your chances of successful germination.
You will need to use a heat mat as this method requires specific environmental conditions.
- Take out a shallow tray and fill it with moist peaty soil.
- Plant each seed half an inch (1.3cm) deep and cover them with some extra potting mixture.
- Water them well and place the tray on a heat mat. The temperature must be at 85°F (29.4°C) to encourage germination.
- Mist it frequently to maintain moist soil, however, keep in mind that the potting mix must not become soggy.
- After 5 months the seeds may germinate. Once they produce large enough growth then you can transplant them.
How to Revive It
Although the palm isn’t fussy, it may still become diseased or face various problems. We will discuss some of the most common issues that affect the plant’s health and how to revive it.
A frond’s tips may brown when it is grown in a dry environment or overwatered. The houseplant thrives in humid regions as it is native to rainforests. You can purchase an electric humidifier and place it near the plant or group it amongst other houseplants.
If the soil is overly-moist then you must stop watering it and allow the soil time to dry out before you water it again.
When fronds become limp and droopy it is caused by improper watering. You will need to tweak your watering schedule as soon as possible.
The soil must not become overly moist or too dry, so it is best to feel the potting mixture before watering the plant again.
The fronds may begin to yellow when it is overwatered, over-fertilized, and placed in direct sunshine.
If the soil is soggy then you will need to refrain from watering it immediately and wait until the soil has dried out before watering it again.
When fertilizer salts remain in the soil, they have to be flushed out. You must place it under some running water for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Direct sunlight will scorch the fronds as they cannot withstand the harsh sun rays. The palm must be relocated in partial shade to allow the foliage some time to recover.
Your houseplant is falling over as it has become top-heavy. You will need to repot it in a larger container as soon as possible. You may want to consider using a heavier pot such as a terracotta one.
The parlor palm is a fairly simple houseplant to care for. It doesn’t require frequent watering or pruning, and it only needs light feeding. It is perfect for those entering the world of houseplants or looking for a plant that doesn’t require a great amount of care.