If you have always wanted a palm tree but thought you’d never be rich enough to have a house it could fit in, then I have got a great deal for you: the Chamaedorea elegans, otherwise known as the parlor palm. It rarely grows bigger than four feet in height, and it’s an indoor plant well suited to humidity and light levels in homes.
Perhaps you’ve longed for some of that old Victorian elegance in a potted plant to grace your home and make your visitors marvel at your wealth and affluence. Perhaps you’ve heard of potted palms that won’t crowd your family out of the house but also the horror stories of high maintenance from fellow palm-worshippers.
This is the plant for you! Let’s discuss how you can feel confident caring for the parlor palm.
Parlor Palm Quick Care Guide
|Common Name(s)||Parlor palm|
|Scientific Name||Chamaedorea elegans|
|Height||Up to 4 feet|
|Fertilizer||Feed monthly in spring and summer with a slow-release fertilizer.|
All About Chamaedorea elegans
Other names this Victorian parlor palm goes by includes Neanthe Bella Palm or, more simply, the Bella Palm. Those living in the Victorian era coveted these plants to show others how stinking rich—er, excuse me—how prosperous the family was. Today you can find this palm from Central America at almost any store selling live plants.
Though nowadays, not many would see them that way, that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate them for the touch of refinement and sophistication they bring wherever they reside. And a bonus for pet owners: it’s an indoor plant that’s non-toxic to dogs and cats. They look great next to your bamboo palm, too.
The parlor palm plant is a native under story tree that grows in rain forests in Mexico and Central America. Like other palms, parlor palms have weak root systems and lovely arching pinnate leaves that cluster densely around a cylindrical, tapered trunk. In the wild, the plant grows up to 6 feet tall. Indoors, it can be grown as a potted plant that reaches up to 3 feet tall.
The parlor palm blooms once per year in yellow or red-orange flowers on petioles that branch either above or among the dense foliage. After these flowers fade, small berries may form that contain seeds that are viable for only a short time. Therefore, at home, it’s best to propagate parlor palm via cuttings.
Parlor Palm Care
Compared to some other houseplant palms, Chamaedorea elegans, the parlor palm’s cultivation is basic. It is one of the more forgiving houseplants, though it has its preferences like any finicky parlor palm cats would. Let’s discuss some parlor palm plant care tips.
Light for your Palms
One easy trick to tell if your parlor palm plant is getting enough light: does it cast a shadow where it stands? Then yes, there is enough light, whether it be natural or artificial. They do best in bright, indirect light. Expose them to direct sun, and your baby will dry out. Low light will cause this slow-grower to grow even slower. If it comes to a choice between north- and south-facing windows, choose north.
The ideal temperature range for the parlor palm plant is between 65° and 85° Fahrenheit. Grow them outdoors with ease in USDA zones 10 and 11 in low light, and bring them in if temps drop below 50°. Otherwise, care for them as a potted plant indoors.
The amount of water the Parlor Palm needs will depend on how much light it receives. Brighter light means more water, while lower lighting means less water. On small parlor palms, the surface of the soil should be dry before giving it more water. On larger palms, let the soil dry at least one inch down in the soil before adding water.
This houseplant should be watered all the way around the base of the plant to maintain a healthy plant and avoid “dry spots,” which could result in the loss of fronds. If the pot has drainage holes, water the plant until some of the water seeps through the holes. Any excess water in the saucer should be emptied within an hour to prevent the roots from rotting.
Your parlor palms appreciate average humidity between 40% and 70%, which is where most homes lie. If necessary, provide a humidifier or an occasional misting. In fall and winter, you won’t need to water as much, and no misting is required.
The main care tips mantra of gardeners everywhere: well-draining soil. So many plants need it and the parlor palm is no exception. These palms are native to the rainforest, so they like it moist and humid, but soil that keeps too much water around the roots leads to rotting. Using a mix developed for palms or even a regular potting mix with some sand added for drainage is just fine.
Parlor Palm Fertilizer
Keep those happy fertilizing fingers in check: these palms don’t dig a lot of fertilizer. A monthly basis of a water-soluble houseplant or tropical plant food during the growing season (spring through summer) would be fine, but make sure you cut back in the winter season, perhaps every two or three months. Fertilize at half strength.
Repotting Parlor Palm Plants
If you’re not a fan of repotting chores, then rejoice! This plant is one of the slowest-growing ones, and it won’t need it that often. In fact, they rather like close quarters in their containers and won’t need larger ones until you see roots peeking through the drainage holes.
To repot your parlor palm plant, wait until spring. Find a pot a bit larger than the original with adequate drainage holes, and fill the base with the same or similar potting mix you used for the plant initially. Then remove the palm from the pot with the root ball and soil intact. Add more potting soil to the pot, and lightly water.
Pruning Your Parlor Palm
As these plants grow from terminals, pruning is usually not recommended. These slow-growers will stop growing altogether if they get pruned too much. If there are dead fronds, though, feel free to trim those away during dormancy. It’s important to only prune away whole fronds from their base and avoid cutting the top of the parlor palm plant, as this can kill it.
Propagation is usually not recommended for this plant. It is such a slow grower that starting a new plant from seed can take forever, and there’s no easy way or care tips that would allow you to be successful. Seeds are also only viable for a short time after they drop from parlor palm plants. And separation at the roots will freak it out so badly that it’ll lose a lot of its fronds. Better to just buy another palm.
Troubleshooting Parlor Palm Issues
There are a few problems that may arise with water and light issues during your plant care regimen. A too-dry palm in its grow pot can invite bugs, and boggy roots can lead to disease. Here’s a list of ones to look out for.
Parlor Palm Growing Problems
Keep regular plant care practices to maintain healthy foliage. If your palm is exposed to direct sunlight, its soil will dry out faster, and the fronds may crisp if the sunlight is too intense. If necessary, move your plant away from direct light sources.
You may also notice browning fronds if you’ve watered too much or if you have fertilized outside the growing season. Allow the top couple of inches to dry between irrigation. Finally, browning fronds may occur if your palm needs to be repotted. Remember to check for roots peeking out from the drainage holes of your container and repot as necessary.
Spider mites may arrive if your home is too warm and dry. If you notice little webs on the underside of the leaves, bingo! You’ve got an infestation. Neem oil and insecticidal soap can aid in their destruction as you change the conditions of your house to one more hospitable to the palm and less so to the bugs.
There are about 8,000 species of scale insects that mostly all develop some sort of waxy defense covering. Soft scale leaves honeydew, which results in a moldy fungus. Withered and yellowing leaves are signs of their presence. Physically removing them is the simplest method of control if there isn’t an overwhelming number. Insecticidal sprays are another choice. Try to get them at their crawling stage, where they are more susceptible.
Root rot is a problem that has no real treatment once it has taken hold. It results in a mushy, browning stem. Make sure that the palm resides in well-draining soil in a container with a good-sized drainage hole, and take care not to overwater. If you must, try repotting the parlor palm into fresh media to see if the problem subsides.
Cankers are caused by bacteria, frost, or fungi. They are usually some kind of surface-level tumor-like growth. An infected wound in the plant can stop the upward movement of important nutrients to the rest of the plant’s parts. Basic care is usually enough to prevent cankers from happening. If you have one, you should dispose of the palm.
Leaf spot is either a fungal or bacterial disease that causes freckle-like spots that merge into larger blights on the leaves. Usually, they’re more cosmetic than anything else. Yet too much causes quite a bit of damage and loss of foliage. Remove the infected leaves to increase air circulation to the rest of the plant, avoid overhead watering, and don’t crowd your parlor palm together with other plants. A bit of copper fungicide can help as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I’ve been following all the advice, but my palm doesn’t seem to be getting better. What else can I do?
A: One of the hardest parts of healing a palm like this is patience. They are slow to heal. Keep doing everything right and wait it out. You’ll know when it’s time to move on and get another palm.
Q: Is parlor palm easy to care for?
A: Yes! In terms of general palm plant care, it’s one of the easiest house plants to grow. It takes very little maintenance and looks lovely.
Q: How fast does parlor palm grow?
A: It’s a slow grower that takes multiple years to reach maturity. It also doesn’t need to be repotted often for this reason.
Q: Can a parlor palm take full sun?
A: Full sun can damage the delicate palm fronds and singe their tips. Instead, keep it in bright, indirect light. Place it next to plants that have similar light needs, like bamboo palm.
Q: How big does a parlor palm get?
A: Indoors, with regular plant care, it won’t reach more than a few feet at full height. Outdoors in optimal conditions, you’re looking at about 6 feet.
Q: Do parlor palms like to be misted?
A: While most homes are within the ideal humidity range, you can give your palm an occasional misting with distilled or filtered water as a treat.
Q: How long does a parlor palm live?
A: They live for 20-plus years with even adequate plant care.
Q: Do parlor palms attract bugs?
A: They sometimes host populations of scale insects and spider mites. Treat them via the instructions above.