The parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans) is a great indoor tree. Parlor palms are non-toxic and easy to grow. They also help purify the air inside the room they are growing in.
Parlor palms have long green stems with long, narrow, dark green leaves. They grow to be 2-7 feet tall indoors and 2-3 feet wide.
How to Care for Your Parlor Palm
Your parlor palm will thrive if you give it everything the plant needs. Read on to learn how to make your palm tree happy.
Because the parlor palm can get quite tall, you need to plant it in a heavy pot with drainage holes. It is a good idea to place large palms on a wheeled stand so you can move them if necessary.
This palm thrives in bright, indirect sunlight. However, direct sunlight will burn the leaves. Parlor palms are suitable for offices because they will tolerate lower light levels and artificial light.
Use a potting mix for container plants that drains well. Since parlor palms do best in an acidic to neutral pH, use a potting mix that contains peat.
Parlor palms do not tolerate wet soil. They will rot in these conditions. Water your parlor palm when the first inch of the soil is dry. Use room temperature water and water until it runs out of the drainage holes. Wait 15 minutes, then dump any water in the saucer out.
While many palms require a lot of humidity, the parlor palm does well in low to medium humidity. If the leaves develop dry tips or edges, raise the humidity by placing the plant over a pebble tray. You can make one by taking a saucer larger than the saucer under the pot and filling it with pebbles. Fill the saucer with water until just the tops of the pebbles are dry. Next, place the palm pot and saucer on the pebbles. As the water evaporates, it creates more humidity around the plant. Remember to refill the pebble tray with water frequently.
If you are at a comfortable temperature, chances are your parlor palm will be at one. They thrive best in temperatures of 65 to 80 degrees. The palm can tolerate temperatures of 50 degrees but will die from frost. Keep out of cold drafts.
Fertilize your plant when new growth starts in the spring. Then, fertilize again about two months later. Use a water-soluble fertilizer formulated for palm trees. Do not fertilize during the winter.
Once a week, turn your plant one-quarter turn. Turning the plant keeps it from bending toward the light and growing crooked. Dust the leaves with a soft cloth and inspect for damaged leaves, insects, and diseases.
As the leaves age, they turn brown. Trim them off so that the plant looks nice. You can also cut off the tips of the leaves if they turn brown. Finally, trim any leaves that are broken or diseased.
Repot every other year. Remove the plant from the pot and discard the potting mix. If the plants are rootbound, move up one size in your pot. If using the same pot, replace the old potting mix with fresh mix. Even the best potting mix compacts and degrades over time.
Parlor palms cannot be grown from cuttings. They grow only from seed. To grow from seed:
- Place well-draining, slightly acidic potting mix in a four-inch pot
- Water the potting mix to settle it
- Place the seed ¼ inch deep in the potting mix and cover the seed with the mix
- Seeds germinate best between 85-95 degrees, so place the pot on a heat mat set at about 85
- Keep the seed mix moist but not soggy
It can take several months for the seed to germinate.
Diseases of Parlor Palms
Parlor palms do not suffer from many diseases. However, they can get root rot if they are overwatered.
Pests of Parlor Palms
These plants have problems with the usual indoor plant pests. Here are the pests that cause the most problems in parlor palms.
Scale insects can have a hard covering or a soft covering. Both are made of wax, which protects against many pesticides. Scale insects prefer the underside of the leaf. They suck the sap, stunting the leaf or damaging it. Bad infestations can kill a plant. Soft scale insects excrete honeydew, a sweet, sticky substance that sooty mold likes to grow on.
Mealybugs are tiny white insects that cover themselves and their eggs in wax. The wax repels pesticides, making the scall insects hard to kill. Mealybugs suck sap from the underside of the leaf or where the leaf meets the stem. When the sap is removed from the plant, it causes distorted growth, stunted growth, and sometimes plant death. In addition, mealybugs secrete honeydew, allowing sooty mold to grow.
These small pear-shaped insects suck the sap out of the leaves and sometimes roots. They especially like new growth, which may stunt it. If the roots are damaged, the plant will wilt, and possibly. In addition, aphids secrete honeydew, which feeds sooty mold growth on the leaves.
Whiteflies are relatives of scale insects. They look like tiny white moths covered with a powdery substance. The larva looks like scale insects. Both suck sap from the palm and cause the same damage as scale insects. They also excrete honeydew. If a leaf is moved, the whiteflies move up in a white cloud.
Spider mites are not insects but are related to spiders. They are barely visible to the naked eye, so you may not notice them until the plant starts having problems. Spider mites feed on sap and leave the leaf looking faded. The leaf may turn yellow and die if enough spider mites are present. Spider mites often spin silk into primitive webs, so you may see that before you see the mites. Spider mites like hot and dry conditions. As described above, putting your palm over a pebble tray will raise the humidity and make it harder for the spider mites to colonize your parlor palm.
You can treat all of these pests with an insecticidal soap formulated for use on houseplants. Make sure you get every surface of the plant that is above ground wet with the soap. It is a contact poison, so any bugs you miss will not die. It will be necessary to treat the parlor palm once a week for several weeks to get good control of the insects.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, it is not toxic. The juice from the fruit can irritate your skin. However, parlor palms rarely flower indoors, so they rarely produce fruit.
Parlor palms are readily available. If your big box store doesn’t have them for sale, nurseries and online dealers have them.
Yes. Seeds take several months to germinate.
Parlor palms are a slow-growing plant that takes years to reach full size.
Parlor palms rarely flower indoors.
In conclusion, parlor palms are easy to grow and live a long time if their needs are met. They can get up to six feet tall indoors. Give your palm water when the top of the potting mix is dry, and fertilize twice a year. While parlor palms will grow in low light, they prefer bright indirect light. Once you set your parlor palm in a place they are happy in, don’t move it if possible.