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Parlour Palm Care

Updated on August 2, 2012
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Sean has been in the industry of gardening and landscaping since 2006. He is also a certified arborist that tends to focus on plant health.

Parlour palm, neanthe bella palm, chamaedorea elegans
Parlour palm, neanthe bella palm, chamaedorea elegans | Source

Parlour Palm Care Overview

The "Parlour Palm", Chamaedorea elegans, is often grown as a houseplant but can also be grown outside in subtropical climates. Houseplant parlour palms can grown up to 4 feet tall, and up to 10 feet tall if grown in ideal conditions outside. Parlour palms grow slow and take years to reach optimal size. The palms have slender stems the feature blade-like inflorescences that are considered a delicacy in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Caring for parlour palms is relatively easy and their size makes them perfect as houseplants. The palm is one of the most popular houseplants due to its ease of care and light requirements. Proper watering and fertilizing is essential to keep the palms healthy. Preparing the proper soil is also very important when growing parlour palms. Ideal soil consistency prevents waterlogged soil, which promotes disease and root rot.


Growing more palour palms is easy as well. Propagation via division turns an overcrowded, dense parlour palm into two or more clumps that can be transplanted immediately into another container or area.

Light Requirements for Parlour Palm

Parlour palms desire bright, filtered light during the morning and evening hours. Direct afternoon sunlight may cause discoloring. The parlour palm is not very picky about the light it receives and does very well in a windowsill or adjacent to a window.

The general rule for light is that if the palm casts a shadow, then the light requirement is just fine.

Perlite and sphagnum moss helps to increase or slow down drainage in soils.
Perlite and sphagnum moss helps to increase or slow down drainage in soils. | Source

Soil for Parlour Palm

A loamy soil with adequate drainage is ideal for parlour palms. Soil that is too sandy will dry out quickly, but can be amended by mixing in mulch or potting soil. This will help retain water and slow down drainage. Soil that is dense with clay will retain too much water and prevent drainage. Clayey soil can be amended by using sand, perlite, and/or mulch. Preparing soil for planting is vital whether potting houseplants or sowing a garden.

Soil that resists drainage allows water to remain stagnant around the roots. Waterlogged soil is the main cause of root rot. Root rot occurs when the roots are saturated over time with no access to air. Root rot can harm and kill parlour palms if left unchecked.

Watering Parlour Palm

Parlour palms prefer high humidity but tend to grow just fine in medium to low humidity household environments. Watering depends on how much light the palm receives. If the parlour palms sit in a sunny window all day, then watering will be needed 2 to 3 times per week. Watering may only be needed once a week if the palms are in a semi-shaded area. Allow the soil to become somewhat dry before watering again. Pay attention to how damp the soil is between watering and adjust as needed.

Over-watering is guaranteed to harm and eventually kill parlour palms. The parlour palm cannot sit in waterlogged soil day after day. Drainage trays should be poured out after watering to prevent stagnant water from surrounding the roots. Root rot occurs when the soil is waterlogged over a period of several days. Root rot occurs because the roots cannot draw in any air and are not allowed to slightly dry out.

Misting the palm a few times a week supplements regular watering and helps keep the humidity high.

Feed parlour palms with a balanced, water soluble fertilizer once a month.
Feed parlour palms with a balanced, water soluble fertilizer once a month. | Source

Fertilizing Parlour Palms

Parlour palms will need a little bit of fertilizer every month during the spring and summer months. A water soluble fertilizer is preferred over granular fertilizers. An all purpose 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer is perfect for parlour palms. The 10-10-10 represents equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Autumn and winter months will require less fertilizer and palms should only be fed once every 2 months.

Be very careful not to over-fertilize. Applying too much fertilizer will cause irreversible damage to the roots and leaves. If concerned about over-fertilizing, simply divide the amount stated on the package directions by half. Applying less fertilizer will never harm the palms, and allows slight increases in fertilizer over time until an ideal amount is reached.

A clump of parlour palm that has been divided in half.
A clump of parlour palm that has been divided in half. | Source

Materials Needed

  • Garden Hose
  • Container for New Division
  • Knife
  • Soil with Adequate Drainage
  • Water

Parlour Palm Divisions

Dense clumps of parlour palms can be divided into halves or quarters depending on the size of the clump. The recovery period after the initial shock will take several weeks up to a few months, depending on how well the division is performed. Once divided, the smaller clumps can be transplanted into another pot or area. A little die-back occurs from the division shock, which is normal. Simply remove the dead stems and leaves when die-back occurs.

Dividing parlour palm only takes a few minutes using a few household items.

  1. Remove a root bound clump of palm from a pot or ground.
  2. Use a garden hose to loosen the dirt packed around the root mass.
  3. Begin to pull the root mass apart by starting at the bottom of the root mass. Try not to tear too many roots, but breaking a few will inevitably happen. Use a knife to sever the denser roots.
  4. Pot or plant the divisions in a soil that has good drainage, but remains slightly moist at all times. A little bit of constant moisture will help the palms recover and promote rooting.

Remember, dividing causes shock to the plant and some die-back will occur. If this is a major concern, then consider buying another parlour palm as an alternative to dividing. Parlour palms are generally cheap and sold at many garden centers.

Newly divided parlour palm
Newly divided parlour palm | Source

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