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Indoor palm trees are a great way to bring a lush, tropical look to your space. These easy and slow-growing, attractive plants come in a variety of sizes, colors, and shapes that can liven up your interior without much maintenance.
A very popular species of indoor palm is the parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans), which thrives in low-light areas. Because there are a variety of palms that thrive indoors, many different options can complete your space. Choose a variant that is suitable for your household, as some types of palms (like the sago palm and cardboard palm) are toxic to pets. Follow this simple guide to indoor palm tree care, suited for most common indoor species.
- Botanical Name: Chamaedorea elegans
- Common Name: Parlor palm
- Plant Type: Palm tree
- Mature Size: 5 to 8 feet high
- Sun Exposure: Low to medium, indirect sun
- Soil Type: Well-drained cactus and palm soil, all-purpose potting mix
- Soil pH: 5.1–7.5
- Toxicity: Non-toxic
Indoor palm trees are relatively easy to grow and don't require a large time commitment. Fertilizer, water, and sun exposure are the main components of care. Check the soil frequently, keeping it consistently moist (especially during spring and summer). During this time, fertilize once a month with a houseplant fertilizer. Skip fertilizing during the winter months.
Since palm trees are a tropical species, they thrive in conditions with high humidity. Most indoor rooms don't provide enough moisture—especially when the air conditioning is on—so opt for a plant mister or humidifier to keep your trees growing healthy.
Add moisture around your palm tree by placing its pot atop a humidifying tray filled with pebbles and water, which allows water to evaporate around the plant.
Best Growing Conditions for Indoor Palm Trees
Keep your palm in an area where temperatures don't drop below 50 degrees at night. While some varieties—like parlor palms, kentia palms, and lady palms—can survive in dimmer spaces, most species do best with bright, indirect light. West- and south-facing windows are best for palms that require direct sun.
It's best to avoid direct sun for most indoor palms (except during the winter). Keep mature size in mind when choosing your variant, remembering that you might switch its location for proper sun exposure in different seasons. Since palms thrive in humid environments, they love living in bathrooms.
If your palm tree's leaves are turning yellow or brown and the soil feels wet to the touch, it's likely that the plant is overwatered. However, curled fronds, brown tips, and thin leaves all indicate that it's time to water your tree.
Types of Indoor Palm Trees
Palm trees offer foliage from fan-shaped fronds to colorful spikes, and, although they come from several different plant families, they require similar care to thrive.
Indoor palm trees include dwarf varieties like miniature date palms (Phoenix roebelenii) and European fan palms (Chamaerops humilis). Some varieties grow quite tall at maturity in nature—like the Christmas palm (Adonidia merrillii)—or have fanned leaves like banana palms (Musa acuminata) and fountain palms (Livistona chinensis), which need room for large fronds to spread out.
Still others, like lady palms (Rhapis excelsa) and parlor palms, can grow well in dimmer spaces. Some variants, such as the ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) and butterfly palm (Dypsis lutescens), are well-suited to the indoors because of their smaller size.
Others bring colorful features: The lipstick palm (Cyrtostachys renda), which thrives in direct sunlight, has red stems with feathery fronds. New leaflets of the flame thrower palm (Chambeyronia macrocarpa) emerge bright red before turning green.
How to Propagate Indoor Palm Trees
Propagating indoor palm trees from seed is best left to professional growers, but there are several ways to grow a new palm. Depending on the type, you might propagate by removing pups (or offsets) from the mother plant. You may also divide clumping varieties and "suckers" from some palm species to create new plants.
How to Propagate Indoor Palm Trees via Division
Clumping varieties of palm trees (like parlor palms) with several stems can be propagated by division. Here's how:
Step 1: Gather a few pots to hold stems from the mother plant. Fill them with a soilless mix, then moisten with water.
Step 2: Remove the mother plant from its container. Gently loosen the soil to expose the roots.
Step 3: Find established stem clumps with their own root systems. Using a clean, sharp gardening blade, separate the roots, taking care to leave each main root system intact.
Step 4: Plant each clump in its own pot. Keep the soil moist, and put your new plants in a warm, shady spot to recover. Care for them as usual.
It's best to propagate palm tree cuttings at the beginning of the spring growing season.
How to Propagate Indoor Palm Trees via Suckers
Some indoor palms (like lipstick palms) grow suckers, or new stems, straight from their roots. The plant doesn't typically have to be removed from its container in this method. Here's how to get started:
Step 1: Prepare containers with potting mix, then moisten with water.
Step 2: Gently loosen the soil around the base of the suckers you'd like to remove. Carefully pull up on each sucker and identify its roots.
Step 3: Using a clean, sharp blade, cut away the sucker, keeping its roots intact. Take care to avoid damaging the mother plant.
Step 4: Plant the sucker in the prepared container. Place the new plant in a shady, warm spot to recover, and keep the soil moist.
How to Propagate Indoor Palm Trees via Pups
Some palm variants (like miniature date palms, sago palms, and ponytail palms) grow pups from the mother plant. Allow the pup to grow for a few years before propagating so it can develop its own root system. Here's how to propagate:
Step 1: See if the pup can be removed by carefully removing soil to look for several roots at the base.
Step 2: Fill a new pot with a soilless potting mix, then moisten with water.
Step 3: Gently remove soil around the pup (and leave some attached to protect delicate roots). Using a clean, sharp blade, cut the pup away, ensuring it has several intact roots.
Step 4: Plant the pup in its pot, adding soil until the lowest leaves are above the soil's surface. Place a clear plastic bag over the plant to secure humidity, using chopsticks or pencils to keep it from touching leaves.
Step 5: Place the pup in a place with bright, indirect light, and keep the soil moist. When new leaves grow, remove the bag, and care for your palm as usual.
Common Problems With Indoor Palm Trees
While palm trees are generally easy to care for, you may encounter pests or brown, yellow, or dry leaves. Here's how to treat your palm:
Brown or Yellow Leaves
If your palm tree needs water, you'll notice brown, dry tips on its leaves. Conversely, an overwatered plant may have yellow leaves with a darker stem. Adjust watering needs as necessary to ensure your palm tree grows in its ideal conditions. If the base of the trunk is beginning to rot, repot the plant as soon as possible in fresh, well-draining soil.
Spider mites and other pests tend to target indoor palms. Check for spotted, curling, or dropping leaves, along with webbing on stems and the undersides of leaves. Treat spider mites quickly by pruning off infested branches, bagging them, and disposing of them in an outdoor trash can. Spray the palm with a mixture of 1.5 tablespoons neem oil to one quart warm water every three to five days to prevent pests from returning.
Potting and Repotting Indoor Palm Trees
Though they may appear overcrowded, indoor palm trees typically grow well in the same container for several years. Repot your palm during the spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing.
Use a well-draining potting soil as a growing medium. Parlor palms, like many other variants, can grow either in all-purpose soil or a soilless blend, like store-bought cactus or succulent mix. Make your own soilless mix with equal parts peat moss and either vermiculite or perlite.
How Long Can Palm Trees Live?
The lifespan of your palm depends on its species and its climate. Tropical outdoor trees can live up to 100 years.
How Fast Do Palm Trees Grow?
Many species of palms grow about 10 inches per year, but your plant will likely grow slower indoors.
Can Palm Trees Grow Anywhere?
Some types of palm trees can survive conditions as cold as zero degrees, which makes it possible for them to grow throughout much of the United States.
Are Palm Trees Easy to Care For?
Palm trees are popular houseplants thanks to their low-maintenance growing habits and simple care requirements.
Sago Palm. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Cardboard Palm. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Parlor Palm. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Goldstein, Guillermo, and Louis S. Santiago. Tropical Tree Physiology: Adaptations and Responses in a Changing Environment. Springer International Publishing, 2016
Maiti, Ratikanta, et al. Applied Biology of Woody Plants. American Academic Press, 2016