How to Grow (and Propagate) Your Indoor Palm Tree

palm tree growing in living room with gray couch, white carpet and wicker furniture

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Indoor palm trees are a great way to bring a lush, tropical look to your space. These easy-growing, attractive plants come in a variety of sizes, colors, and shapes that can liven up your interior without being high maintenance. One of the most common indoor palms is the parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans), which is great in low-light spaces. Because there are so many variants that thrive indoors, you'll want to choose a palm species that fits your aesthetic—and use this simple guide to palm tree care suited for most common types.

Read on to find the best growing conditions for your indoor palm tree, and learn how to propagate it.

  • Botanical Name: Chamaedorea elegans
  • Common Name: Parlor Palm
  • Plant Type: Palm Tree
  • Mature Size: Six to 16 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Low to medium indirect sun
  • Soil Type: Well-draining cactus and palm soil, all-purpose potting mix
  • Soil pH: 5.1 to 7.5
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic

How to Care for Your Indoor Palm Tree

Indoor palm trees are relatively easy to grow. Fertilizer, water, and sun exposure are the main components of care: Check the soil frequently, and be sure to keep 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. 

Though they may appear overcrowded, indoor palm trees typically grow well in the same container for several years. 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 mix). Make your own soilless mix with equal parts peat moss and either vermiculite or perlite.

Best Growing Conditions for Your Indoor Palm Tree

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 specific variants 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 you might switch its location for proper sun exposure in different seasons. Since palms thrive in humid environments, bathrooms are a great location if you have enough space.

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Indoor Palm Tree Variants

Palm variants offer foliage from fan-shaped fronds to colorful spikes, and though 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 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 leaves to spread out. 

Still others, like lady palms (Rhapis excelsa) and parlor palms, can grow well in dimmer spaces. Some variants like the ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) and butterfly palm (Dypsis lutescens) are well-suited 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 Your Indoor Palm Tree

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 variant, you might propagate by removing pups—baby plants—that the mother plant produces. You may also divide clumping varieties and "suckers" from some indoor variants into new palms.

How to Propagate Indoor Palm Trees Via Division

Clumping varieties of palm trees (like parlor palms) with several healthy stems can be propagated by division. 

Step 1: Gather a few pots to hold stems from the mother plant. Fill the pots with a soilless mix, then moisten with water. 

Step 2: Remove the mother plant from its container. Gently loosen the soil with your fingers to expose the bare roots. 

Step 3: Find healthy-looking, established stem clumps with their own root system. Using a clean, sharp gardening blade, cut roots connecting the clumps (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, then care for them as usual. 

When you repot indoor palm tree cuttings, it’s best to do it at the beginning of the growing season in early spring. 

How to Propagate Indoor Palm Tree 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. 

Step 1: Identify the suckers you'd like to remove. Prepare containers with potting mix, then moisten with water. 

Step 2: Gently loosen the soil around the base of the sucker. Carefully pull up on the sucker and identify its roots. 

Step 3: Using a clean, sharp blade, cut away the sucker, keeping its root system 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 Tree 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 to develop its own root system.

Step 1: See if the pup can be removed by carefully removing soil to look for several healthy 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, leaving some attached to protect delicate roots. Using a clean, sharp blade, cut the pup away, taking care to ensure it has several intact roots. 

Step 4: Plant the pup in its pot, adding soil until the lowest leaves are just 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 any leaves.

Step 5: Keep 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 Growing Problems

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 ½ tablespoons neem oil to a quart of warm water every three to five days to prevent pests from returning. 

If your palm tree needs water, you'll notice brown, dry tips on its leaves. On the contrary, 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.

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