Parlor palms, or Chamaedorea elegans, are a type of palm that stays relatively small, maxing out at 4 feet in height. They’re great for indoor gardeners as they require much less sun than your average palm. For growers like me, who live in cold climates, they’re also a fun way to bring a warm, vacation-like vibe to your space.
In my experience, these plants are easy-care but take some time to get to know, as parlor palms don’t react as visibly as some plants to differing conditions. I was never sure my first one was happy until it began unfurling new fronds that spring!
With some thought, you too can have a gorgeous Parlor Palm (chamaedorea elegans) inside—or outside!—your home.
The Parlor Palm, also known as Neanthe Bella Parlor Palm, in windowsill
When to Water Parlor Palm
Water until the soil is evenly saturated, but not soggy. Water again after the soil has dried out completely. You can tell the soil is dry with your finger, or by inserting a chopstick into the soil and checking for dampness. The pot will also feel lightweight.
Parlor Palm likes to dry out slightly between waterings, but not so long as you’d let a succulent go without water.
Water less frequently in the winter, as the plant’s growth slows outside of the growing season.
How Much Light to Give Your Parlor Palm
These low-light plants are perfectly happy in northern-facing windowsills with low light or indirect light. Don’t confuse low-light or indirect light for no-light, however, as they do require sun just like every other plant. It is just that low light or indirect light is sufficient.
Also don’t be afraid to offer higher lighting conditions if you have them available, as parlor palms will reward you by flourishing with new growth in a western or even southern-facing sill.
Avoid direct sunlight, like the type of sun the plant might get outdoors in an unshaded area.
Parlor Palm (Neanthe Bella) at garden center
Parlor Palm Hardiness
Parlor Palms thrive in temperatures above 50 degrees. It’s not a good idea to grow them outdoors if your winters get cooler than this.
Insulate your windowsill plants from the winter as well by moving them a couple of inches back.
Extreme heat can also be dangerous for these plants. With temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, there is a risk of burn, especially if the plant is in direct sunlight.
What Soil is best for Parlor Palm?
Plant in well-draining soil. It shouldn’t clump or retain water heavily, but should provide enough moisture for the plant to thrive. An African Violet mix is an excellent choice, as is a mixture of half succulent soil and half perlite.
Feel free to experiment with different mixtures until you find one that works best for you, as humid climates may require more drainage and drier climates less.
A new frond on a parlor palm
When to Fertilize Parlor Palm
Fertilize these plants regularly during the growing season, from Spring to Summer. Be sure not to apply too much, as this can burn the plant.
Don’t feed the plant in Autumn and Winter, as the plant begins its dormancy period.
You can feed your plants with a store-bought mix, or even make your own fertilizer or liquid plant feed.
Pruning Parlor Palm
When pruning, consider that the plant grows from fronds. If you cut a frond, it will stop growing and you’ll have to wait for the plant to produce more.
If you’re trying to prune dried or damaged leaves while retaining the plant’s bushy appearance, trim the tiny leaves which grow from the fronds back instead, or simply trim the dried tips off of the plant.
Parlor Palms grow slowly, so cutting the plant back considerably isn’t recommended.
New, light green growth on a Parlor Palm
Repotting Parlor Palm
These slow-growing plants don’t need repotted often. Before repotting, check the plant’s roots. If they haven’t yet filled the pot, it doesn’t need another one. If they have, move up one size.
When you do repot this plant, take care not to damage the fragile root system. Gently squeeze the sides of plastic pots to loosen the roots and make the plant easier to remove. With clay or ceramic pots, you can try dumping the plant out rather than yanking it free.
You’ll likely see during the process that your Parlor palm is actually multiple plants in the same pot. You can separate them if you like, but it isn’t recommended due to slow growth and the time it will take your plants to recover after division.
If you’re repotting in a new medium, remove as much old soil as possible from the root system. This will ensure the plant is watered evenly and the moisture level isn’t different near the roots where old soil remains.
When repotting in the same medium, loosen the roots slightly to encourage new growth.
Place up to a few inches of soil at the bottom of the new pot, enough to raise the plant to the desired level. Set the plant inside and cover the roots with fresh soil. Pack the soil down tightly by pressing with your fingers.
Lastly, give the plant a deep watering. This may also be a good time to shower your plant, rinsing dust and debris from the leaves. This helps the plant take in light and also reduces the chance of a pest infestation.
Can You Propagate Parlor Palm?
Parlor Palms are typically grown from seed, as propagating them is a complicated process. If you do want to propagate, the easiest way is through division.
Keep in mind that your plants may take a number of months to recover from the division process. The more careful you are not to damage the root system, the less time it will take for the plants to heal.
These plants are slow-growing though, and so recovery takes time.
A palm that’s been chewed by cats
Is Parlor Palm Toxic?
If your cat is like mine and likes to nibble on your Parlor Palm, there’s no need to worry. These plants are non-toxic to dogs and cats. They are also non-toxic to people.
That said, cats are very attracted to the plant in my experience. If you want to keep it looking nice, keep it far out of reach!
Parlor Palm Pests and Diseases
Yellow leaves typically indicate overwatering. If your plant’s leaves begin to yellow, cut back on watering. Also make sure it’s planted in well-draining soil and in a pot with at least one drainage hole.
Brown leaf tips can indicate under-watering or lack of humidity. If the entire leaf has turned brown and looks dry, the plant likely needs to be watered more frequently.
If the leaves look dark brown and rotted, this could indicate root rot.
Root rot occurs when a plant is overwatered or has been left in wet soil for too long. This is why it’s important to have adequate drainage both in the pot and the plant’s soil.
When a plant has root rot, its roots will appear dark or may rot away entirely. Once the roots are damaged, the plant can no longer take in water and will eventually die.
Often, you’ll see the first signs in the stems or leaves of the plant, which turn dark brown or black in color. It’s too late to undo the damage at this point.
Mealybugs are white pests that leave sticky residue on plant leaves. Another sign of mealybugs is if there are ants around the plant, as they will sometimes carry the pests to plants and farm them for the honeydew they produce.
Mealybugs can spread to other plants, so keep infected plants away from the rest of your houseplant collection.
To get rid of a mealybug infestation, first remove all visible bugs. Then treat the plant and soil with either a homemade solution, neem oil, or a pesticide. If treating with chemicals, keep it out of children and pet’s reach.
It’s difficult to see Spider Mites as they are so small. Many gardeners see the webs these pests make before they spot the pests themselves.
If you suspect your plant is infested, remove it from the rest of your collection to prevent the pest from spreading.
To get rid of Spider Mites, wash the plant down with soapy water. Treat the plant and soil with either a homemade solution, neem oil, or pesticide.
Keep plants treated with chemicals out of reach of pets and children.
A palm leaf outdoors
If you have bugs flying near your plant, these are likely fungus gnats. These pests reproduce in wet soil. The fastest way to get rid of them is to keep the top of the soil dry, as this is where they lay their eggs.
You can do so by bottom-watering the plant and removing it from the water source before the water reaches the top inch of soil.
Catch adult gnats with sticky tape.
You can also use pesticides, but remember to keep treated plants far out of reach of pets and children.