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Outdoor Parlor Palms: How To Care For Parlor Palm Outside

Outdoor Parlor Palms: How To Care For Parlor Palm Outside


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

One of the great classic plants from the 1800’s is the parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans), closely related to the bamboo palm. It was a common feature of the Victorian décor period, famous for its delicate foliage and hardiness in the home interior. As a houseplant, it can’t be beat, but can you grow parlor palms outdoors? Lucky growers in sub-tropical zones can cultivate outdoor parlor palms in the ground. The rest of us can try planting parlor palm outside in containers through summer and moving them indoors to protect them from chilly temperatures.

Outdoor Parlor Palms

If you are hooked on parlor palms and want to try growing them outside, there are a few things to know. These plants are native to Mexico and Guatemala and grow in dense rainforests, where lighting is dappled and moisture levels high. The palm is very sensitive to light, which makes it perfect in the interior and it even performs well in fluorescent light settings.

It is useful outside as part of a small garden with low-growing accent plants. Some further tips on how to care for parlor palm outside are necessary to prevent cultural problems and common pest issues.

Parlor palm plants are suitable for United States Department of Agriculture zones 10 to 10b. These are the regions where the plant will flourish in the ground. The plants grow slowly and may achieve 5 to 8 feet (1.5 to 2.5 m.) in height over many years.

Parlor palm has a deep green, single, glossy stem and arching, delicate fronds. Every few years it may bloom with clusters of small white flowers which yield to become tiny reddish black fruits. One of the biggest enemies of parlor palms is low humidity. Outdoor plants should be watered regularly in well-drained soil and misted if grown in arid regions.

Planting Parlor Palm Outside

In regions with little to no freezing, you can successfully grow these plants in the exterior landscape. In temperate zones, the plant makes a great accent patio plant in good sized containers with attendant tropical accents. These plants will need to be moved indoors at the end of summer to protect them from cold winds and freezes.

The best soil for a parlor palm has been amended with organic material and drains freely. Mulch around the root zone to conserve moisture. Fertilize the plant with a diluted balanced feed in early spring and every month until fall.

Location is an important consideration. Place the palm under the eaves or on a northern or eastern exposure. Avoid locations where the plant will receive noon day sun or foliage will burn.

How to Care for Parlor Palm Outside

Care of parlor palm outdoors is not really much different from houseplant care. These are low maintenance plants that just need regular moisture, food, and occasional pruning to remove old leaves.

Some insect pests that might become problematic are mites, nematodes, and scales. Scale can be removed manually in small infestations. Large problems can be dealt with using a good horticultural soap spray. Spider mites are common in plants grown with low humidity.

Another feature of good care of parlor palm outdoors is drainage. While it is true this plant likes moisture, it will not do well in boggy sites. Amend dry soil with organic material and dig gritty material into clay or clumping soil to loosen it up.

Outdoor container plants require the same care; just don’t forget to bring them indoors if you live in a cooler region.

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How to Grow Parlor Palm

Peter Carlsson / Getty Images

When you think of plants that create a lush, tropical vibe, which ones come to mind? Most likely, trailing pothos, glossy rubber trees, and the most recognizable tropical of them all: the parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans), part of the Chamaedorea family.

With vivid green coloring and elegant, feathery leaves, this slow-growing dwarf palm ranges from two to six feet tall in an indoor environment, making it a manageable large-sized houseplant.   Parlor palms can also adjust well to low light, which offers even more flexibility when considering where to display one in your home.

  • Botanical Name:Chamaedorea elegans
  • Common Name: Parlor palm, Neanthe bella
  • Plant Type: Palm
  • Mature Size: 2–6 feet high
  • Sun Exposure: Low to bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-drained cactus, palm, or potting mix
  • Soil pH: 5.1–7.5
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic  

Care Tips for Parlor Palms

The parlor palm is relatively easy to grow, which makes it a good plant for new or inexperienced gardeners. The plant thrives in indoor environments can to tolerate harsh conditions, including low light levels and cold temperatures. The parlor palm doesn’t need frequent watering either, making it fairly resistant to neglect.

If you want to grow a young parlor palm, you can either germinate a plant from seed or buy a plant at a nursery. It’s possible to propagate a parlor palm by splitting it at the root, but this can be traumatic for the plant. It’s better to grow the plant from seed, but this can be a difficult and time-consuming process for inexperienced gardeners. The easiest route for most homeowners is to buy a young, healthy palm grown from seed by a gardening store or nursery. Parlor palms tend to be relatively cheap, and considering their longevity, the initial price of the plant is often negligible.

In the spring, you can replant your parlor palm as needed into increasingly bigger pots. You should repot only when necessary. This plant has a weak root system and doesn’t like to be disturbed too much, so you should aim to keep the handling to a minimum. Only transfer plants when their roots have completely filled their current container.

When repotting, make sure to use a container enough holes drilled into the bottom. You should also choose a decent potting mix that allows for adequate drainage. The parlor palm isn’t picky, but the plant’s roots must have proper drainage in order to grow. Hannah Blanc goes over how to properly pot a parlor palm.

Once your plant is established and comfortable in its new home, you need to give it the right environment to promote healthy growth. While the parlor palm is relatively versatile, there are certain conditions that you can create to encourage and enhance the development of your plant.

  • Keep the palm at an average room temperature of around 65°F for optimal growth.
  • Don’t keep your plant at temperatures under 50°F for too long.
  • The parlor palm enjoys moderate, indirect light, but it can also grow in rooms with low light levels.
  • During the plant’s growing season in the spring, summer, and fall, feed your plant once every two weeks with a diluted liquid plant fertilizer to ensure that there are enough nutrients in the soil.
  • The parlor palm likes a little bit of humidity in the air, and misting with water on a regular basis can improve your plant’s overall health.
  • Water your plant when the soil begins to dry, being careful not to overwater.
  • When in brighter light, your plant will require more water, while it will require less water in lower lighting.
  • Reduce watering to a minimum in the winter, when your plant slows its growth.

You can learn more about growing parlor palms indoors from the experts at rifgarden.


The Parlor Palm—An Endangered Species?

The Chamaedorea species are among the world’s most endangered palm trees. This is mainly due to being one of the most commonly cultivated palms in the world. Parlor palm seeds, stems, and leaves are under threat from over-harvesting. An estimated 400 million seeds are exported throughout the world every year, most of these from Mexico. This has obviously had a devastating impact on its cultivation and its rainforest habit.

In the wild, parlor palm leaves (and others in the Chamaedorea family), are harvested and used as Xate (pronounced Shatay). The fronds are used throughout the world in the floral industry, especially in funeral flowers and Palm Sunday decor. One of the benefits of using these fronds is that they can last up to an impressive 40 days after being cut.


Dwarf Sugar Palm (Arenga engleri)

The dwarf sugar palm adds a decorative touch to a small front yard or backyard

The dwarf sugar palm is a multi-stemmed small palm tree. Its clumping growth nature results in a bushy palm that resembles a large shrub. The palm grows to around 8 ft (2.4 m) tall and is identified by green pinnate leaves that seem to grow out the ground.

Many consider the dwarf sugar palm to be one of the best landscaping palms. The miniature fern-like palm bush thrives in USDA zones 10B and 11.

Landscape uses of this palm tree: Plant a dwarf sugar palm as a specimen tree in a tropical garden. Or, you can plant the low palm bushes together to create a tropical privacy screen.


How Do You Divide Parlour Palms?

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 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.

Materials You'll Need

  • Garden hose
  • Container for the new division
  • Knife
  • Soil with adequate drainage
  • Water

Directions

  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.

Note: 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. The plants are generally cheap and sold at many garden centers.


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