Best Soil Types for Parlor Palms to Thrive

My Parlor palms (Chamaedorea elegans) grow best in loose and well-draining potting soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. I find a soil mix ratio of two parts peat moss, one part perlite, and one part sand works incredibly well. The peat moss will allow for water and nutrient-holding, while the perlite and sand will increase aeration and drainage. Make sure you’re setting your Parlor palm up for success with this helpful guide to the best soil types.

The Best Soil Mix for Parlor Palms (Essential Tips)

The Importance of Well-Draining Potting Soil for Parlor Palms

If you use a soil mix that doesn’t provide proper drainage, your parlor palm will sit in wet soil. Over time, this can lead to root rot.

As plant roots decay, they are unable to take up water and nutrients. This means your plant may appear wilted or malnourished. While you may be tempted to add more water or nutrients, this will just harm your palm even more.

Soil mixes that are very high in organic matter, and clay can deal with drainage issues. While it’s OK to use some organic matter in a parlor palm potting mix, you’ll also need to add other components.

In my experience, incorporating perlite, vermiculite, pumice, or sand will improve drainage and help create a perfect base for your palm to grow.

The Ultimate Parlor Palm Plant Potting Mix Home Recipe

A person repotting a small parlor palm on a white work top indoors whilst wearing yellow gloves

If you’d like to make your own parlor palm potting soil, you’ll only need three components: peat moss, perlite, and sand.

Parlor palms prefer neutral or slightly acidic soil. Look for soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. The peat moss will help hold water and nutrients while also lowering the pH. Both the perlite and sand will help with drainage and aeration.

Here’s the soil mix ratio I use:

  • Two parts peat moss
  • One part perlite
  • One part sand

Make sure to thoroughly combine the components before adding the mix to a pot.

The Best Pre-Mixed Soils

When you’re looking for pre-mixed soil for your parlor palm, you’ll want to look for a peat moss or coco coir-based mix. You’ll also want to check that the soil contains materials that allow excess water to drain.

Here are a few mixes that I’ve found work well for parlor palms (via Amazon):

Common Signs You’re Using the Wrong Soil Mix

Using the wrong soil mix for your parlor palm can lead to numerous plant issues. If you spot any of the following problems, you might be using the wrong potting mix.

Yellow Leaves

A wide variety of factors can cause yellow or brown leaves. However, it’s worth investigating if the wrong soil mix is to blame.

When you use a soil mix that doesn’t drain well, the soil and plant roots stay wet for an extended period of time. This can lead to root rot. In turn, plants are unable to take up water and nutrients.

When plants can’t take up the water and nutrients they need, they often experience discoloration.

For more, see our in-depth guide to watering parlor palms at home.

Wilting Leaves

Another possible sign common that you’re using the wrong potting mix is wilted leaves. This is common in most types of indoor palm trees and can be caused by potting mixes that drain too much water and those that don’t drain enough water.

If you use a mix that’s too high in sand, perlite, or other coarse materials, water will drain right through. Therefore, parlor palms won’t be able to take up the water they need.

Alternatively, potting mixes that are too high in clay or organic matter can hold onto excess water. This extra moisture can cause root rot, which prevents plant roots from taking up water.

Why Soil Choice Matters

Along with appropriate light, and regular watering, the soil is essential to parlor palm plants. However, not all soils are the same. Choosing the proper soil mix allows your plant to complete essential functions.

A proper soil:

  • Provides plants with a place to anchor their roots physically.
  • Allows for proper gas exchange.
  • Holds moisture and allows excess water to drain.
  • Moderates temperature.
  • Holds nutrients until plants can take them up.
  • Provides an environment for beneficial microorganisms.

Basic Soil Types

Natural soils are classified based on three primary particles: sand, silt, and clay. These particles are classified by their size. Sand particles are the largest, followed by silt and then clay.

As you might imagine, most soils are not 100% of one particle. Instead, they’re a mixture of these three particles. That means you can have a loamy clay or a sandy loam.

Since clay soils are composed of tiny particles, they are slow-draining. However, they are good at retaining nutrients as well as moisture.

Silt soils are in between clay and sand soils. They have medium drainage and water-holding capacities.

Sandy soils are composed primarily of sand. While they are good at draining excess water, they dry out quickly and can’t hold many nutrients.

Loamy soils contain relatively similar amounts of sand, silt, and clay. They have a good balance of water-holding and drainage.

Peat soils contain a large amount of peat—this type of organic matter forms when vegetation decomposes under acidic, anaerobic environments. You can also add peat moss to soil to improve texture.

What Are the Primary Components Used In a Potting Soil Mix?

When it comes time to make or buy a potting mix, you’ll find you can choose from many different components. While you don’t have to use all of these in a potting mix, it’s helpful to learn what each one is.

  • Compost is decomposed organic matter. High-quality compost will not only increase nutrient and water holding, but it will also provide a boost of beneficial microbes.
  • Sphagnum peat moss is slightly acidic organic matter that was decomposed under wet, anaerobic conditions. It improves aeration and drainage as well as water-holding abilities.
  • Coco Coir is made from coconut husk. Some think of it as a sustainable alternative to peat moss.
  • Vermiculite is an expanded mineral that is used to improve aeration and drainage.
  • Pine Bark Fines are small pieces of pink bark used to improve aeration and drainage.
  • Pumice is a volcanic rock filled with tiny pockets. It is used to improve aeration and drainage while also allowing the soil to hold water.
  • Perlite is an expanded mineral that is used to improve aeration and drainage.
  • Sand can be used to increase drainage.
  • Soil activators are mixtures of beneficial microorganisms that help nutrients become available for plant uptake.
  • Rocks and pebbles can increase drainage and aeration.

Parlor Palm Soil FAQs:

How often should I switch soil for my Parlor Palm? 

If your parlor palm is healthy, you’ll need to switch the soil every three to five years. However, if your plant becomes diseased or infested with insects, you’ll need to replace your soil ASAP.

Can I use cactus soil for Parlor Palms?

While you can use cactus soil for parlor palms, it isn’t the best choice. If you have cactus soil on hand, consider adding extra peat moss or coco coir before using it for palms.

Do Parlor Palms like wet or dry soil?

Parlor palms like soil that is neither wet nor dry. Soil should remain moderately moist but not wet.

What are the primary considerations for soil when repotting Parlor Palms?

When it’s time to repot a parlor palm, you’ll want to choose a potting soil that is well-draining yet able to hold some water. When you repot, it’s best to replace all of the old soil with new soil.

Does the size of the plant affect the soil mix for Parlor Palms? 

No, the size of your parlor palm does not affect the best soil mix. All sizes of palms prefer a similar soil mix.

Does the potting container influence the type of soil mix for Parlor Palms?

No, the type of pot does not impact the best soil mix. However, you should note that soil in terra cotta pots often dries out quicker than soil in plastic or glazed ceramic pots.

Do Parlor Palms need deep potting containers?

The size of the container depends on the size of the parlor palm. Containers should be large enough to hold the plant’s root ball but not much bigger.

Wrapping Up

Now that you know the best soil mix for parlor palms, it’s time to give your palm a home it can enjoy. For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position Parlor palms in the home for optimal care and Feng Shui benefits.

Contributing Editor | | Full Bio

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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