Everything You Need to Know About Growing and Caring for Broadleaf Lady Palms at Home
If you’re looking to add an elegant and exotic-looking indoor palm to your home, don’t pass by the broadleaf lady palm. Also known as the bamboo palm, Rhapis excelsa is a fan palm with stems that resemble bamboo stalks. These plants easily thrive as houseplants as long as you provide the proper environment and some basic ongoing care. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about successfully growing and nurturing broadleaf lady palm plants at home as well as uncovering their rich history and origins, meanings and symbolism, and most popular types available today.
- Broadleaf Lady Palm Care – The Essentials:
- About Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
- How to Grow Broadleaf Lady Palms (Rhapis excelsa) Indoors at Home
- Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) Care
- Common Rhapis excelsa Problems & How to Treat Them
- Essential Tools
- Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) FAQ
Broadleaf Lady Palm Care – The Essentials:
Broadleaf lady palms do best in well-draining fertile soil. Water when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry to the touch – every 7 to 10 days on average in spring and summer. Keep your lady palm in a location that predominantly receives indirect light and where the general ambient air temperature remains between 55F to 75F. Fertilize with a water-soluble houseplant feed once a month from April through to September each year.
About Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
Origins and History
Although relatives of the broadleaf lady palm are native to the forests of China and Taiwan, this species doesn’t exist in the wild. Rather, it’s found being cultivated in nurseries and homes. It’s possible this species was once native to China but is now extinct in the wild.
Historians aren’t sure who first cultivated this palm, but they do know it spread from China to Japan sometime around 1700. The Japanese began cultivating the plant and called it Kannon-chihu. They kept it outside temples and valued its beautiful appearance.
Eventually, people brought the broadleaf lady palm to Europe and North America.
Genus, Species, and Plant Family
The broadleaf lady palm is a member of the Arecaceae (palm) family and the Rhapis (lady palm) genus. Its species name is excelsa.
General Botanical Characteristics
Like most members of the lady palm genus, the broadleaf lady palm has green, fan-shaped leaves with multiple leaflets. As the plant grows older, the number of leaflets increases.
Rhapis excelsa is distinguished by its serrated leaf tips. Leaves sometimes develop thin yellow stripes.
Each of these leaves sits atop a long petiole attached to a tall stalk that resembles bamboo.
While these plants rarely flower indoors, they can produce flowers and fruit outdoors. The inflorescence contains many small yellow flowers that eventually turn into small white fruits.
Plant experts believe the broadleaf lady palm is native to China and Taiwan, but they’re unsure if any wild specimens still exist.
Popular Broadleaf Lady Palm Varieties
While specific cultivars aren’t always labeled in stores, there are several varieties available.
- ‘Gyokuho’ and ‘Kodaruma’ are dwarf varieties that grow only a few feet tall.
- ‘Zuikonishiki’ and ‘Chiyodazuru’ are variegated varieties.
Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) Meaning & Symbolism
The broadleaf lady palm was tied to wealth in Japan. Today, rare varieties of Rhapis excelsa can sell for upwards of $20,000. Yes, you read that right.
The broadleaf palm is known to help remove toxins from the air. Therefore, people sometimes used it as an air-purifying plant.
How to Grow Broadleaf Lady Palms (Rhapis excelsa) Indoors at Home
Broadleaf Lady Palm Growth Expectations
Broadleaf lady palms can grow over 15 feet tall outdoors, but they rarely grow over six feet tall indoors. They grow about one foot per year in the proper conditions.
What To Do Before Planting a Lady Palm
Before you plant your broadleaf lady palm, you’ll need to complete a few steps.
- Find a suitable location. Before you add a new plant to your house, it’s a good idea to know where you will put it. Find a space that can handle this palm’s size.
- Obtain a container. If you are transferring your palm from a nursery pot to a nicer container, choose one that is just a bit bigger than the original. Make sure the pot has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape.
How to Plant and Planting Options
Follow these steps to plant your broadleaf lady palm:
- Fill your container 1/4 full with a proper soil mix.
- Add the palm to the container.
- Fill in the rest of the pot with soil mix.
- Water in your plant.
When it comes to options for planting your palm, it’s best to choose a container that is at least two gallons. Since these plants can grow up to six feet tall indoors, place the pot on the ground or on a low plant stand.
What’s the Best Soil Mix for Broadleaf Lady Palms?
Broadleaf lady palms prefer a well-draining soil mix that also has water-holding capacity. The goal is to never let the soil dry out, but not have it be soaking wet either.
One option is to use a potting mix designed specifically for palms. The Kellogg Palm, Cacti, and Citrus Mix is one good product.
If you can’t find a soil mix designated for palms, an African violet potting mix will work well.
If you prefer to make your own potting soil, you can mix the following.
- 2 parts peat moss
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part pine bark fines
Broadleaf Lady Palm Light Preferences
This houseplant prefers part shade or indirect light. The most important thing to remember is to keep it out of direct light. If your plant is exposed to direct rays, its leaves will burn and its health will decline.
The following places are great locations for a broadleaf lady palm:
- A few feet away from a west, east, or north-facing window
- In the middle of a bright room
- In a hallway with a small window
Broadleaf Lady Palm Temperature & Humidity Preferences
Fortunately, this plant can handle quite a wide range of temperatures. Plants have been known to survive temperatures down to 40ºF and up to 90ºF. However to keep plants happiest, keep the air temperature between 55-75ºF.
Broadleaf lady palms prefer moderate humidity. If your home is very dry, mist the plant every few days with a water bottle.
Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) Care
When and How to Water Broadleaf Lady Palm Plants
Fortunately, this houseplant isn’t too difficult to water. When you’re watering your palm, keep the following in mind.
When to Water
There isn’t one perfect time of day to water your palm. Feel free to water in the morning, afternoon, or evening.
How Often to Water
Like many other houseplants, you want to allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. However, you don’t want the soil to dry out completely.
You should water your palm when the top one to two inches of soil is dry. Stick your finger into the soil near the base of the plant to check the moisture level.
Factors That Impact Your Watering Schedule
Be aware that various factors impact how often you’ll need to water.
- Time of year: Plants need less water in the winter and more water in the summer.
- Temperature: The higher the temperature, the more often you’ll need to water.
- Humidity: As the humidity increases, evaporation and transpiration decrease. That means you’ll need to water less often with high humidity.
Important Watering Considerations
When you water your palm, avoid getting water onto the leaves or splashing soil onto the plant. Both of these can lead to disease.
Instead, gently water your plant at its base.
Fertilizing Broadleaf Lady Palm Plants
While your broadleaf lady palm won’t require a lot of fertilizer, it will benefit from regular feedings.
Look for a liquid fertilizer designed for houseplants. Dilute the product to half the recommended strength and fertilize once a month from April to September.
Since your plant will slow its growth during the winter, there’s no need to apply fertilizer.
Pruning Broadleaf Lady Palms
Pruning your broadleaf lady palm can involve removing both healthy and dead plant tissue.
If you choose not to prune a healthy plant, its stalks and leaves will grow to form a dense shrub. However, you can also prune healthy leaves and stalks to make your plant a bit sleeker.
Use a pair of sharp and sanitized shears to remove leaves where the petiole attaches to the stalk. Avoid removing more than 10% of leaves at one time so you don’t stress the plant. You can also remove entire plant stalks by cutting the stalks at the soil surface.
While you don’t have to prune healthy tissue away, you should remove dead or diseased leaves and stalks. If you notice a few brown patches on your leaves, you don’t need to remove them. However, if you notice the discoloration is spreading, it’s best to remove the leaves.
Propagating Lady Palms
Rhapis excelsa can be propagated from seeds, but it takes a long time to develop a new plant. Therefore, growers typically grow new plants from rhizomes.
You may also propagate new palms via division or stem cuttings.
When and Hot to Repot a Broadleaf Lady Palm
These palms don’t mind being a bit snug in their containers, so you won’t have to repot them very often. Plan on repotting your broadleaf lady palm every two or three years.
When you repot, look for a pot that is a few inches bigger than your plant’s current container. Don’t forget to check for drainage holes!
Once you have your new pot, it’s time to remove your plant from its current container. Brush off any excess soil then add your plant to its new container. Fill the pot with new potting soil and water well.
Common Rhapis excelsa Problems & How to Treat Them
Root rot is a term used to describe various fungi that destroy plant roots. As the fungi destroy the plant’s roots, the rest of the plant begins to decline.
Some symptoms of root rot include stunted plants, yellow leaves, and wilting leaves. If you notice any of these, it’s a good idea to check your plant’s roots for any mushy or discolored spots.
Overwatering is one of the main causes of root rot. Many of the types of fungi that cause root rot thrive in moist environments.
If you think your plant has root rot, decrease how often you water. Additionally, make sure you are using well-draining potting soil as well as a planter with drainage holes.
If your plant is really suffering, remove the root ball from the planter. Trim off any infected roots and repot the plant with fresh potting soil.
There are various reasons why your plant’s leaves are turning yellow or brown. To figure out exactly what’s causing this discoloration, you’ll need to observe the environment as well as your plant’s history.
All of the following may be the cause of yellow or brown leaves.
- Too much water. If your plant is always sitting in wet soil, it won’t be able to obtain the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Make sure your pot has drainage holes, use a well-draining potting mix, and water only when the top inch of soil is dry.
- Not enough water. If you forget to water your plant for a few weeks, you may notice its leaves become yellow and dry. Make sure to water every one to two weeks during the summer.
- Nutrient deficiency. If you notice your plant’s leaves slowly turning yellow, they may be lacking nutrients like nitrogen or phosphorus. Add some fertilizer and wait a few weeks to see if the color improves.
Broadleaf lady palms generally don’t experience too many problems with pests, but numerous insects do attack the plants. Here are some common pests to watch out for as well as how to deal with them.
If you notice your plant is covered with a cottony-like substance, take a closer look. Mealybugs are soft-bodied insects that resemble white dust or cotton.
These insects suck the juices from your plant. Not only can this cause plant decline, but it can also lead to the introduction and spread of disease.
If you see a few mealybugs, you can wipe them off your plants with a wet, soapy towel. Alternatively, you can use insecticidal soap or neem oil to spray larger amounts.
Scale insects are another type of soft-bodied insects that suck plant juices. Their appearance varies between species, but they often group together to form a “scale” on top of the plant.
If you notice a small number of scale insects, you can remove them using a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. For larger infestations, it’s best to spray insecticidal soap or neem oil onto the insects.
You won’t need any special tools to care for the broadleaf lady palm. All you’ll need is a sharp pair of shears for pruning.
Now that you know a bit more about the broadleaf lady palm, it’s time to add one of these beautiful plants to your home.
Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) FAQ
Are lady palms toxic to cats and dogs?
Lady palms are non-toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets kept in the home.
How tall do lady palms get?
Whilst broadleaf lady palms can grow over 15 feet tall outdoors, they rarely grow over six feet tall indoors. They grow about one foot per year in most living environments.
How do you take care of a lady palm?
Broadleaf lady palms do best in well-draining fertile soil. Water when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry to the touch – every 7 to 10 days on average in spring and summer. Water thoroughly until excess starts to disperse from the potting container. Keep your lady palm in a location that predominantly receives indirect light and where the general ambient air temperature remains between 55F to 75F. Fertilize with a water-soluble houseplant feed once a month from April through to September each year.
How much light does a lady palm need?
Broadleaf lady palm plants prefer slightly shaded, indirect light conditions throughout the day. Avoid exposing your lady palm to extended periods of direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves.
What do Broadleaf Lady Palm symbolize?
Broadleaf Lady Palm plants are symbolic in many cultures of wealth and prosperity.