How to Grow and Divide Parlour Palms

Updated on September 11, 2018
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Sean has been in the industry of gardening and landscaping since 2006. He is also a certified arborist that tends to focus on plant health.

Parlour palm (chamaedorea elegans) is relatively small and can easily be grown and cared for indoors, thus making it the ideal houseplant.
Parlour palm (chamaedorea elegans) is relatively small and can easily be grown and cared for indoors, thus making it the ideal houseplant. | Source

Parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans) is often grown as a houseplant but can also be grown outside in subtropical climates. It grows slow and takes years to reach optimal size—up to 4 feet tall inside and up to 10 feet tall if grown in ideal conditions outside. The palms have slender stems that feature blade-like inflorescences that are considered a delicacy in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Caring for parlour palms is relatively easy, and their size makes them perfect as houseplants. It is one of the most popular houseplants due to its ease of care and minimal light requirements. Yet, proper watering and fertilizing is still essential to keep the palms healthy. Preparing the proper soil is also very important when growing the plant. Ideal soil consistency prevents waterlogging, which promotes disease and root rot.

Growing more parlour palms is easy as well. Propagation via division turns an overcrowded, dense plant into two or more clumps that can be transplanted immediately into another container or area.

This article will reveal everything you need to know to provide optimal care for this verdant and strong plant.

Perlite and sphagnum moss helps to increase or slow down drainage in soils.
Perlite and sphagnum moss helps to increase or slow down drainage in soils. | Source

What Kind of Soil Do Parlour Palms Need?

A loamy soil with adequate drainage is ideal for parlour palms. Soil that is too sandy will dry out quickly but can be amended by mixing in mulch or potting soil. This will help retain water and slow down drainage. Soil that is dense with clay will retain too much water and prevent drainage. This can be amended by using sand, perlite, and/or mulch. Preparing soil for planting is vital whether potting houseplants or sowing a garden.

Soil that resists drainage allows water to remain stagnant around the roots. Waterlogged soil is the main cause of root rot. This occurs when the roots are saturated over time with no access to air. Root rot can harm and kill parlour palms if left unchecked.

How Much Light Do They Need?

Parlour palms desire bright, filtered light during the morning and evening hours. Direct afternoon sunlight may cause discoloring. The plant is not very picky about the light it receives and does very well in a windowsill or adjacent to a window.

The general rule is that if the palm casts a shadow, then the light requirement is being met just fine.

How Often Should You Water Parlour Palms?

Parlour palms prefer high humidity but tend to grow just fine in medium- to low-humidity household environments. Watering depends on how much light the palm receives. If the plant sits in a sunny window all day, then watering will be needed two to three times per week. Watering may only be needed once a week if the palms are in a semi-shaded area. Allow the soil to become somewhat dry before watering again. Pay attention to how damp the soil is between watering and adjust as needed.

Over-watering is guaranteed to harm and eventually kill parlour palms. The plant cannot sit in waterlogged soil day after day. Drainage trays should be poured out after watering to prevent stagnant water from surrounding the roots.

Misting the palm a few times a week supplements regular watering and helps keep the humidity high.

Feed parlour palms with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once a month.
Feed parlour palms with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once a month. | Source

When Should You Fertilize Your Plant?

Parlour palms will need a little bit of fertilizer every month during the spring and summer. A water-soluble fertilizer is preferred over granular fertilizers. An all-purpose 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer—representing equal parts nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium—is perfect for parlour palms. Autumn and winter months will require less fertilizer, and palms should only be fed once every two months.

Be very careful not to over-fertilize. Applying too much fertilizer will cause irreversible damage to the roots and leaves. If you're concerned about over-fertilizing, simply divide the amount stated on the package directions by half. Applying less fertilizer will never harm the plant. And you can always slightly increase how much fertilizer you give the plant over time until an ideal amount is reached.

A clump of parlour palm that has been divided in half.
A clump of parlour palm that has been divided in half. | Source

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.

Newly divided parlour palm.
Newly divided parlour palm. | Source

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