The bamboo palm (Rhapsis excelsa) is an elegant evergreen fan palm. It has bamboo-like stems and fronds of long dark green leaves with blunt ends, making it an unusual, yet attractive, house plant. Several other house plants are also referred to as the bamboo palm, including Dypsis lutescens (also known as the Areca palm, golden cane palm or butterfly palm) and Chamaedorea seifrizii.


Rhapsis excelsa (also known as the lady palm or broadleaf lady palm) is believed to have originated from the forests of south-eastern China, although there are no known plants remaining in the wild. They're long-lived and slow-growing, ideal for beginners as well as more experienced growers. The bamboo palm has received the renowned RHS Award of Garden Merit.

How to grow bamboo palm

Grow Rhapsis excelsa in a shady or partially shaded spot and keep compost moist, but not too wet, in the growing season. There are no disadvantages to growing bamboo palm, provided you have enough space to accommodate a plant that can reach an eventual height of 2m, and could even reach 4m after many years.

Where to grow bamboo palm

Bamboo palm leaves. Getty Images
Bamboo palm (Rhapsis excelsa). Getty Images

Bamboo palm thrives in light shade and is also tolerant of low light levels, making it a great plant for a hall or a shady area of a living room. It can be grown in other rooms too, such as bedrooms – anywhere where there is sufficient shade. If it's placed in deep shade, it will need to be moved into a spot with higher light levels in winter.

Bamboo palm grows best in moderate humidity, meaning it copes well with normal household conditions, but you can also grow it in more humid rooms, such as a shady bathroom. Keep plants away from cold draughts and heat sources like radiators.

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How to plant bamboo palm

When your plant arrives, it should be fine in its pot, just placed in a decorative outer container, unless it's severely root-bound. Rhapsis excelsa can stay in the same pot for two or three years, as it doesn’t mind being slightly root-bound.

Repot your plant in spring into the next size of container, using a peat-free soil-based compost with added perlite to improve drainage.

How to care for bamboo palm

Bamboo palm leaves. Getty Images
Bamboo palm leaves. Getty Images

Ensure the compost remains moist during spring and summer, but don’t let your plant sit in water. Reduce watering in winter, checking that the top of the compost has dried out between waterings. Plants benefit from misting every few days in summer.

Feed your bamboo palm two or three times during the growing season with a balanced liquid fertiliser. As fronds age, they become brown and should be trimmed off near the trunk of the plant.

How to propagate bamboo palm

Propagate bamboo palm from seed or by division, which is the quicker and easier option. Divide plants by removing offsets at the base of the plant in spring. Dip in hormone rooting powder if the offset doesn’t have roots, then pot up in free-draining soil-based compost. Water thoroughly and place in partial shade.


Pests and diseases

Rhapsis excelsa is generally considered a problem-free house plant, though it can sometimes be affected by red spider mite and scale insects.

Buying advice

  • Make sure you can provide the right conditions for a bamboo palm – they need partial or full shade, and moderate humidity levels

  • Bamboo palms can grow to 3-4m in height, so make sure you have enough room

  • Check your plant doesn't show any signs of pests or diseases

Where to buy bamboo palm

Frequently asked questions

Why does my bamboo palm keep dying?

If your bamboo palm has yellowing leaves or mushy brown stems, it's likely to have been overwatered and started to rot at the root. Make sure your pot has good drainage holes and the compost is free-draining. Reduce your watering and only water again once the compost is almost completely dry.

Dry, crispy foliage suggests that your palm is being underwatered or that it's positioned in direct sunlight. Ensure that it has enough shade and water as soon as the top of the compost dries out.

Can you cut the top off a bamboo palm?

You can prune dying leaves off near the stem, but don’t cut the top, or crown, off your plant.