The parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans) is a compact indoor palm with attractive light green fronds. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, it's also known as Neanthe bella, parlor palm (United States spelling), good luck palm, chamaedorea palm and dwarf mountain palm. It’s been a popular house plant since Victorian times, where it was shown off in the parlour, the best room in the house. It's often sold as a clump of several young plants.
The parlour palm is a low maintenance plant that's tolerant of low light levels and dry air. It's a good air purifier too, capable of filtering and purifying stagnant air. It's very slow growing and may produce sprays of tiny yellow flowers, followed by black fruits, when mature. Parlour palm is not toxic to dogs or cats.
For best results, grow your parlour palm in house plant compost in a bright spot, shaded from full sun. Water regularly during the growing season and feed monthly. During winter, keep the compost on the dry side. Repot pot-bound plants in spring.
How to grow parlour palm
The parlour palm is a low maintenance plant but a bit of extra care will keep it looking good. Keep out of direct sunlight and water only when the top few centimetres of compost have dried out in spring in summer; reduce watering in winter. Feed with liquid feed once a month in spring and summer. Mist the plant a few times a week.
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Parlour palm: jump links
- Where to grow a parlour palm
- How to care for a parlour palm
- How to care for a parlour palm
- How to propagate a parlour palm
- Parlour palm problem-solving
Where to grow a parlour palm
Parlour palms do best in bright, indirect light but will tolerate a bit of shade. Avoid direct sunlight, as this will scorch the leaves, and keep away from draughts. Parlour palms need a warm room – ideally around 18°-24°C, with a minimum of 10°C.
How to plant a parlour palm
Plant your parlour palm into a mix of soil-based and peat-free, multi-purpose compost, into a pot with drainage holes. Parlour palms do best when snug in their pot so only repot when rootbound (you'll see roots coming out of the bottom of the pot). Repot into a slightly larger pot only, in spring. You may need to do this only every three years.
Caring for a parlour palm
Water thoroughly whenever the top few centimetres of compost have become dry – this may be quite frequent in warm weather. Ensure that the compost is evenly moist but not soggy and let any excess drain away. Water less in winter, keeping the soil just moist.
Parlour palms can tolerate dry air but it can cause the leaf tips to turn brown. Mist a couple of times a week to prevent this.
Cut off any brown fronds at the base – it's normal for these to die off from time to time. Feed once a month in spring and summer with a weak liquid fertiliser.
Wipe the leaves occasionally to remove dust. A quick solution is to stand your plant under a tepid shower, or even better – stand it outside during a summer downpour.
How to propagate a parlour palm
The best way to propagate parlour palm is by dividing it. When you repot the plant in spring, you may find that a stem at the edge comes away naturally. Alternatively, you can cut a stem or clump away using a sharp knife. Make sure some roots are attached. Repot into a fresh pot of potting compost.
If your plant has flowered and produced fruits, you could let the fruits dry out then have a go at sowing the seeds. They need a temperature of 27°C to germinate, so you'll need a heated propagator.
Growing parlour palm: problem solving
Brown leaf tips are common on parlour palms. The main reason is that the air is too dry. It may also be too cold, or the plant may have been under watered. You can cut the brown tips off, but don’t cut into green growth as this will just create brown tips again.
Yellowing leaves is normal on lower leaves as they age. Widespread yellow leaves on your parlour palm could mean that the plant is sitting in too much direct sun. It could also be due to under-watering.
Brown fronds at the base are normal – just cut these away. Widespread brown leaves could indicate overwatering – parlour palms do not like sitting in cold, soggy compost.
Brown patches could be caused by sunburn. Move your plant out of direct sunlight.
Dull leaves that have lost their shine could mean that the atmosphere isn’t humid enough. Misting will help.
Red spider mite can affect areca palms. The leaves and stems of the plant will be covered in fine webbing and the upper surface of the leaf becomes mottled. If you look carefully, using a magnifying glass, you will see mites and eggs on the undersides of the leaves. Improve air circulation boost humidity. Alternatively, use sprays containing, fatty acids or plant oils.
Mealybugs may be a problem – look out for insects that look like white, fluffy blobs on the undersides of leaves. Wipe them off with a damp cloth or cotton bud that has been soaked in an insecticide that contains fatty acids or plant oils. Keep checking the leaves, as mealybugs can be hard to eradicate.
You may also spot scale insects – small, brown sap sucking insects that are around 6mm long. Wipe off as with a cotton bud or cloth soaked with an insecticide containing fatty acids.