Garden filled with palmlike plants.

What You Need to Know About the Palmlike Plants

With their exotic, architectural foliage, palms make wonderful specimen plants. They can be used on their own as a dramatic focal point or in a group of other plants to give height and structure to the arrangement. Although they seldom flower or fruit indoors, unless conditions are ideal, the glossy leaves are so attractive that this is not important.

They enjoy warm growing conditions, as they originate in countries with a hot (or even tropical) cli mate, and need good indirect light, although the amount of humidity varies from species to species. The leaves (fronds) are either pinnate, with many small leaflets arising from a long central midrib, or palmate, where the leaflets fan out from the leaf-stalk. Only a few new fronds are produced each year, and older ones tend to be shed from the base, leaving an attractive textured or scarred trunk.


Areca Palm - Palmae Chrysalidocarpus Lutescens in a pot.

What You Need to Know About the Areca Palm – Palmae Chrysalidocarpus Lutescens

The waxy stems of the dramatic areca palm or yellow palm grow in clusters, producing yellowish green fronds that are first upright, then arching over as the feathery green leaflets unfurl. Mature fronds can be up to 6½ ft. (2 m) long, with up to 60 leaflets (pinnae) on either side of the midrib (rachis). Growth is relatively slow, with only about 8 in. (20 cm) added each year.

The remains of old fronds leave the stem marked Like a bamboo cane. This plant needs some space, but gives an instant rain forest, effect in a warm conservatory or sunroom. It originates from the Indian Ocean islands, such as Madagascar, Comoros, and Pemba. Size Height to 5 ft. (1.5 m) in about 10 years.

Light: Indirect sunlight.

Temperature: Normal room.

Moisture: Keep thoroughly moist.

Feeding: Standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks from spring to fall.

Propagation: Remove suckers in spring, ideally about 1 ft. (30 cm) long, with plenty of roots.

Special needs: Reduce watering to a bare minimum if the temperature falls below 55°F (12°C).


Kentia Palm - Palmae Howea Fosteriana in a pot.

What You Need to Know About the Kentia Palm – Palmae Howea Fosteriana

The Kentia palm originates from the Lord Howe Islands in the Pacific Ocean, off eastern Australia. It is a tolerant plant, which seems to thrive in a wide range of indoor conditions, and makes a very attractive specimen, particularly as it grows taller, but it does need plenty of room to grow well. The graceful, dark green foliage, borne on tall, straight leaf­stalks, is almost flat in appearance, with the many long leaflets drooping only slightly on each side of the raised midrib.

Size: Height 8 ft. (2.5 m).

Light: Any, except deep shade.

Temperature: Normal room; winter minimum 55°F (12°C).

Moisture: Keep soil thoroughly moist from spring to fall. During the win­ter, apply only enough water to pre­vent the soil from drying out.

Feeding: Use standard liquid fertilizer once a month from spring to fall.

Propagation: Sow fresh seed (rarely produced on indoor plants) at a tem­perature of 80°F (25°C).

Special needs: Wipe the leaves peri­odically with tepid water to remove build-up of dust.


Licuala Plant - Palmae Licuala Grandis.

What You Need to Know About the Licuala Plant – Palmae Licuala Grandis

A small palm from the New Hebrides, the licuala has an upright trunk of up to 10 ft. (3 m) high, which is covered in fibrous leaf bases. The long-staIked leaf blades are arranged spirally around the upper part of the stem. Each blade is rounded and glossy, reaching up to 3 ft. (90 cm) across on a mature plant.

They are pale to mid-green with wavy edge.; and divided into three wedge-shaped segments. The green- white flowers are produced on long, drooping spikes in summer. This is a good plant for a warm conservatory where it can be grown in a border.

Size: Height 10 ft. (3 m).

Light: Indirect sunlight or partial shade.

Temperature: Keep warm; minimum 60°F (15°C).

Moisture: Keep thoroughly moist from spring to fall, drier during the winter.

Feeding: Use standard liquid fertilizer once a month from spring to fall.

Propagation: Sow seed in spring at 80°F (25°C) or take suckers from an established plant

Special needs: Mist regularly during summer, especially if temperatures are high.


Elephant Foot Tree - Agavaceae Nolina Recurvata (syn. Beaucarnea Recurvata) in a pot.

What You Need to Know About the Elephant Foot Tree – Agavaceae Nolina Recurvata (syn. Beaucarnea Recurvata)

An unusual plant, also known as elephant foot tree or bottle palm, this species eventually becomes a large tree in its native southeast Mexico. Its flask-shaped trunk is swollen at the base and branches only rarely as it ages.

Clusters of long, dark green leaves are borne in terminal rosettes, each leaf curving downward with a pronounced channel and slightly toothed edges. It is this plume of foliage that gives the plant another of its common names, pony tail.

Size: Height to 6—7 ft. (2—2.2 m).

Light: Direct sunlight.

Temperature: Normal room; winter- minimum 50°F (10°C).

Moisture: Keep moist from spring to fall. In winter, apply only enough water to prevent the soil mix from drying out.

Feeding: Use standard liquid fertilizer once a month in spring and summer.

Propagation: Detach offsets in spring

Special needs: The swollen base is used for storing water, so this is one plant which can cope quite well with occasional neglect.


Canary Island Date Palm trees - Palmae Phoenix Canariensis Plant.

What You Need to Know About the Canary Island Date Palm – Palmae Phoenix Canariensis Plant

The Canary Island date palm is a decorative palm tree with a single, bulbous stem marked with oblong leaf scars. The finely divided fronds are emerald-green and arch grace­fully, with stiff pinnae arranged along a lighter green midrib.

This is one of the hardiest of the palms, being tolerant of temperature varia­tions and direct sunlight, and not eas­ily damaged. It is slow-growing, with fronds up to 3 ft. (90 cm) long, making it a particularly good plant to use as a specimen in a conservatory.

Size: Height 6½ ft. (2 m).

Light: Direct sunlight.

Temperature: Normal room, but needs a winter rest period at 50—55°F (10—12°C).

Moisture: Keep thoroughly moist from spring to fall. In winter, apply only enough water to prevent the soil from drying out.

Feeding: Give standard liquid fertilizer once a month in spring and summer.

Propagation: Sow seed at around 80°F (25°C).

Special needs: Avoid overwatering; never allow the pol to stand in water or the roots will rot.


Lady Palm Plant - Palmar Rhapis Excelsa.

What You Need to Know About the Lady Palm Plant – Palmar Rhapis Excelsa

The lady palm, ground rattan, or bamboo palm from China and Japan is a graceful, slow-growing tree that looks spectacular as an individual specimen. The leafstalk is equal in length to the blade, which is dark green and divided up to 10 times to within an inch or two of the midrib (rachis), giving it a fanlike appear­ance. The leaves are borne on reed- like stems, clothed with coarse, brown fibers.

As the lower leaves age and fall off, they take some of the fiber with them, leaving scars on the now- smooth stem. R.e. ‘Variegata’ has palmate leaves with leathery, white- striped segments and the leaf seg­ments of R.e. ‘Zuikonishiki’ are edged with yellow.

Size: Height 5 ft. (1.5 m).

Light: Indirect sunlight or cool light.

Direct: sunlight in winter.

Temperature: Normal room temperature or cooler; minimum 45°F (7°C).

Moisture: Keep moist from spring to fall, drier in winter.

Feeding: Give standard liquid fertilizer once a month in spring and summer.

Propagation: Remove basal suckers in spring or summer.

Special needs: Avoid overwatering and never allow the pot to stand in water or the roots will rot.


Adam’s Needle Plant - Agavaceae Yucca Filamentosa.

What You Need to Know About the Adam’s Needle Plant – Agavaceae Yucca Filamentosa

Called spoonleaf yucca, Adam’s needle, and needle palm, this is the typical yucca from the USA with a stout, woody stem and stiff, sword shaped leaves in loose rosettes at the tips of each branch. The edges of the leaves have long, thin threadlike hairs hanging from them.

Although it is slow-growing, it is capable of reaching a height of 5 ft. (1.5 m), and looks best where it has room to develop to the full, such as in a cool conservatory sunroom, or hallway. Y.f. ‘Bright Edge’ is only 2 ft. (60 cm) high and Nolina recurvate has leaves broadly edged butter-yellow. Y.f. ‘Variegata’ has leaves edged with white, becoming pink tinted.

Size: Height 5 ft. (1.5 m).

Light: Direct sunlight.

Temperature: Normal room. Moisture Keep thoroughly moist from spring to fall. In winter, apply only enough water to prevent the soil drying out.

Feeding: Feed with standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks from spring until fall.

Propagation: Take cane cuttings or remove offsets.

Special needs: The plant can be placed outdoors during the summer months, in a position that receives at least three hours of direct sunlight every day to encourage growth. The yucca is tolerant of a range of temperatures as well as dry air, and will thrive in conditions that would be unsuitable for many plants.


Parlor Palm - Palmae Chamaedorea Elegans.

What You Need to Know About the Parlor Palm – Palmae Chamaedorea Elegans

The parlor palm from Mexico has graceful, arching leaves, up to 2 ft. (60 cm) long, from a short central stem. These darken with age, from mid- to glossy, dark green, and the mature plant occasionally produces sprays of smell, yellow flowers. The variety C. elegans ‘Bella’ reaches only half the height of the species, and is often the plant offered for sale.

Size: Height to 3 ft. (90 cm).

Light: Indirect sunlight.

Temperature: Preferably warm, 65-75°F (18—25°C); winter mini­mum 55°F (12°C).

Moisture: Keep thoroughly moist from spring to fall. During winter, apply only enough water to prevent the soil drying out.

Feeding: Apply half-strength liquid fertilizer once a month from spring until fall.

Propagation: Not practical. Buy small new plants and grow on.

Special needs: Humidity is important, so place the pot on a tray of damp pebbles.


Coconut Palm tree - Palmae - Cocos Nucifera

What You Need to Know About the Coconut Palm – Palmae – Cocos Nucifera

The coconut palm, from the western Pacific and islands of the Indian Ocean, makes an interesting and unusual feature plant, either as a soli­tary specimen or as a high point in a grouping. The trunk grows directly from the nut itself, and in indoor specimens this sits on top of the soil. The leaves consist of arching fronds, each with a sheath of woven, light brown fibers.

Size: Height 5 ft. (1.5 m) or more.

Light: Indirect sunlight.

Temperature: Warm.

Moisture: Keep moist at all times.

Feeding: Give half-strength liquid fertilizer every two weeks in spring and summer.

Propagation: Not applicable.

Special needs: This plant has a lim­ited life in the home because it resents root disturbance and, to grow well, needs an intensity of both heat and high humidity, which are usually difficult to maintain.