Indoor Palm Tree Care

Here you’ll find tips and information on indoor palm tree care.

While outdoor palms grow mostly in tropical and subtropical climates, potted palm trees allow you to enjoy a touch of the tropics indoors – no matter where you live.

Proper indoor palm tree care is easy when you take to time to select the best species for your comfort level and home environment. With the right knowledge, many palms are easy to grow and care for.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how simple it is to ensure your potted palm trees grow and prosper.

Indoor Palm Tree Care

Indoor Palm Tree Care – Basic Tips and Information

Potted palms are typically floor plants, displayed in roomy locations such as entryways, living rooms, or master bedrooms.

Grow large palms in containers that can be set on wheeled platforms. The palm trees will be easy to rotate – ideal for exposing all sides of the plants to proper lighting. Small palms can be planted in smaller containers and displayed on table tops.

Palm tree foliage comes in two basic forms: fan or feather. Fan palms have leaflets that radiate outward from the main stem in a circular pattern. Feather-like palm fronds have leaflets that emerge from a central vein in parallel lines.

Lady palms are easy to grow and feature the fan-like foliage. Areca palms and Parlor palm trees feature elegant, feathery palm fronds.

The palm tree care tips featured below are general guidelines. Palm care requirements can vary by species. For specific requirements, refer to the particular palm tree species.

Indoor Palm Tree Care - Lighting Requirements

While some palms require bright light, others will tolerate low light – as long as they are slowly acclimated to reduction in light. Moving palm trees from sun to shade too quickly can cause them to die.

Remember this when buying palms that are accustomed to bright sunlight. Do not attempt to display these palm trees indoors when you first bring them home.

If your palm trees will be spending the warmer part of the summer outdoors, display them in a shady location. They will have an easier time of adjusting to lower light levels when you bring them indoors during the cooler months.

Keep in mind, palms that are grown in shade grow slower than those grown in the sun; however, the fronds tend to be a rich, dark green in color. 

Temperature

Since palm trees grow in tropical and sub-tropical environments, they thrive in high temperatures (100° F / 38° C). Although some can withstand a slight chill, warmer temperatures are generally ideal.

Palm Tree Fertilizer

Indoor palms do not require much fertilizer. A sprinkle of 1 teaspoon of time-release fertilizer granules into the top of the soil in the spring is usually sufficient. Feedings can be supplemented with micronutrients found in compost. Approximately ½ cup of compost spread over the top of the soil two times a year is adequate.

There are two other options for providing the benefits of micronutrients: 1) Filter brown tea through a paper towel and pour into a spray bottle. Spray palm leaves twice a year (spring and late summer). 2) Use a high-quality rose fertilizer. They often contain a good nutrient balance.

Summer is the growth season for palms. If it looks like your palm tree needs more fertilizer during this time, administer two applications of a houseplant food two weeks apart.

If the plant responds positively, you can continue with the liquid fertilizer for a few weeks, or give it more time-release fertilizer. Be sure to remove excess salt build-up by flushing the container monthly.

Indoor Palm Tree Care - Watering Indoor Palms

When watering palms, use rain water or distilled water. Palm trees are sensitive to salt and can be damaged by the chemicals and fluoride found in tap water. Filtered water is a good second choice since they remove many of the contaminants found in regular tap water.

Most indoor palms thrive when soil is kept lightly moist at all times. Avoid standing water since this can cause damage to palm tree roots.

Salt build-up can cause palms to suffer. Prevent salt related problems by doing the following:

Add sand to the potting medium to facilitate quick drainage.

Use time-release fertilizer capsules instead of liquid plant food.

Flush the container with water two to three times per year by flooding it with water, then allowing it to drain. Repeat this process three times.

Although it is not a requirement, spraying palm leaves with water from time to time will raise humidity levels, as well as discourage spider mites.

Soil

Although indoor palms grow well in regular potting soil, a mixture of 2 parts peat, 1 part pine bark, and 1 part sand is ideal. Refer to palm tree species for specific potting soil requirements. Another alternative is African violet soil with a little sand added to the mix.

Repotting and Planting Palm Trees

In general, indoor palm trees only need to be repotted once every three years. A palm with crowded roots can be good since this can limit growth. Repotting is necessary to alleviate severe root crowding, to promote growth, and to provide palm with a fresh supply of potting medium.

Avoid planting palms too deeply. Be aware that brittle roots can break easily. Handle them with care. Soil should be packed repeatedly around the roots. Be sure to flush the container thoroughly with water.

Indoor Palm Tree Care - Propagating

While most palms grow from seeds, some species (lady palms) grow clumps that can be propagated by division.

You can grow palms from seeds if you have a very warm location for them. To test a palm seed for freshness, drop it into a pail of water. If it floats it should be discarded. A fresh seed will germinate better than an old one.

Use a small 2 in / 5 cm pot. Plant the seed near the surface – barely cover it. The germination process can take anywhere from a few days to several months. Temperatures should be between 75 - 80° F / 24 - 27° C.

Enclose the container in a plastic bag, and store it on top of a hot-water heater or refrigerator. Transplant the seedling when it has two or more leaves. If seeds are planted in early spring, they can spend their first summer outside.

Indoor Palm Tree Care – Cleaning Tips

Palm trees collect dust on their leaves. Mix one tablespoon of milk with one cup of rainwater or distilled water. Use this mixture to wipe down the leaves with a soft cloth.

This is a good time to examine the palm fronds for signs of pests or disease.

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