Chamaedorea elegans

Also called: Neanthe bella Palm, Love Palm, Parlor Palm. The name comes from Greek, chamai meaning on the ground, and dorea meaning gift. This tropical monocotyledonous trees, produces fruit which, due to the plant's small size, are easy to reach. It is a compact slow growing, fine leaved member of the Arecaceae (palm) family suitable for indoor growth. This plant is a native of Mexico and Central America. It's compact size and adaptability makes it a common houseplant. Several fronds (up to 8, each with 10 - 20 leaves per frond) grow from a single stem, usually with several stems per pot. This palm produces small, subtle yellow flowers, although it is rare to see the plant bloom when cultivated indoors.
CONDITIONS PREFERRED:
The parlor palm does best in warm, moderate to bright light, high humidity, and moist, nutrient rich, well drained soil. However, this plant is very adaptable and will grow well (although slower than normal) in low light and low humidity situations. Kept in a bathroom, if you shower once per day for 1/2 hour, this will provide plenty of humidity (though probably less than adequate light). Give the plant enough water to maintain an evenly moist (NOT wet) soil, and if not kept near a shower, mist daily. Fertilization should be done 3 or 4 times per year with a common houseplant fertilizer. Do not over fertilize, this will result in new leaf growth with deformed tips which appear brown, split and dead, and which do not open properly.
PROPAGATION: Propagation of existing plants is by separation, and should be done only when repotting. Water the plant thouroughly to loosen the soil. Remove the plant from it's pot and wash away old dirt to reveal roots. Separate as many stems as you wish, and place into prepared pots.

Prepared pot size depends on the amount of plant to be repotted. For a few plants which are to be separated, a pot with a diameter of 6" or less is adequate. For the parent plant, use one pot size bigger than the pot you are transplanting from. Use a layer of horticulural charcoal to a depth of 1" at the bottom of the pot. This helps to absorb water, and to purify the soil. Fill the pot with rich, well draining soil to 1" of the rim. Plant the stems into the soil to the depth they were at before transplanting. Let stand for a few days before watering.

Plants can be grown from seed, taking 6 months of moist warmth to grow from a seedling to a viable, transplantable plant.
PRUNING AND GENERAL CARE:

Pruning:
Pruning isn't necessary unless there are dead or dying fronds on the plant. Remove dead and dying fronds immediately. Trim any leaf tips which have turned brown (but figure out why they're turning brown, and fix it). Parlor palm does well in a rootbound pot, so avoid repotting until the plant is very crowded.

Tips:
  • Over watering is evident with yellowing and brown tips on the fronds. Cut the yellow and brown tips off.
  • When soil becomes too dry the lower leaves turn yellow. Remove them and water the plant.
  • This plant should be bushy. If it isn't, you don't have enough light.
  • This would be a fabulous bathroom plant if only it grew better in very low light conditions. There are several manufacturers now making grow-lights in standard bulbs which you can place in a normal overhead fixture. Turn it on in the morning and off in the evening.
Problems:
Indoor houseplants are not generally prone to problems aside from those caused incorrect soil, water, and light conditions. However, this plant, due to it's moist requirements, is slightly more prone to pests than most indoor houseplants. The most common pests on a parlor palm are:
  • Mealybugs: Evidenced by white cottony fluff on the leaves and stems of the plant, and sometimes in the soil and around the roots. Remove fluff from leaves and stems with a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Check back weekly and repeat as needed. Mealybugs in the roots are best controlled through repotting into fresh sterile soil.
  • Spider Mites: Visible as spiderwebs covering parts of the plant (usually the undersides of the leaves), and soil surface. The best way to deal with spider mites is not to get them. Avoid infestation by misting the undersides of the leaves daily -- which is good for the plant's health anyway. Once an infestation is noted, remove any visible spiderwebs. Then prepare a spray bottle with 1 teaspoon rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap, and fill the rest with water. Spray the plant, paying special attention to the underside of the leaves and the soil surface. Do this weekly, and if the infestation doesn't clear up, repot the plant in fresh sterile soil. If there is still a problem, buy a commercial houseplant insecticide.

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