Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans): Follow these 2 critical care requirements

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Written By Martin Cole

Plantsman, gardener, plant-obsessive

Parlour palm

The Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) makes a lovely addition to any home. This palm was extremely popular in Victorian times when it was first introduced as a decoration for the home in Europe and the USA.

The parlour was where guests were taken and where the most precious things in the house were displayed. These palms became known as Parlour palms because of their use to add exoticism to these special rooms.

While the plant stays on the smaller side indoors, its arching, pinnate (or fishtail) leaves give it a sense of form and grandeur. Place your parlour palm in a prominent spot where its tropical vibe can be appreciated.

Parlour Palms are always promoted as easy-care, low maintenance plants and in some ways they are. They are slow growing, they grow well in quite low light levels, they can withstand low temperatures, and their demands for water and fertiliser are modest.

Avoid these two mistakes

Nevertheless, I have managed to kill one or two Parlour Palms over the years. So here are the mistakes I have made that you should avoid:

  • Do not over-water – despite its lush green appearance, the parlour palm does not need frequent watering and does not like to be kept in wet potting soil. Only water when the first few inches of soil are dry and make sure excess water drains way.
  • Do not mess with the light – Keep the plant out of direct sunlight whatever you do, but other than that keep the light levels constant. If it has got used to a position in low light, do not move it to a place with more light as the leaves will ‘burn’ and the plant can be fatally damaged.

In a sense, these are practices that apply all house plant care – i.e. get the watering and the light levels right. But it is worth bearing these specific points in mind for your Parlour Palm, as it is sad to see this beautiful plant look damaged.

Parlour Palm key facts

  • Scientific name: Chamaedorea elegans, also known as Neanthe bella
  • Meaning of name: Chamaedorea refers to dwarf palm, elegans means elegant
  • Common names: Parlor or Parlour Palm, Table Palm
  • Plant family: Arecaceae
  • Place of origin: Mexico and Guatemala
  • Type of plant: Evergreen palm
  • Size (grown indoors): Grows up to 4-8 ft tall indoors
  • Foliage: Arching, pinnate fronds up to 3 ft long, light green colour
  • Flower: Small, inconspicuous, yellow flowers blooming in spring
  • Fruit: Small inedible black berry-like fruit

Growing conditions

Give the Parlour Palm what it needs, and it truly can be a low maintenance plant. As long as you are careful not to give it too much of anything – water, fertiliser, light – it will generally be happy.

Detailed care instructions are below.

Parlour Palm care guide

  • Light: Bright indirect light or partial shade
  • Water: Allow top inch or two of soil dry out between waterings
  • Humidity: 40-50% humidity, mist leaves regularly
  • Temperature: Ideally 65-80°F (18-27°C). Can tolerate lower temperatures. Avoid large temperature fluctuations.
  • Soil: Well-draining potting mix, rich in organic matter
  • Fertiliser: Liquid palm fertiliser every 2-3 months during growing season
  • Propagation: Seed propagation
  • Repotting: Every 2-3 years in spring, pot up one size larger
  • Pruning: Remove dead or damaged fronds by cutting at base of stems

Light

The Parlour Palm grows best in bright indirect sunlight or partial shade.

Place it near an east, west, or north facing window where it will receive plenty ambient light but avoid lengthy exposure to strong or direct sun which can scorch its leaves.

Low light causes slow, stunted growth. Do not move the plant directly from low light into bright light or you will cause leaf scorch.

House plant bright light
Parlour Palm: ideal location for optimum light

Soil and feeding

Use a rich, well-draining potting mix amended with organic matter.

Feed sparingly every 2-3 months in groiwng seasons with a balanced liquid fertilisr.

Watering

Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings, then water thoroughly until it drains freely from the holes at bottom. Yellow leaves often indicate overwatering. Brown crunchy leaves usually mean under-watering.

Parlour palm leaves

Pruning

Prune your Parlour Palm by removing dead or damaged fronds and spent flowers by cutting them off at their base.

Sterilise pruners between each cut with rubbing alcohol to prevent disease transmission. Avoid removing green healthy fronds, as this weakens the plant.

Propagation

Propagate new Parlour Palms from seed, although this is usually done by professionals. Clumps can be divided, but there is a high risk of causing damage.

Common Problems and Solutions

Parlour Palm troubleshooting quick guide

Leaves and shoots

  • Yellow fronds: Overwatering, allow soil to partially dry out
  • Brown, shriveled fronds: Underwatering, water more frequently
  • Brown leaf tips: can be caused too much light exposure or underwater (see tips above re light and watering)

Roots

  • Root rot: Water less frequently, use better draining soil

Pests

  • Aphids, mealy bugs, scale, spider mites: Treat with insecticidal soap, increase humidity

Winter care

  • Reduce watering frequency due to slower growth
  • Mist leaves regularly to increase humidity near heaters
  • Avoid cold drafts from windows or doors

Read more about how to overwinter your house plants here.

Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) frequently asked questions

1. How much light does a Parlour Palm need?

Parlour Palms grow best in bright indirect light. Keep out of direct sunlight which can burn the leaves.

2. What temperature is best for Parlour Palm?

Parlour Palms prefer consistent temperatures between 65-80°F and should be kept away from cold drafts or heat sources.

3. When should I repot my Parlour Palm?

Repot parlour palms every 2-3 years in early spring, moving them to a container one size larger each time. Avoid under or over potting.

4. How often should Parlour Palms be watered?

Water thoroughly whenever the top inch of soil becomes dry, but avoid letting the soil get completely dry or remain soggy between waterings. Adjust frequency based on indoor growing conditions.

5. Why are my Parlour Palm’s fronds turning yellow?

Yellow fronds usually indicate overwatering. Allow the soil to partially dry out between waterings and remove any standing water in the saucer.

Other great indoor palms

Read our guide to the 16 best indoor palms to grow and our individual guides to caring for these other indoor palms:

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