Robellini palm: How to grow beautiful Phoenix roebellenii indoors

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Written By Martin Cole

Plantsman, gardener, plant-obsessive

Robellini palm: Phoenix robelenii
Phoenix roebeleniiby olive.titus is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

The Robellini palm, with its gracefully arching green foliage and delicate trunk, makes an excellent and visually striking house plant.

Its compact size and easy care requirements also make it an ideal choice for homes and offices. When properly cared for, a Robellini palm can thrive for years and grow to become an impressive centre-piece plant for your home.

I used to grow this in a shady corner of my garden when I live in Sydney. But it is tender so needs to grown indoors outside the frost free zones.

One of the palms that is most well-adapted to indoor growing, even though its natural home is on the banks and cliff edges of rivers in South-East Asia.

The Robellini Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)

Key facts

  • Scientific name: Phoenix roebelenii
  • Meaning of name: Named after Carl Roebelen, who discovered the palm in Laos in the 1880’s
  • Common names: Robellini palm, Roebelin plam, miniature date palm, pygmy date palm
  • Plant family: Arecaceae (palm family)
  • Place of origin: Southeast Asia; Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam
  • Type of plant: Evergreen palm tree
  • Size (grown indoors): Slow growing to 10 ft tall; often remains under 6 ft when grown in pots
  • Foliage: Gracefully arching pinnate leaves around 2-3 ft long with up to 40 leaflets; vibrant green in colour
  • Flower: Small yellow flowers born on panicles; rarely flowers indoors
  • Fruit: Yellow date-like fruit in small clusters; rarely fruits indoors

Growing conditions

Unlike other palms in the Phoenix genus, such as its cousin the giant Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis), the Robellini palm is elegant and compact and is well suited to being raised indoors.

You need some space around it because its leaves arch gracefully, forming a fountain-like appearance. But if you give it the room it needs and follow the plant care guide below, you’ll find you have a healthy plant that really adds some class to your home.

If you are interested in getting one of these plants, you should probably buy the largest size you can afford, because they are pretty slow growing.

The Robellini Palm (Phoenix roebelenii) care guide

  • Light: Bright indirect light or a few hours of morning/evening sun
  • Water: Allow soil to mostly dry out between thorough waterings
  • Humidity: 40-50% relative humidity – keep away from drafts and heat sources
  • Temperature: Minimum 60°F/16°C, maximum 90°F/32°C
    • Minimum: 54°F (12°C)
  • Soil: Fast draining soil mix, ideally with some composted organic material
  • Fertiliser: Slow release palm fertiliser in spring and summer
  • Propagation: Offsets or seed (slow and difficult)
  • Repotting: Every 2-3 years in spring; shift to slightly larger pot
  • Pruning: Remove yellow or damaged leaves and spent flowers/fruit clusters (if you get any)

Light

The Robelini palm prefers bright indirect sunlight, such as near a south or west facing window where it will receive a few hours of morning or late afternoon sun. If tehre is too little light growth will slow or stop and the leaves will gradually fade to pale green or yellow.

Too much direct sun will scorch the leaves. Rotate the plant periodically so all sides receive adequate light.

House plant bright light
Robellini palm: ideal location for optimum light

Soil

If you can find it, you can use a commercially available palm/citrus potting mix for container grown Robellini palms. Otherwise mix some additional organic matter and grit or perlite for drainage into a standard potting mix.

Use a balanced pam fertiliser, which will have a balance of nutrients especially suited to palms.

Watering

Allow the top inch or two of soil to dry out between waterings then soak thoroughly until excess drains from the pot.

Insufficient water causes leaf tips to brown, while overwatering causes root rot. Empty collection trays after watering so the roots don’t sit in water.

Pruning

Remove any dead or damaged leaves at their base using a sharp, sterile tool. Also snip off old flower or fruit clusters.

Regular pruning of the Robellini Palm encourages bushier growth and a more compact, tidy appearance. Never remove more than 15% of the leaves at once.

Propagation

Propagate from 4-8 inch tall offsets carefully removed from the parent plant in early spring. Plant offsets in a suitable potting mix leaving the top third exposed. Place in warm location with high humidity until new growth emerges.

Common Problems and Solutions

Robellini Palm (Phoenix roebelenii) troubleshooting quick guide

Leaves and shoots

  • Leaves yellowing or browning: Insufficient water or light
  • Leaf tips turning brown: Low humidity or irregular watering
  • Few new leaves: Fertilise regularly in growing season

Roots

  • Leaves drooping: May indicate root rot from overwatering. Allow soil to fully dry before watering less frequently. 

Pests

  • White crusty deposits on leaves: Scale insect infestation. Wipe leaves with cotton pad dipped in alcohol.
  • Yellow discolouration of leaves and webbing between leaves: spider mites. Treat with insecticidal soap.

Winter care

Cooler winter temperatures below 60°F will cause growth to slow or cease. Reduce watering but don’t allow roots to dry out. Maintain humidity around 40% and keep away from cold drafts or heating vents. Resume normal care when temperatures rise in spring.

Read more about how to overwinter your house plants here.

Buy the Robellini Palm

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Robellini Palm frequently asked questions

How long do Robelini palms live indoors?

With proper care, Robelini palms typically live for 5-10 years indoors but can survive for several decades.

Should I mist my Robelini palm?

Misting generally increases humidity somewhat. It’s better to use a humidifier if your environment is very dry

Why are some leaf tips turning brown?

This is usually a sign of irregular watering. Allow the soil to partially dry before watering thoroughly.

Can I grow a Robelini palm outside?

Robelini palms need warm temperatures year round, so are typically grown as houseplants. They can potentially be moved outside in zones 10-11 only.

How can I encourage my palm to grow taller?

Give it bright light, adequate humidity, regular fertilizer, and avoid pruning the newest topmost central leaf frond so vertical growth can continue.

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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