How to grow and care for Fishtail Palm Indoors

Fishtail palm

Botanical name: Caryota mitis
Family: Arecaceae

Caryota mitis commonly called Fishtail Palm or Clustering Fishtail Palm is a popular Indoor Palm on account of its spectacular ragged-edged leaflets on arching fronds. It is native to Tropical Asia from India to Java to Southern China and naturalized in southern Florida and in parts of Africa and Latin America. The palm has the ability to grow with moderate sun exposure. It produces clustered stems which in the wild can grow to a height of 33 ft and 6 inch diameter. The leaves can be up to 10 ft long. It bears purple flowers and the fruits are dark purple to red. Fishtail Palms get their name from the shape of leaflets. Leaflets are about 6 in. long and 4 in. wide.

A related species is Caryota urens commonly called Wine Fishtail Palm whose leaflets are more triangular but fewer. Both palms form stems and mature at a height of 6-8 ft.

How to Grow Fishtail Palm

Light

Fishtail Palm prefers partial shade, close to an east- or west-facing window. Keep the palm away from direct sunlight as it may scorch the leaves. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Water

Keep the soil moderately moist at all times for Fishtail Palm during the growing season. Reduce watering in the cold season and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Use chlorine-free water for watering; like all palms Fishtail Palm is sensitive to chlorine and other chemicsl dissolved in water. Avoid getting the base of the palm wet to prevent rotting. Do not allow the palm to sit in soggy soil as it may lead to root-rot and eventual death of the palm. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature

Average warmth with a minimum of 120C is ideal for Fishtail Palm. If the temperature is comfortable for you it is suitable for the Fishtail Palm. Protect the palm from cold draughts. Find out more on temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Average room humidity is ideal for Fishtail Plam. However, it benefits from occasional misting of the leaves during hot weather. Occasionally clean the mature leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust.

Feeding

Feed Fishtail Palm with a water-soluble fertilizer monthly during the growing period. Water thoroughly until the solution comes out through the drainage holes. Withhold feeding in the cold season as growth is minimal at this time. Find out more on feeding houseplants.

Repotting

Repot Fishtail Palm annually at the beginning of the growing season. Use a pot 1-2 sizes larger that has a drainage hole(s). The soil should be free-draining and rich in organic matter.

Pruning

Pruning Fishtail Plam is easy. Cut away the old brown and dry fronds near the soil surface to maintain your plant neat and tidy. Any frond with green continues to provide food (nutrients) to the plant. Where the seeds are required for propagation, allow the fruits to mature and drop then cut away the spent flower stalk. Where the seeds are not required, cut away the flower stalk immediately to prevent the plant from wasting energy on developing the flowers and seeds. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

How to Propagate Fishtail Palm

Fishtail Palm can be propagated from seeds, offshoots or splits. Seed germination is difficult; may take up to 4-6 months and requires keeping the soil moist through out the period.

Propagating Fishtail Palm from seeds
Propagating Fishtail Palm from seeds may take a long time; the seeds may take up to 6 months to germinate. Sow the seeds in moist soil and place in a warm shaded place. Keep the soil moist through out the period until germination takes place. Move to a cool shaded place after germination and maintain the soil moist until the plant is well established.

Propagating Fishtail Palm from offshoots
Carefully cut the offshoot from the mother plant. Ensure the offshoot has adequate roots before seperating it from the mother. Pot the offshoot in its own pot, place in a cool shaded place and maintain the soil moist through out. Allow the offshoot to be well established before transplanting.

Propagating Fishtail Palm from splits
During repotting, divide the Fishtail Palm into sections and plant the sections in individual pots. Place in a cool shaded place and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges.

Common Problems in Growing Fishtail Palm

  • Leaves with brown tips
  • Reasons for brown leaf tips in Fishtail Palm are dry air, underwatering, cold draughts and damage by touching. Trim off the brown tips with sterilized scissors. Correct the faults by raising the humidity, watering correctly, protecting the plant from draughts and placing the palm away from traffic respectively.

  • Yellowing of leaves
  • Underwatering is the cause of yellow leaves in Fishtail Palm. Keep the soil moderately moist at all times during the growing season. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

  • Leaves with brown spots
  • Overwatering or sudden decrease of temperature are the causes. Remove the affected parts and improve the growing conditions by correct watering and maintaining the right temperature by protecting the Fishtail Palm from cold draughts.

  • Brown leaves
  • The lower leaves may turn brown and droop due to age; remove by cutting and not pulling. If browning is general and accompanied by rotting the reason is root-rot disease due to waterlogging.

  • Totally discolored or spotted leaves
  • Magnesium, Manganese and Iron deficiency. Feed Fishtail Palm regularly with a good fertilizer and provide ocassional pinches of Magnesium and chelated Iron.

  • Plant growth decline
  • The cause is low light but not inadequate nutrition.Fishtail Palm prefers partial shade away from direct sunlight. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

  • Diseases
  • Pseudomonas is a common disease Fishtail Palm which is indicated by brown and wet lesions that run parallel to the leaf vein; isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other houseplants or discard the plant as no cure is effective. Another common disease is Leaf Spot disease; treat the plant with a copper-based fungicide.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in Fishtail Palm are Red Spider Mites, Scales and Mealy Bugs. Regularly check underneath the leaves for these pests. Isolate the plant to prevent spread to other houseplants.

Toxicity

The fruits of Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis) contains sharp, needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate. If ingested they cause burning in the mouth and throat, drooling and abdominal pains. They also cause damage and itching on contact with the skin.

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