Botanical name: Rhapis excelsa
Lady palm is a popular small Indoor Palm which grows in multi-stemmed clumps with glossy, evergreen leaves divided into broad, ribbed segments. Lady Palm is native to tropical and sub-tropical India and Asia. It was first culltivated in China. The Japanese collected the plant for their palaces in the 1600s, then the popularity spread to Europe and later to America and the rest of the world. Its low light and humidity requirements make it a popular houseplant. It belongs to the group of palms (called fan palms) which produce fronds which are split into numerous segments radiating from a point at the base (fan-like segments like ladies fan), the segments may be entirely or only partly divided. The leaf stalks are long, up to 2 ft or more and are generally toothed. The new foliage arises from a fibrous sheath which remains attached to the base. As the plant ages, the sheath fall, revealing bamboo-like trunks. According to a study carried out by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to find out the effectiveness of houseplants in cleaning indoor air for their spacecrafts, Rhapis excelsa was found to remove common VOCs like xylene, toulene, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloethylene and ammonia.
Lady Plam prefers light shade, a north-facing window is ideal. 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 Lady Plam thoroughly during the growing season until the water runs through the drainage hole. Allow the top 1-2 inch of soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering in the cold season. Use chlorine-free water for watering; like all palms, Lady Palm is sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals dissolved in water. 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.
Average warmth with a minimum of 120C is ideal for Lady Palm. If the temperature is comfortable for you it is suitable for the Lady Palm. Protect the palm from cold draughts. Find out more on temperature for houseplants.
Average room humidity is ideal for Lady Plam. However, it benefits from occasional misting of the leaves during the hot weather. Occasionally clean the leaves by splashing water from a hose pipe to get rid of dust.
Feed Lady 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.
Repot Lady Palm every 2 years 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. Avoid interfering with the rootball, transfer the intact rootball into the new pot.
Pruning Lady 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.
Lady Palm can be propagated from seeds, offshoots or by division.
Propagating Lady Palm from seeds
Propagating Lady Palm from seeds may take a long time; the seeds may take up to 4 months to germinate. The Palm is also unlikely to produce seeds when grown indoors. 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 Lady 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 Lady Palm by division
During repotting, divide the Lady 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. Divided plants often go into shock which dramatically slows down growth.
Reasons for brown leaf tips in Lady 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.
Underwatering is the cause of yellow leaves in Lady Palm. Keep the soil moderately moist at all times during the growing season. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely.
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 Lady Palm from cold draughts.
The lower leaves in Lady Palm 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.
Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) is non-toxic to both humans and pets. It is safe to grow indoors.