Parlour Palm – Chamaedorea elegans

Parlour Palm, although small, is a very popular choice as a house plant. This is probably because it is tolerant of the average conditions it meets in the home.

It will put up with dry air and a shortage of light, surviving where other plants might not.

The leaves are medium green and can grow up to 45-60cnn (18-24in) long. The leaves, or fronds, are divided into opposite pairs of leaflets.

As the plant grows the stem gradually becomes densely ringed with scars where the leaves were attached. Even when young the plant forms flowers but they have no fragrance. If you have two trees (one male and one female), flowering at the same time to pollinate each other, small pea-like fruits could form.

New shoots may appear at the base of the plant. They give it a bushier appearance, and may be used to propagate new plants.

You will find well-established older plants, as well as many smaller specimens on offer. They range in size from 12— 15cm (5-6in) to 38-50cm (15-20in) tall.Parlour Palm - Chamaedorea elegans

The parlour palm rarely grows taller than lm (3ft) and growth is slow, so it will be some years before you feel it may have outgrown its space.


The most popular variety is Chamaedorea elegans. A more vigorous growing plant, Chamaedorea eliatior has large leaves up to 76-91cm (30-36in) long. Chamaedorea oblongata does not form shoots at the base. It has a solitary stem, which makes it look fragile, but it is just as suitable and robust as other varieties of parlour palm. Chamaedorea fragrans has long un-fringed leaves and many stems arising from the base.

Display ideas

As a specimen plant on its own, the parlour palm is elegant and, because of its size, not too intimidating. Choose a position for it where its shape can be seen to best advantage. If you do grow other plants with it, choose ground cover plants like the creeping fig, Ficus pumila.


Although new shoots are often present at the base of the palm, it is not always easy to get them to root.

Growing from cuttings

1. Use a sharp knife to cut the basal shoots with leaves and roots from the plant.

2. Plant the shoots in a well-drained rich potting compost. Cover with plastic to avoid water loss through evaporation.

3. Remove the plastic when new growth is visible after a few weeks.

Growing from seed

1. Sow the seeds in a good potting compost. Add a little sand to improve drainage.

2. Place the seed box over a warm radiator or heated cable in a propagating unit.

3. Germination occurs after 5-6 weeks.

Pests And Diseases

Whole plant looks unhealthy due to red spider mite attack. Treatment: Wash infested leaves and use a pesticide. Repeat treatment to get rid of any mites that might hatch from eggs. Check for mites’ webbing in the leaf joints and shoot tips. Raise level of humidity by frequent misting, particularly on undersides of leaves, where red spider mites collect.

Dark brown patches on leaves is probably due to exposure to direct sunlight.

Treatment: Move out of direct sun and remove damaged leaves.

Leaves with whitish spots usually indicates whitefly or mealy bug attacks.

Treatment: Combat with a suitable insecticide.

Leaf loss may occur if potting mixture is not well-drained.

Treatment: Repot and provide better drainage.


Parlour palms are easy to care for and will cope with average indoor conditions. Cut away damaged or dead leaves if they occur.

  • Potting: Repot every 2-3 years using a well-drained humus-rich soil-based compost. Only repot if pot is completely filled by roots. Handle roots carefully, or root damage will occur.
  • Water moderately but do not let it stand in water. Keep potting mixture moist during growing period. In winter water sparingly so that it is just moist. Let top of potting mixture dry out before you water again.
  • Feeding: Apply a diluted fertilizer every fortnight during the growing season — but do not overfeed.


  • Light: For healthy growth place it in bright, indirect light. It will, however, tolerate poor light. In very hot direct sunlight it scorches and growth ceases.
  • Temperature: In summer keep at 18°-20°C (64°-68°F) but in winter 10°-15°C (50°-60°F) is acceptable.

Buying Tips

  • On sale all year in many sizes from florists.
  • If the plant looks green and perky, it is healthy. Check for red spider mites’ webbing in the leaf joints or shoot tips. Reject any with minutely spotted or brown leaves.
  • Parlour palms will flourish for many years, even in less than good conditions.

The Parlour Palm is a pretty and elegant plant that grows naturally in shady places. Compact in shape, it rarely grows more than lm (3ft) high.

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