Turns out this tropical native can thrive in most homes with the right treatment.
Palm trees are a symbol of the tropics, but did you know they can actually call most places home with the right conditions? Yep, you can create your own little tropical oasis by bringing one indoors!
Fortunately, most members of the palm (or Arecaceae) family are slow-growing and require minimal maintenance. Although specific growing conditions depend on the species, most palms thrive with similar care. Here's a snapshot of how best to care for most indoor palm trees.
In nature, most palms are understory plants, which means they grow best when shaded by taller leafy trees, but this doesn't mean they'll thrive in a windowless closet. Most palms prefer bright, indirect light, and some tolerate partial shade.
To prevent leaf scorching, avoid placing indoor palms in direct sunlight. This especially applies if you set your palms outside in the summer. If you have low-light conditions in an indoor spot that's perfect for a palm tree that needs more light, consider installing a grow light.
Temperature and Humidity
Indoor palms prefer average humidity and temperatures between 65 to 75 degrees F. Low humidity causes their tips to brown, so if your house is too dry for them, use a cool-mist humidifier or mist the plant regularly with water to help increase humidity in their immediate area.
When it comes to soil for indoor palms, most aren’t that picky and thrive in well-draining, slightly acidic or neutral soil. While you may find a potting mix specific to cactus and palms, a general-purpose potting soil suits them just fine.
Avoid using products labeled "topsoil" or soil scavenged from your yard. To improve a potting soil's moisture-retaining properties, you can add peat moss and/or vermiculite (but that doesn't mean you can neglect regular watering).
For most palms, keep soil moist (but not waterlogged) and allow the top of the soil to dry out slightly before watering. Ensuring your palm's pot has suitable drainage—that is, holes in the container's bottom—will help prevent water from sitting at the bottom of the pot, which can result in root rot.
For palms that require constantly moist soil, consider a self-watering stake that does the watering for you. There are also self-watering containers that help keep soil moist between watering. These types of indoor watering aids don't make up for total neglect, but they do help you stretch out the time between watering.
You'll have to adjust your palm's watering schedule for the seasons: During spring and summer, your palms are in growth mode and need more frequent watering. Many palms are dormant in winter and use less water.
Indoors palm trees are not voracious feeders, so applying general houseplant fertilizer may be overdoing it. Look for commercial fertilizers specific to indoor palms and remember to fertilizer only during their active growing period (spring and summer).
Regular pruning helps palms maintain an attractive form and manageable size. Start by trimming off yellow, brown, or spotted leaves. For leaves with brown tips that otherwise look healthy, you can just snip off the tips and leave the rest of the leaf intact.
If your palm is still too full, cut off the old, small leaves and palm fronds around the bottom back to the plant's stem. Feel free to trim any super-long stems that seem out of place, but don't get too carried away: Never take off more than one-third of a plant in a single pruning or you can endanger it.
The easiest method to propagate palms is by division in the spring or whenever you repot. Speaking of repotting, keep in mind that for some palm trees, the bigger the pot, the taller the palm tree is likely to grow. Ultimately, you don't want a 15-foot majesty palm in a room with 12-foot ceilings.
Pests and Diseases
Spider mites are the most common pest to attack indoor palm plants. To fend them off, keep the humidity level high, which your palm will love. Scale insects and mealybugs can also be problems, but are much less common. If your palm tree summers outdoors, give it a thorough inspection before bringing it indoors for the winter, to avoid pests piggybacking inside along with it.
If your palm plant has bugs, begin treatment immediately with a natural pesticide like organic neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. Avoid chemical pesticides on houseplant pests because they're often less effective, and are likely toxic to pets and people.
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