Updated November 25, 2021 by Mark Marino
Did you know that there are approximately 2,600 species of palm trees spread across the world? Most of them are tropical/subtropical and found in the Caribbean, South America, and Asia. They are often used in landscaping- but they also make really great indoor plants as well. They instantly make your living room more tropical and you can use the smaller plants as a pop of greenery.
Now, you’re interested in getting one, right? However, you wonder how to care for palm trees indoors. First, you should know: though they are tropical, they can adapt to low-light conditions, they prefer a peat moss-based soil to grow in, and many of them really don’t do well in colder conditions.
Let’s get into the details of caring for a palm tree indoors.
Care For Your Palm Tree
As we mentioned, there are lots of different species of palm trees- and they have different needs. Some of them grow in the desert, while others grow in colder climates. Some love to be in the warm sunshine, while others prefer an environment that is moist and dark. No matter which kind you have, the best way to have a healthy palm is to make sure you are feeding them regularly.
One thing to keep in mind is that your palm will probably not produce flowers indoors because most of them don’t live long enough to reach maturity when kept inside. As long as you take care of your palm, you may have some fronds brushing against your ceiling after a few years. Of course, that depends on the species and how large and quickly it grows.
Keep in mind that a palm trees should never be top-trimmed because they grow from a central tip. If you remove that tip, it will kill the plant. Therefore, if it does get too large for your home, find someone that has the room to handle it- may be an office or hotel in your area needs a new interior plant.
In the next few sections, we’ll look closer at how to properly care for your indoor palm tree.
Palm trees make great indoor plants because they are adaptable. They have no trouble adapting to the low-light conditions inside. In fact, most of them prefer- or are tolerant, at least- of shade and may not be able to thrive if they get too much light. The low-light species do prefer indirect light that is bright- but can handle less light, especially during the winter months.
The soil for your palm tree should be loose and porous- such as a peat moss/shredded bark/leaf mold combination. If you wish, you can purchase soil made specifically for palms, or you can just get general-purpose potting soil. If you are not the best at remembering to water your plants, you might want to mix some vermiculite or peat moss into the general-purpose soil to hold in the moisture longer.
If you want your palm trees to remain healthy, you must make sure they drain well. After all, just because they live in tropical environments does not mean they like to be waterlogged. The root ball should never be left sitting in water- but the soil should not have time to completely dry out before you water again. A clay or terra-cotta pot should help wick away any excess moisture.
While it’s true that there are some palm trees, such as the kentia palm and parlor palm that do well in colder environments, most of them will not do well. The kentia and parlor palms are the most popular indoor palms for this reason. Most palms will do best in environments that are above 50° Fahrenheit.
During the growing season, you need to make sure that you are feeding your palm regularly. A palm fertilizer is the best option because it contains everything that your palm tree needs to stay healthy, as well as manganese and potassium. Palm trees often will develop a potassium deficiency, which can be seen in the yellowing/browning of the fronds. If your palm tree is starting to turn, you need to feed your palm tree more often.
If you feel like you must prune your palm, do so carefully. You might be tempted to trim the fronds, but many of these plants still get nutrients from the old fronds. People often make the mistake of over-pruning their palms. This weakens the plant and removes critical nutrients. As a general rule, you should only remove leaves that are totally brown and you should never cut it back to just a couple of new fronds.
Growing New Palm Trees
While it may seem like a good idea, the truth is: cuttings, division, and air layering are not the best way to grow new trees. The best way to grow a new palm tree is by planting a seed.
On the other hand, you can grow a new tree by transplanting certain types, such as ponytail palms, date palms, sago palms, and lady palms. These will produce offshoots that are known as “pups” and are a great way to grow a new plant.
Potting/Repotting Palm Trees
The only time you should repot a palm tree is when it’s pot bound. Typically, the root systems of palm trees is quite shallow and they don’t like being disturbed very often. Many of the palm species that are brought indoors are genetically coded to become trees- but if you keep them pot bound some, you can slow down their growth.
Common Pests And Diseases
As we briefly mentioned before, indoor palms often develop a potassium deficiency, which is revealed when the oldest leaves die back, starting at the tips. The best treatment for this is a controlled-release supplement. However, if all of the tips are turning brown, you probably added too much fertilizer.
Just like other plants, scales, spider mites, mealybugs, and other houseplant pests can invade your palm tree, especially if it’s kept close to other plants. Pay attention to all of your plants and treat them with something to get rid of the bugs before it gets out of hand.
Palm trees are very popular, majestic indoor plants. However, they are not easy to take care of. These tips will help ensure your palm tree remains happy and healthy.