Like other potted houseplants, palm trees grown indoors bring nature inside. Indoor palms make interesting specimens and lend a tropical feel wherever they are grown. Depending on the size of the room and the look desired, several palms are suitable for indoor culture.
Palm tree species vary greatly in size and form. Their fronds are ornamental and either palmate (in the form of a fan) or pinnate (feathery in appearance). Taller indoor palms bring height to a room with tall ceilings, and smaller palms are well suited to use in various home locations. Bright, indirect, filtered light is best for most indoor palms.
The parlor palm, or neanthe bella palm (Chamaedorea elegans), is a small, single-trunked palm, usually 4 feet tall but capable of reaching 6 to 8 feet tall, with a 2 to 3 foot spread. Its dark green leaves are pinnate and 18 to 36 inches long. C. elegans is a rapid grower and will tolerate lower light levels.
Bamboo palms (Chamaedorea erumpens) are small, delicate, single-trunk, clumping palms that rapidly grow up to 12 feet high. Bamboo palms have 20 inch long, pinnate leaves that are held in upright clusters on their stems. It is suitable for homes requiring palms with a narrow form.
The European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) is a bushy, medium-size palm that forms clumps of several trunks. It is capable of growing to 20 feet tall but has a slow growth rate, making it suitable for indoor use. European fan palms carry 2 foot fan-shaped (palmate) leaves on 4 foot high stems.
Reed palms (Chamaedorea seifrizii), also known as grass-leafed parlor palms, are multi-trunked palms growing up to 12 feet tall with 2 foot long pinnate leaves.
Most palms prefer bright natural light and moist, well-drained soils. Waterlogged conditions lead to palm root rot. Use potting mixes with plenty of added organic matter for improved drainage and moisture retention. Most palms like cool (60 degree F) nighttime temperatures and warm days (between 70 and 80 degrees F). Periodic diluted liquid fertilizer, or slow-release fertilizer, is beneficial to indoor palms during periods of active growth. Indoor palms need repotting only every few years or when the roots have filled the pot.
Small palms and larger, slow-growing palms are well-suited to indoor cultivation, but some may outgrow their allotted space. Palms cannot be pruned to reduce their height, because new growth originates from a central growing point called the apical meristem.
Few problems plague palms grown indoors. Inadequate moisture or too much moisture and spider mites are the main issues. Palm fronds should be kept clean and free of dust. Spider mites are attracted to dusty palm fronds and thrive in low home humidity. Excessive fertilizer may cause tip browning and death.