Native to the Central American rain forest, the bamboo palm (Chamaedorea erumpens, C. microspadix) makes an excellent indoor houseplant. Although it thrives in the lower light levels found indoors, it also greatly benefits from spending the summer growing season outdoors in the shade. In frost-free areas, bamboo palms make excellent additions to a shady hedge border or plant grouping.
A multi-trunked palm with a delicate appearance, the bamboo palm produces clumps of bamboo-like canes that can grow up to 1/2 inch in diameter. It grows to a height of 4 to 12 feet and spreads 3 to 5 feet wide. Bamboo palm is a clump-forming palm, sending up new canes from its roots. Female plants produce insignificant flowers followed by bright-red berries. It can be propagated from the seed contained within these berries.
Hardy in USDA zones 8b to 11, bamboo palm grows best outdoors in a shady location. They can, however, be acclimated to a sunny location by gradually exposing them to the sun for a longer period each day until they have become accustomed to it. You can also grow them indoors in bright, indirect light. Morning sun in a window with eastern exposure or a curtained south-facing window is ideal.
Other varieties of the Charmaedorea species include the parlor palm (C. elegans) and the grass-leafed parlor palm (C. seifrizii). The parlor palm is a smaller variety that does not form clumps. Its foliage is similar to the bamboo palm. The grass-leafed parlor palm has slender, cane-like stems with narrow leaflets that can grow up to 10 feet high.
Care and Culture
Palms prefer to be kept moist and should never be allowed to dry out, although excessively wet soil can encourage root rot. Water when the soil's surface is dry to the touch. Protect palms from drafts when indoors. They prefer summer outdoors in the shade and do best at temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 60 degrees at night. During their winter slow-growth period, they prefer even cooler temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees. Fertilize during their active growth period in summer, applying half-strength liquid plant food, mixed following the manufacturer's recommended rates of application. Repot only when root-bound.
Pests and Diseases
Bamboo palms are not bothered by any major plant diseases. Insect pests such as scale and spider mites are most prevalent on potted indoor specimens. Treat by spraying with horticultural oil spray.