The fishtail palm, also known as Caryota mitis, derives its common name from its triangular, wavy-edged, fishtail-shaped leaves. Native to southeast Asia, the fishtail palm requires warm, humid conditions to grow and thrive, and is winter hardy in zones 10 and 11 only. Gardeners in all other areas of the United States must grow the plant indoors to protect it from cool temperatures. Outdoors, the fast-growing fishtail palm reaches up to 25 feet in height, but typically does not surpass 10 feet indoors. The tree grows 6 to 8 inches per year when provided with proper care and maintenance.
Keep your fishtail palm in a location that receives bright, indirect sunlight such as a south-facing window. Maintain a consistent temperature of 75 to 85 degrees F during the day and 65 to 70 degrees F at night.
Water fishtail palm when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch, about once every five days. Soak the soil thoroughly and drain away the excess water afterward. Never allow standing water to accumulate, or root rot can occur.
Clean the foliage of the plant with a clean cloth once every three to four days to remove excess fertilizer salts, dust and dirt and control pests. Dampen the cloth with lukewarm water to minimize shock to the plant.
Feed once each year during early spring just as active growth begins. Use a slow-release fertilizer. Do not fertilize during winter, when active growth has stopped. Follow the manufacturer's directions for the best results.
Repot fishtail palm once every two to three years to provide additional room for growth and fresh soil. Increase the size of the container by 2 to 3 inches. Use a well-drained houseplant potting soil mix for the growing medium.