bamboo palm

Growing and Caring for Bamboo Palm Plant (Chamaedorea sp.)

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Contrary to what people think, the Bamboo Palm plant is not bamboo. The Chamaedorea species comes from the Arecaceae family while the real bamboos come from the Poaceae family, the same as grasses. Despite this technicality, the bamboo palms retain their name due to their similarities to bamboos.

The Chamaedorea species are famous in different landscapes, especially in the subtropics. This plant tends to grow lusciously even if it is given less attention. It also serves as an amazing screen and natural barrier in private properties. Growers tend to grow them in a line to create a fence-like illusion while leading the users to where they want them to go.

On the other hand, there are bamboo palm enthusiasts and plant lovers that grow them in pots as indoor plants. This is often the situation when the bamboo palm is grown in temperate regions.

If you think this laced-leaved palm is perfect for you, read on to know how you can optimize its growth.

Plant Facts

Scientific nameChamaedorea sp.
Common namesBamboo Palm, Reed Palm, Parlor Palm, Good luck palm
FamilyArecaceae
Plant TypeLandscape plant (screen and foundation plant), Houseplant
Height and Width6-12 ft. tall (outdoors), 4-5 ft. wide (outdoors)4-6 ft. tall (indoors), 3-5 ft. wide (indoors)
OriginHonduras, South Eastern Mexico
Flower colorsGolden yellow flowers with papery and overlapping bracts.
Foliage colorGreen, Grayish green
Sun Exposurepartial shade, bright indirect light, can tolerate full sun.
Soil Type & pHWell-drained, moist, wide spaces, acidic to neutral soil pH
Special featuresLow maintenance, prefers slightly humid places, low poison severity when ingested and with direct contact to the skin (fruit)

How to Grow Bamboo Palms

There are different ways to utilize Bamboo Palms both in indoor and outdoor settings. When you plan to put this plant outside, in your backyard or garden, it will serve as a good screen for privacy. In some cases, this plant is used to serve as a privacy wall for large estates. They often opt for natural fences such as this plant to lessen the harshness in the aesthetic appeal of the man-made walls. Some also choose to plant this to cover unappealing views, such as old sheds or walls.

On the other hand, this plant is also a great houseplant. The bamboo palm is planted in a big beautiful pot to serve as a foundation or accent plant. It is often placed on the corners of the house to soften the harsh lines. In malls, it is placed in the middle or near escalators which are used to break the human traffic and have better use of space.

Propagation

Despite being a sturdy plant, the bamboo palm tends to be sensitive with too much agitation. The stress brought upon by propagation may have negative effects on the palm. Hence, the best way to propagate is by waiting for offshoots to grow. Offshoots are small palms emerging on the sides of the plant. What makes it a good planting material is that it already has a developed root system. Having said that, the chances of surviving on their own when separated from the mother plant are high.

To harvest the offshoots, you will need a sharp and sterilized garden knife. The first thing you need to do is to have a clear view of the offshoot and its root system. Then, you cut separating the offshoot to the mother plant. After doing so, prepare the growing media with a loam soil rich in organic matter and put it in a medium-sized container. Plant the offshoot and place it in a humid and shaded place. After 2 to 3 months, the offshoots have already been established.

Soil

Bamboo palms thrive in well-drained soils with rich organic matter content. The soil must be porous enough to cater to the plant’s moisture needs while allowing air into the soil too. The palms prefer slightly moist soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. If you have extra garden soil, you may use it with the help of some components. However, you must pasteurize the soil first before using it. After the pasteurization, you may add peat moss, perlite, or orchid bark to improve the soil quality.

Pruning

This palm seldom needs pruning. It also gives a good indicator as to when pruning should be done, which is when the brown dried fronds are evident. Having a pruning schedule may also work. Although, the schedule will be determined by the habit of your palm. Observe your plant for at least a year to know when is the right time to prune as the seasons’ change. On the other hand, pruning whenever you see fit is also okay. You may remove dried and damaged plant parts with the use of clean and sharp pruning shears or garden scissors.

Repotting and Transplanting

Repotting and transplanting the bamboo palm is optional. This plant is a slow grower and only grows depending on the size of its pots. This means that if the palm is planted in a small container, it will remain small as long as it is in that pot. However, repotting is an option if you want your palm to grow bigger, wherein you can choose a pot size you desire.

Since this plant is sensitive to stress, remember to repot it during not too hot nor too cold days. That will lessen the stress for the plant. You may also prune some fronds before repotting to lessen the top load. When you repot, you may need assistance with a friend or relative if the plant is too heavy to carry. Remember to do everything as gently as possible to reduce the stress on the plant. After repotting, palace your plant in a humid and shaded area and keep an eye on it for a month or two.

How to Care for Bamboo Palm Plants

Water

The Chamaedorea sp. loves moisture but hates too much stagnant water on its soil. This plant is sensitive to too much and too little moisture. Although, lack of moisture is easier to amend than too much water supplied. The best way to know when it’s time to water is by sticking your fingers 2-3 inches deep in the soil. If your finger comes out dry, you may water the plant and vice versa. On the other hand, if you prefer not to get your hands dirty, you may opt for looking at the topsoil if it is dry enough. Although, that would require a bit of experience to know which is dry enough.

Sunlight

The bamboo palm can withstand a variety of sun exposures. Although, it is biased to areas with partial to full shade light available. Some growers place them near windows and doors to have some natural screen for the harsh lights. Although, it is recommended to put the plant in a more shaded area during hot summer days with the sun being extra bright. Too many light exposures will lead to scorching of the leaves.

Temperature and Humidity

As a plant that prefers to grow in warm and tropical climates, it can withstand the climate in USDA zones 10 to 11. Despite being an amazing plant for different light exposures, the bamboo palm can not survive winters that are too cold. While in terms of humidity, the Chamaedorea sp. loves a humid environment. If you need help creating a humid place for it, you may opt for putting a humidifier beside it or a pebble tray.

Fertilizer

Summer and spring are the best seasons to feed your bamboo palm. Also, the best form of fertilizer is a complete granular and slow-release fertilizer. It should be applied on the basal part and immediately followed by water. Although, you may opt for any complete fertilizer or a nitrogen-rich fertilizer as long as you dilute it in water.

Pest and diseases

Similar to other houseplants, the bamboo palm experiences some problems caused by the common houseplant pests. These are aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, and whiteflies. Fortunately, these pests can be treated with the help of household insecticides that are readily available in the market.

Keep in mind that after seeing the infestation on the plant, check your other house plants if they have it too. Separate the ones with pests with the clean ones to avoid further spread. Make sure to check your plant regularly to avoid a bad infestation of the aforementioned pests.

Aside from pests, there are also some environmental problems seen in bamboo plants. These are often a result of mishandling and not giving the right cultural requirements. For example, root rot can be caused by too much moisture in the soil. If the plant can be saved, make sure to check the soil first before watering and choose a pot with a draining hole at the bottom to help give good drainage for the plant. Another problem is scorching, which is brought by exposure to harsh and direct light. Relocating the plant will be the best way to avoid or fix this problem.

Common Varieties and Cultivars

Now that you know how to take care of bamboo palms, you may now choose from the variety of species under the Chamaedorea genus. There may be hundreds more but here are the famous Chamaedorea varieties and short description of why they are notable:

  • Reed Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) – good houseplant, resistant to Gliocladium fungal disease
  • Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) – extends up to 6 feet high but can also be grown in 10 to 17-inch pots indoors. Good performance under full sun.
  • Florida Hybrid (Chamaedorea ‘Florida Hybrid’) – C. seifrizii x C. erumpens. Looks a lot like its parents with better adaptability characteristics.
  • Radicalis Palm (Chamaedorea radicalis) – good for cold climates and resembles the Areca palm.
  • Chamaedorea adscendens – most adaptable among all other species. Can thrive under low to medium light exposures. Cold hardy for up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Good for small spaces because it is compact and short.
  • Chamaedorea cataractarum – a famous palm in the 70’s but lost the spotlight through time. It is still propagated by some growers because it is a slow grower and only grows up to 2 feet high. The downside of being a slow-grower is that it increases its susceptibility to spider mites.
  • Chamaedorea amabilis – this palm came from Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico. It bears a bifid combined pinnate leaves with dark green hues and prominent leaf veins.
  • Chamaedorea arenbergiana – from Central America, grows tall and fast. Its leaves resemble a fishtail during its younger years then changes its appearance as the years go by. It doesn’t perform well in cold climates and freezing damage is high.
  • Chamaedorea brachypoda – this is one of the invasive species under the Chamaedorea genus. It tends to grow tall and fast. Its main method of reproduction is by production of sprouts. It can thrive in cold temperatures but it doesn’t like full sun exposures and low humidity.
  • Chamaedorea costaricana – known but not too famous. It grows tall with thick stems that bear rings like bamboos. It can reach up to 20 feet high which makes it a perfect privacy screen plant. It propagates through division of sprouts that arise from the basal part of the plant.
  • Chamaedorea elatior – this species is not widely used in the ornamental scene because of its leaves. When it is young, it has beautiful bifid leaves that change into a slender and twirling leaf structure as it matures. Despite being unappealing to the eyes of growers and designers, breeders keep this plant in check to cross with other species. This species is the most cold hardy, which can withstand less than 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you want to know more about the different Chamaedorea species, read our article about the 12 Fascinating Types of Bamboo Palm.

Conclusion

The Chamaedorea sp. is very common and popular in landscapes for a reason. It is versatile, low-maintenance, and beautiful. These characteristics are what the growers fell for. They would only have to worry about giving the right soil, moisture, and light. These factors can easily be altered. It is a must to remember that the bamboo palm prefers moist but well-draining soil and a humid and shaded environment.

Generally, the grower of the plant must take time to know the habits of the plant. With a keen eye, you will know what makes your plant happy and what damages it. Feel free to keep a plant journal or calendar, if you are the type to write things down. Taking notes of what your plant is exhibiting will also help you determine pests and diseases earlier. Hence, you can take countermeasures earlier on.

Now that you are sure that you want the bamboo palm, you have a long list of options. In each option, there are differences in the plants’ appearance which can have a positive effect on your landscape design.

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