lady palm

Lady Palm (Rhapis Excelsa): Types, How to Grow and Care

Sharing is caring!

Maybe it is the delicate leaves. Maybe it is the easy and forgiving nature of it. No matter the reason, a Lady Palm is a worthy addition to any home or garden. Read on to see how to take care of this elegant plant.

What is a Lady Palm Plant?

The Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) is a delicate plant from the Palm family. This plant can also be called a broadleaf lady palm, rhapis palm or bamboo palm.

It is believed to have originated in South China and Taiwan and is the most popular species of Rhapis used in tropical landscaping. The name rhapis means ‘needle’ in Greek while excelsa is Latin for ‘tall’, referring to the needle-like segments of the leaves and the plant’s tall stature (1).

Like any other palm, Lady Palm is famous for their delicate foliage. The leaves are fan-shaped, glossy, and dark green in color. Each leaf can grow up to 20 inches long, divided into five ribbed oblong segments with toothed edges.

The leaves are borne in long, thin petioles growing from a bamboo-like cane which is why it is sometimes called ‘bamboo palm’. The plant itself can grow up to 6 to 15 feet in height (1,2).

Lady Palms along with other Rhapis species are first used by the Japanese to adorn Imperial palaces and temples (3). Nowadays they are mainly cultivated as indoor plants are found adorning many households and establishments around the world.

These palms seldom blossom indoors, and you need a male and female plant nearby, so your prospects of producing your own seeds to propagate new plants are slim.

What are the Types and Cultivars of Rhapis excelsa?

There are three types of Lady Palms available in garden centers, green form, variegated form, and dwarf form (3).

Green Form 

This type of Lady Palm has all-green leaves. They have varying leaf shape and growth habits. Some examples of green form Lady Palms are ‘Koban’ and ‘Daruma.

Variegated Form 

This type is the most ornate of Lady Palms and a popular specimen for Japanese style gardens. They feature leaves with cream or light green stripes running along the ribs of each leaf segment. Some notable variegated cultivars are ‘Zuikonishiki’, ‘Zuiko-lutino’, ‘Chiyodazuru’, and ‘Kotobuki’.

Dwarf Form 

This type can grow up to 5 inches to 7 inches tall, but they are fast clumping. Perfect as tabletop or countertop specimens. Some examples of dwarf form cultivars are ‘Kodaruma’, ‘Gyokuho’, and ‘Tenzan’.

Rhapis Excelsa

How to Take Care for a Lady Palm Plant

This slow grower is a perfect choice for all plant parents because it is suitable for different climates and requires minimal upkeep or maintenance. Here are some Lady Palm care tips at home.


Lady Palms can tolerate full shade, but they grow best in bright indirect light or filtered light. Direct sunlight might cause your beautiful palm’s leaves to get scorched and yellow. When growing Lady Palms indoors, make sure to place them in areas where they can still get some sunlight.

Rotating the plants can help in distributing light in partial shade preventing asymmetric growth. Full sunlight on your Lady Palm plant can cause the glossy green fronds to take on a yellowish color. Keep them green and vibrant in shaded areas (2).


Despite their easy-going nature, Lady Palms cannot tolerate drought conditions. Regular watering depends on the growth and weather conditions.

Watering should be done by soaking the roots and then allowing the soil to dry out slightly before watering again (2). This is important to avoid root rot, which is a disease that attacks the roots of trees growing in wet or damp soil.

For potted Lady palms, drenching the soil once a year can get rid of many impurities and excess salt in the soil (4).

Temperature and Humidity

Lady palms grow best in normal room temperatures, but they can tolerate cold temperatures down to 46oF (8oC). In winter months, Lady Palms will go through a cold rest and grow more slowly than usual. Plants grown outdoors could develop freeze damage especially in the older, taller canes but the lower, younger offshoots will be protected (4).

The lady palm prefers a humid climate. Low humidity could cause the leaf margins to brown so keep them in a dry well if possible (5). 

Growing/Potting Media

These indoor plants grow in almost all soil that is well-draining. A minimum of one drainage hole in the pot is required.

The best results can be seen in highly organic, slightly acidic soil (6). To aid drainage, use a well draining potting mix containing perlite or an African Violet mix. Make sure that all root ball and the base of the canes are covered to retain moisture and allow the new growth of offshoots.

Root-bounding in Lady palms is normal and is actually encouraged so repotting should be done every couple of years. When repotting, make sure to keep the soil density firm and the water slowly seeping through. Do not pack the soil to avoid overwatering.

Lady Palm Fertilizer Requirement

Lady Palms has slow growth rate and can benefit from occasional application of fertilizer. The elegant leaves would turn yellow when they need feeding. Fertilize using a specially formulated liquid houseplant fertilizer for palm plants such as a 12-4-12-4 fertilizer with micronutrients. Feed two or three times throughout the year (2).


How do you maintain a Lady Palm?

Maintain a Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) by providing it with bright, indirect light, well-draining soil, and consistent watering. Wipe the fronds periodically to remove dust, and trim any brown or yellow leaves.

Is Lady Palm an indoor plant?

Yes, the Lady Palm is often grown as an indoor plant, particularly in homes and offices. It thrives in low to bright, indirect light conditions.

Why are the tips of my Lady Palm turning brown?

The tips of Lady Palm fronds may turn brown due to factors like underwatering, low humidity, or exposure to drafts. Ensure proper watering, maintain moderate humidity levels, and protect the plant from cold drafts.

Should I cut the brown tips off my palm plant?

Yes, you can trim off the brown tips of Lady Palm fronds using clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears. Ensure to make clean cuts at an angle to maintain the plant’s aesthetic appeal. Regular maintenance, including the removal of brown tips, can promote a healthier appearance.

Is the lady palm safe for pets?

Yes, Lady Palm is generally considered safe for pets. While it’s always a good practice to be cautious with plants around pets, the Lady Palm is not known to be toxic to cats or dogs. However, individual pets may react differently, so it’s advisable to monitor them and consult a veterinarian if you observe any unusual behavior or symptoms after exposure to the plant.


Reference List

1.       “Rhapis excelsa”. Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder. (online)

2.       MacCubbin T., Tasker G. “Florida Gardener’s Guide”. Cool Springs Press. 2002. P 117.

3.       McKamey L. “Secret of the Orient, Dwarf Rhapis Excelsa: A ‘lady Palm’ Reference, Including Standard Rhapis Excelsa and Other Rhapis Palms”. Rhapis Gardens. 1983.

4.       McKamey L. “Rhapis Palms: Cultivated Species & Vartieties, Culture and Care of the ‘Ladies’”. PALMS. International Palm Society. 1989. 

5.       Zachos E. “Growing Healthy Houseplants: Choose the Right Plant, Water Wisely, and Control Pests.” Storey Publishing. 2014. P 109.

6.       Neal N. “Gardener’s Guide to Tropical Plants: Cool Ways to Add Hot Colors, Bold Foliage, and Striking Textures”. Cool Springs Press. P 178.


Image by kaewphoto&sirastockid08/depositphotos

Scroll to Top