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Indoor Palms and How to Care for Them

Oct 13th, 2021

The iconic palm trees in Los Angeles are as much symbols of the city as the grand Hollywood sign or the Walk of Fame. They’re certainly synonymous with the Sunshine Coast, and there’s nothing we wouldn’t do to keep these tall beauties a part of our city. 

While we certainly can’t bring these iconic trees into our homes, there are plenty of palm varieties out there that make great indoor plants! From small table-toppers to leafy giants, there’s a palm out there for all of us!

Indoor Palm Plants 101

How to care for indoor palms

Palms are fairly easy plants to care for as long as you know what kind of palm you have. There are plenty of palm varieties out there, and some of them are totally different in what they require to survive and thrive indoors. 

One of the biggest differences that you’re likely to encounter is the level of humidity required to keep the palm properly hydrated. Some palms are native to tropical regions where there is abundant humidity and moisture, while some palms are native to drier, more desert-like regions of the world. Some palms can even grow in extremely cold regions, like the Needle and Saw Palmetto Palms in Alaska! 

Because there are so many palms that range so widely in temperature and climate, it’s super important to ensure that your home and indoor environment is going to suit your palm’s needs, including light levels, watering schedules and even the amount of fertilization it requires. Otherwise, you’ll likely have a hard time keeping the plant alive and thriving. 

Oh, and if you already have a palm and need to identify it, check out this identification website with more information on what to look for in each species. Once you know what you’re working with, you can figure out what type of care it needs. 

Don’t be intimidated by these needy palms, though, because most indoor palms are pretty easy to look after once you know what to look for. They all fall under the low-light to bright-indirect-light category, and they prefer to dry out completely between watering. Don’t mess around with the fronds and stems too much or else they might break or bruise, and don’t trim away too many leaves if they start going brown. Palms rely on all their leaves to provide nutrients to the rest of the plant, so minimizing any damage done to the plant is a good way to keep it healthier for longer. 

6 popular and easy to care for indoor palms

Chinese fan palm

Livistona chinensis

Care difficulty: 🌴

Water needs: allow soil to dry slightly between thorough waterings

Light requirements: bright, indirect light

Feed and fertilization: feed once in spring and summer

Pet safe: yes 

This palm is known for its size and beauty when grown outdoors, but it also makes for an attractive indoor plant, too! Look for alternative names for this palm, like dwarf Chinese Fan palm or Taiwan Fan palm, if you’re looking for an indoor palm.

Though this palm is pretty easy to care for, it does do much better with a bit of humidity. If you can get your room to around 40-50% humidity and between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit, this plant will love you forever!

Areca palm

Dypsis lutescens

Care difficulty: 🌴

Water needs: keep soil evenly moist

Light requirements: bright indirect light

Feed and fertilization: feed once in spring and summer

Petsafe: yes

Thanks to its attractive shape and ease of care, the Areca palm is one of the most-grown palms of its genus! The fronds on this ornamental plant grow up rather than out, creating a tall, elegant plant that adds a beautiful, gentle greenery to its environment. 

Parlor Palm

Chamaedorea elegans

Care difficulty:🌴

Water needs: allow soil to dry between watering

Light requirements: medium to bright indirect light

Feed and fertilization: fertilize once every month or so

Pet safe: yes

Parlor palms grow in dense clusters which, as they grow larger, allow the fronds to spread out a little more than, say, the areca palm does. It prefers a little more humidity, though, so if you see it struggling, consider investing in a small plant humidifier to keep it going. When healthy, these palms can grow up to 12 feet tall!

Ponytail palm 

Beaucarnea recurvata

Care difficulty: 🌴

Water needs: allow soil to stand completely dry between watering

Light requirements: at least 6 hours of direct sun per day

Feed and fertilization: feed with plant food 2-3 times per year

Pet safe: yes

While not technically, part of the palm family, this slow-growing palm-like plant is often lumped into the category for its tree-like foliage.

The ponytail palm is named for its squiggly, hair-like leaves that curl out from the top of a small trunk. It’s also called the bottle palm tree and the elephant foot tree.

Sago palm 

Cycas revoluta

Care difficulty: 🌴🌴

Water needs: water when ground is dry, keep well-drained

Light requirements: bright indirect light or full sun

Feed and fertilization: fertilize once per month

Pet safe: no

This palm is yet another not-palm palm, but it’s lumped in as one because of its leafy fronds. If anything, it looks like a pineapple with palm leaves, though it’s certainly not related to either species. 

The sago palm is a beautiful, sturdy houseplant that will slowly grow to about 3 feet in height, perfect for any plant lover’s abode. 

Yucca palm

Yucca elephantipes

Care difficulty: 🌴

Water needs: water when surface soil is dry

Light requirements: bright indirect light

Feed and fertilization: fertilize occasionally during spring and summer

Pet safe: no

Also known as the spineless yucca or stick yucca, the yucca palm is a great indoor plant to have if you’re going for height, as it grows up to 5 feet tall! It’s a slow-grower, though, but it’s a gorgeous plant to display.

The tall, cane-like trunk grows large and pointed leaves from the very top, and you’re likely to see it in national parks all over the southwestern United States.

Well, there you go! Decorate your Southern California apartment with the best kind of foliage you could get: some breezy, beachy palms! They go great with any décor from modern to retro to SoCal boho, so be sure to grab one next time you’re at a plant store!


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Featured photo courtesy Unsplash/Annie Spratt

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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