Encyclopedia of Houseplants

Tips and Tricks for Making Your Lady Palm Happy

updated Jun 6, 2020
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Lady palm
Credit: merrymuuu/Shutterstock

There’s a lot of variety when it comes to palms, which range from the tiny ponytail palm—which maxes out at about three feet tall as a houseplant—to the towering coconut trees you see swaying on the beach. Different types of palm trees grow at different rates to different sizes, which is very important to consider when making a purchase—you might not have the space for a palm that grows extremely large at a rapid rate!

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For those looking for a slow-growing, medium-sized palm that’s easy to care for, the lady palm is not to be missed. It’s a great palm plant for even a beginner plant owner, and there are only a few things that you’ll need to watch out for.

When you’re on the hunt, keep in mind that there are two different types of lady palms,  the Rhapis excelsa and the Rhapis humilis. The main difference, which is very important, is that the R. excelsa will grow upwards of six feet tall in maturity while the R. humilis will only hit about three feet. 

About the lady palm

As mentioned, the R. excelsa and the R. humilis are two different plants. With adequate care, R. excelsa will grow upwards of six feet tall in maturity. This might seem large to you, but it’s actually a midsized palm. It’s the perfect plant for a corner as the stems and foliage tend to grow in an upright fashion.

The R. humilis stays smaller and maxes out around three to four feet in height. It’s a great option for an end table or paired with another floor plant for visual contrast.

Both plants grow in an extremely slow fashion, so if you’re looking for a small plant that will hurry up and fill your space, look elsewhere. 

Like other palms, the lady palm will frequently start to get brown and crispy around the edges of the leaves. This is normal and there is no need to panic. If the whole leaf turns brown, make sure you’re watering it properly and that it’s not getting too much sun or being exposed to extreme temperature changes. 

What kind of soil and container do you need for a lady palm?

Lady palms can grow in your typical houseplant soil mix as long as there is adequate drainage provided. You can achieve this by planting it in a container with drainage holes or by adding a two-inch layer of stones or gravel in the bottom of the pot before planting. Remember to initially  use a container that is two inches larger than the original growers pot. 

When repotting, do not disturb the root ball. Simply place right into its new home and add new soil. 

What kind of light does my lady palm need?

Lady palms do not like bright, direct light. This will definitely lead to a sunburn and crispy leaves. In order to look its best this plant needs indirect light

Credit: Lamyai/Shutterstock

How much water does my lady palm need?

During the growing season (spring, summer and the beginning of fall) lady palms need thorough watering at least once a week. Be wary of overwatering. You’ll have to remember that most of this plant’s roots grow straight down to the bottom of the pot, where they soak up most of the water, so the “water when the soil is dry 1 inch deep” rule doesn’t really apply here. If you’re in doubt that it needs to be watered, wait a few days.

In the winter, you will only need to water your plant once every week and a half or so. It won’t be using as much water and therefore doesn’t need to be watered quite as frequently. 

These plants are humidity lovers. Mist multiple times a week, even in the winter months.