Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 235 Rhapis excelsa

Common Names: lady palm, R. flabelliformis (syn.) Family: Arecacea (palm Family)


The thin trunks of this delightful little fan palm can reach 10' in height to form sizable clusters of foliage. These trunks are covered with interesting leaf scar patterns and are wrapped with mats of brown fiber. Shiny green leaves are deeply divided into 1" strap-like segments and are held erect on 12" to 18" stems.

This plant has been grown as an ornamental in China and Japan for centuries. They were brought to Europe in the 18th century but didn't arrive on the American landscape scene until the early sixties (used to decorate modern "ranch" houses and Japanese inspired interiors).


Lady palm Rhapis excelsa, is native to warm forests of Southeast China. Many other species of Rhapis are found all over Southeast Asia from southern China to Thailand. A related species, Rhapis humilis, is also a popular landscape plant but is less often seen. Lady palm has been naturalized in shopping mall and office lobby planters all over North America.


Light: Grow in shade to part shade for best leaf color. Plants grown in direct sun tend to fade to yellow green and tip burn in hot weather if not provided adequate moisture. Moisture: Adaptable to most soils. Maintain adequate moisture for best appearance. This palm can survive periods of drought once established. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. Can survive temperatures down to mid twenties without damage. Lower temperatures will kill stems but plant may recover. Propagation: Propagate from seed or division of clumps.
lady palm


Use lady palm in the landscape to create dense screens and hedges. Thin out stems and trim leaves to make a graceful accent for the patio or Japanese garden. Lady palm can be used for foundation plantings and in outdoor tubs and planters. It is tough enough to handle interior and urban situations. If used in pots, provide enough room for the clump to expand, when stems reach the edge it's time to repot into a larger container.


This is a romantic small palm that can be enjoyed indoors and out. It needs little care and can survive brief periods of drought. It can tolerate harsh interior conditions and still look fresh. Lady palm is available at most garden center stores and nurseries.

Jack Scheper 06/28/98

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Rhapis species profiled on Floridata:

Rhapis excelsa

( lady palm, R. flabelliformis (syn.) )

Rhapis humilis

( slender lady palm, dwarf lady palm )

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