1266 Chamaedorea elegansCommon Names: parlor palm,good luck palm,neanthe palm Family: Arecaceae (palm Family)
This is one of the most popular palms for the home or indoor public space. Parlor palm is a cute, feathery little palm with a single slender bamboo-like stem, ending in a tuft of fernlike leaves. The leaves are up to 24 in (60 cm) long, and each of the 20-40 leaflets (called pinnae) is linear to lance shaped and up to 8 in (20 cm) long and ¾ in (19 mm) wide. The whole plant gets only around 6-10 ft (2-3 m) tall. As plants age, they expand and develop additional stems. (Plants grown in containers indoors are almost always much smaller than the dimensions given here.)
In spring and summer, parlor palm sends up erect peduncles (flower stems) 8-12 in (20-30 cm) long, bearing tiny yellow flowers in open panicles below the leaves. These are followed by spherical one-seeded shiny black fruits around a quarter inch (63 mm) in diameter.
The cultivar ‘Bella’ is a more compact version, even smaller than the species.
Chamaedorea elegans grows naturally in the understory of dense rain forests in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.
Light: Grow parlor palm in bright indirect or filtered light; they cannot tolerate direct, full sun. These are plants of tropical jungles and can survive in full shade. Indoors, they do best near a north facing window. Outdoors, grow in a shady, moist site protected from strong winds and hot sun. Moisture: Water regularly in summer and reduce watering in winter. Parlor palm does best in neutral to acidic soils that are fairly well drained but do not dry out completely. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11 . We have one growing outdoors here in zone 8B that gets damaged when the temperature falls below 20°F (-7° C) or so, but has survived now for more than a decade. That said, most authorities recommend a minimum temperature no cooler than 50°F (10° C). Propagation: Parlor palms usually are propagated from seeds. Since the plants are dioecious, it takes two plants to get fertile seeds. Germination can take several weeks but can be speeded up by soaking the seeds in water for a couple days before sowing. It also is possible to propagate parlor palm by division of the roots of large specimens.
As outside plants, parlor palms are at their best when displayed in groupings in moist, shady areas within tropical and subtropical landscapes.
Parlor palms are among the most popular of foliage houseplants because they do well in shade and don’t get all bent out of shape if you forget to water them. They don’t mind cramped roots and need to be potted up only after several years. This is one of the best houseplants for the neophyte. Parlor palms stay small and are very slow growing. Small specimens are used in mixed dish gardens and terrariums, and larger ones solitary or grouped in larger containers. Potted specimens rarely grow as large as those outside in the ground, usually staying just a foot or two (30-60 cm) tall.
The parlor palm is the most widely grown houseplant palm, and there are large-scale nurseries in Florida that produce thousands of plants annually. As recently as the 1990s, it was reported that millions of seeds are collected every year in Mexico for export to North American nurseries.
Studies have shown that parlor palm and certain other houseplants can remove volatile organic compounds (including carcinogens such as formaldehyde) from the air, and NASA has listed it as an effective air purifier.
You may see parlor palm listed as Neanthe bella, but that name is invalid.
Steve Christman 7/21/16