Friday, September 9, 2011

Chamaedorea Elegans

If you’ve never grown a palm and are interested in giving one a try, Chamaedorea elegans is certainly the one to start with. Originating from Mexico and Guatemala, this slow-growing plant is one of the most popular palms in the world. And although it’ll certainly take its time getting there, it can eventually reach a maximum height of anywhere between 4 – 6 feet.

(Note: The growth rate of the Chamaedorea elegans is certainly debatable. Some sources of information will state that it grows slowly; others will state that is grows fast.C. elegans ‘Bella’ or ‘Neanthe Bella’ is a compact variety that reaches a height of about 3 feet.)

Perhaps one of the most attractive features of Chamaedorea elegans is its ability to adapt to a variety of indoor settings and tolerate less than ideal conditions. But although it can survive slapdash care and different forms of plant abuse, it won’t look its best in that type of environment. So give it what it needs to thrive.

Chamaedorea elegans will adjust to medium and even low light if necessary but it performs best in bright, indirect light. In shadier locations, the fronds of the plant will be darker. And in brighter locations they’ll be lighter. Direct sunlight is not recommended, although I don’t believe that a little early or late afternoon sun will be much of a problem. I will suggest (strongly) that you protect this palm from the summer’s hot, midday sun.

Use a fast-draining, airy soil and always keep Chamaedorea elegans evenly moist during the summer. Allow it to dry a little during the cooler months, but never completely. It is important to learn to water properly because both over-watering and under-watering will upset this lovely palm. While it is normal for lower leaves to turn brown with age, if the browning occurs all over the place and is accompanied by rot, it is most likely due to too much water. Under-watering will cause fronds to yellow and leaf tips to brown.

(Note: I have not grown a Chamaedorea elegans in hydroculture and therefore cannot give a personal opinion on how it would perform in that system. But I do believe it would adapt with little effort and thrive in a soilless medium.)

Another appealing feature of this palm is its ability to tolerate dry air better than most indoor plants. This is a wonderful houseplant characteristic since most homes are not always able to provide sufficient humidity. But Chamaedorea elegans will be much happier when there is more moisture in the air. Air that is too dry will stress the plant and lead to brown leaf tips and susceptibility to infestations, primarily spider mites, scale and mealybug. Increase humidity to keep the plant healthy and to deter pests from attacking. In addition, shower your Chamaedorea elegans regularly to keep it looking attractive and to prevent infestations. Remove faded fronds promptly.

Average household temperatures are fine; Chamaedorea elegans can tolerate temperatures down to 10°C (50°F) but prefers to be kept warm. Do not expose to chilly drafts that will cause cold damage. Feed once a month from spring to autumn. Do not feed in the winter.

Chamaedorea elegans deserves its reputation as one of the easiest palms to grow indoors because it’s remarkably easy to care for in a home or office. Don’t be reluctant to pick up one of these lovely plants. You’ll be glad you did.

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