This decorative palm is rightfully very popular as both an indoor and outside plant, growing well directly in the soil, in outdoor container pots, and inside homes. Native to forests in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, it can now be often seen across Florida and Hawaii, where it is commonly cultivated.
This plant loves shade, lots of water, and can tolerate fairly low temperatures, making it an ideal plant for many environments, including homes, offices, malls, and sheltered areas of gardens. The bamboo palm is an especially good choice for a houseplant, not only because it is very attractive and quite undemanding in terms of care, but also because it rates highly on NASA’s list of air purifying plants. These plants were found to filter harmful toxins from the air, such as formaldehyde, resulting in cleaner and healthier air to breathe in (NASA Clean Air Study- Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement).
Bamboo Palm Overview
|Origin||Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras|
|Scientific Name||Chamaedorea seifrizii|
|Common Names||Bamboo palm, reed palm|
|Ideal Temperature||65- 75° F|
|Toxicity||Foliage non-toxic to people or pets, berries are toxic|
|Light||Bright, indirect light or shade|
|Humidity||Moderate to high humidity|
|Pests||Mealy bugs, scale, spider mites|
Caring for Your Bamboo Palm
The bamboo palm plant likes to have consistently moist soil, but should never be allowed to sit in wet or soggy soil. You should aim to water your bamboo palm in a way that will keep the soil at a level of moisture that is only just perceptible in order to avoid over watering and causing root rot. Some experts suggest that the top few inches of soil should be allowed to dry out in between waterings to stay on the safe side, as a bamboo palm will tolerate slight underwatering much better than it will tolerate overwatering, so erring on the side of caution when it comes to watering this plant is good advice.
Bamboo palms are sensitive to salt build up in the soil, which is usually the result of watering the plant with softened water. The best thing you can do for your palm is to water it with distilled water, or even better, with rainwater. Rainwater is a great source to use to water your houseplants for so many reasons. First, plants love it. There are minerals present in rainwater that contribute to the healthy growth of plants, so using it to water them with gives them a good nutritional boost. Second, it’s easy to access by simply leaving your watering can outside to fill up when it rains. Third, it’s good for the environment because it isn’t using up valuable resources. And fourth, it’s completely free so could even save you a few dollars on your water bill.
If you have salt deposits in your water, it would be especially helpful to use rainwater to water your bamboo palm and prevent unpleasant effects of salt build up in the soil. Salt build up can cause leaf burn and makes the plant look unhealthy and unsightly. If you do encounter this problem, you can leach the plant's soil by flushing it with clean water. To do this, pour water onto your plant and allow it to seep out of the drainage holes. Keep flushing the water through until the water runs clear. This should help to remove a good portion of the salt deposits in your soil and allow your bamboo palm to start recovering. Cut off any foliage suffering from leaf burn, and use rainwater to water your plant going forwards.
Bamboo palms can grow well in a fairly wide range of temperatures and can adapt quite well to temperature change, though for optimum health, they should ideally be in a temperature range of 65°-75° F. They do not tolerate extreme temperatures very well and should be kept away from areas in your home that may experience cold drafts, such as entryways or windows. Also, keep them away from air conditioning units or heaters.
In warmer weather, the palm can be moved outdoors so long as it is brought back inside when temperatures begin to drop. The bamboo palm can be kept outside all year round in areas where winter temperatures do not drop any lower than 55° F.
This plant is a great choice to have in any home or office as it will grow well in a variety of light conditions. Bright, indirect light will help the bamboo plant to grow slightly faster, though it will never be a particularly quick-growing plant, and it does not need a lot of light to thrive. The bamboo palm natively grows in forests where it lives in the shade of larger trees, so it is well accustomed to coping with low light conditions. As such, it will happily live in areas of low light and shade when grown as a houseplant and is particularly well suited to life in an office environment where a lot of natural light isn’t typically common (Better Homes and Gardens).
Bright, direct light is not a good option for this plant as the leaves will scorch, so keep it out of direct sunlight when used as a houseplant or when grown outside. Remember that light levels will affect how much water a plant needs, with plants receiving high levels of light requiring more frequent waterings and plants in shade needing much less water. Always remember to adjust your watering schedule in line with your plant's light levels, especially if you move it to a new spot and its conditions change.
This plant will thrive in both moderate and high humidity, but it prefers high humidity best. If you are able to offer high humidity for the bamboo palm, then this is the best thing to do. Not only will the plant grow better, but high humidity helps to prevent spider mites, which are a particularly common pest of the bamboo palm.
Spider mites are more prevalent in dry air, so try not to allow your palm in areas of your home where the air is likely to dry out. Don’t allow it to sit near heaters or stoves in the wintertime as these dry out the air. If possible, keep the plant in areas of high humidity, such as a bathroom or kitchen, which tend to have more moisture in the air thanks to running showers and washing dishes.
There are ways you can work to increase the humidity in your home, such as with an electric humidifier. You can also increase humidity in more specifically targeted areas, by either misting your plant with a water sprayer or by using a wet pebble tray. To create a pebble tray, you simply need to assemble some pebbles on a tray and set your plant pot on top of it. Pour water onto the pebbles, but be sure that the level of the water doesn’t rise above the top of the pebbles; otherwise, it may get absorbed into the plant’s soil via the drainage holes in the bottom of the plant pot. The water will evaporate from the pebbles and create higher humidity around the plant.
The bamboo palm doesn’t typically need to be pruned often and can be allowed to grow at its own pace without it becoming messy or looking unkempt. The only time you will need to prune the plant is if it develops any discolored leaves. This usually happens in older fronds, which can become dull and brown as they age. These can be cut away to keep the plant looking in good health. Use clean and sharp shears and cut the frond off at the base, close to where it emerges from the soil. You can also cut off any discolored leaves which might result from improper care conditions, or pests, though you should aim to resolve the cause of these so that the plant doesn’t become sick.
Propagation of bamboo palms is achieved by seed and is best left to professionals as it takes a lot of specific care and time to grow a reasonably sized palm. Bamboo palms that you see for sale will usually have taken between two and five years to reach that size, so they really will need to be a labor of love if you do decide to grow your own palm from seed.
For seed propagation, use seed trays filled with your chosen germination medium and tuck seeds in ensuring they have enough space so that they do not touch each other. The soil will need to be kept moist but not wet and heated from the underneath. Warm temperatures of around 85° F will be required for the seeds to germinate, a process which ordinarily takes between six and nine months.
When seedlings appear, you can lower temperatures slightly, and repot the seedlings in individual pots. The seedling pots will need to be small but deep to allow root growth. Keep them in a shaded area, while still providing mild warmth. As the plant becomes more established, you can repot it into a larger pot. The best foliage color will be achieved if the plant is kept in the shade while it develops, though some growers recommend the plant be situated in full sun during summer months to encourage good and strong stem growth.
Bamboo palms can also be propagated via offshoots, which grow on mature parent plants. If your bamboo palm has an offshoot, you will be best to remove it in late spring or early summer when chances of successful propagation will be higher. You should only remove an offshoot that has already formed its own roots, as offshoots without roots have a much lower chance of survival. You can check to see if an offshoot has roots before you separate it from the mother plant by digging away some of the soil around it. If roots haven’t yet formed, you should replace the soil and check on it again at a later date, only cutting the offshoot away when it has roots.
If your offshoot does have roots, use a clean, sharp knife to separate it from the parent plant, being careful not to harm the offshoot itself or the mother plant in the process. Offshoots can be planted up in their own individual pots and kept warm and moist until they are established enough to continue usual bamboo palm care.
As a slow-growing plant, bamboo palms will not need to be repotted frequently. Only repot them when their pot is filled with roots, and they have no growing space. Choose a new container just one size bigger than the old pot and use fresh potting soil to give the plant a nutrient boost. Gently pull the plant out of its old pot and remove old soil that is trapped among the roots by gently rubbing the roots between your fingers to help untangle them and release blocks of soil.
Once you have removed as much old soil as possible, place the plant in the new pot surrounded by new soil. Firmly press the soil down on top of the base of the plant to ensure it is secure and prevent it from toppling over, but be careful not to destroy any of the roots, which can be brittle and prone to breakage. Broken roots will hinder the plant's growth, and recovery can be slow.
Bamboo palms will benefit from feedings during the spring and summer. Use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, as this will encourage lush leaf growth. Liquid fertilizer formulated for houseplants is generally considered the best all-round option, as it is easy to dilute and easy to use. Dilute the fertilizer to half of the recommended strength, as bamboo palms are sensitive to fertilizer burn. Feed the plant around once a month during its growing season, and cease feeding completely during winter when the plant becomes almost dormant.
Bamboo palms are generally quite pest-free, with spider mites being the most common problem, like many house plants. Spider mites are a difficult pest to spot as they are so tiny and typically hide on the underside of leaves. If you notice discolored spots on the leaves, the first thing you should check for is spider mites or other common pests such as whitefly, scale, or aphids.
Spider mites and other pests suck the sap from the plant's leaves, depriving it of vital nutrients and causing stunted growth. If left long enough, a spider mite infestation can become so severe that the plant cannot recover. If you spot webbing on the leaves or tiny, black, speck-like insects on the undersides of the foliage, then your plant is host to spider mites and needs to be treated as soon as possible.
The first line of attack should simply be to wash the leaves with a sponge and soapy water. Repeat this every day for a week, and you should hopefully have eradicated the infestation. Other pest removal methods you can try on your bamboo palm include spraying the whole of the plant's stems and foliage with a strong flow of water. The best way to do this is to take the plant outside and hose it down. The force of the water should be strong enough to blast off any of the pests and their eggs, but you will need to repeat this process every few days for a week or two to ensure every last trace of the pests are gone. These actions should be enough to rid your bamboo palm of pests, but in more severe cases, it might be appropriate to use neem oil to treat your plant.
You can purchase neem oil sprays for houseplants, or you can quite inexpensively make your own. You will need pure neem oil, a carrier such as mild dish soap, water, and a spray bottle. The amount of each ingredient will differ depending on the level of your infestation, but generally, a mixture of 5 ml neem oil, 2 ml dish soap, and 1 liter water will work well. Neem oil does not kill insects instantly, so you will need to wait at least a week to see if your spray has eliminated all pests or if it needs a further application. You can also make a more diluted version of the spray and use it as a preventative method against pests on your houseplants.
This plant is listed as non-toxic to animals by the ASPCA; however, while the stems and foliage of the plant do not present any harm to people or pets, the bamboo palm can sometimes grow berries that are highly poisonous. If you notice your palm producing berries, it’s a good idea to remove them immediately before they find themselves in the hands or paws of children or pets.
How is your bamboo palm doing? Let us know in the comments, and share this article with others who may have bamboo palms!