Bamboo Palm Buying & Growing Guide
If you want to bring the beauty of the tropics into your home in a low maintenance, no-fuss package, the bamboo palm is an excellent choice. This native of Mexico and Central America thrives as an indoor plant and is happy in low light conditions. A compact plant, the bamboo palm features stems that are reminiscent of bamboo, each of which are topped by several fronds. It is usually purchased when it is two to three feet tall and can grow to a height of five to seven feet in medium light conditions. Here are some other interesting facts about bamboo palms:
- Thrives in medium light, though it will grow faster in bright indirect light.
- Only needs water about once a week.
- Its green fronds make a striking addition to any room.
Bamboo Palm for Sale
- Garden Goods Direct – Starting at $109.95
- Bloomscape – Starting at $195.00
- Real Palmtrees – Starting at $799.95
- Plantz – Starting at $79.00
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|
Planting and Care
When you purchase a bamboo palm from the store, it is likely to be ready to be repotted. Identify a container with a circumference approximately two inches larger than the pot it is currently in. The pot should have drainage holes to ensure the roots do not sit in water. Fill the bottom of the pot with well aerated potting soil, such as bromeliad or a succulent formula, then place the new palm into the center of the pot, filling the sides with soil almost to the top. Tamp the soil down to ensure that it is packed firmly enough to support the palm’s height, then provide a deep watering until water drains from the container’s holes.
Bamboo palms can tolerate low light but will grow more robustly in medium or bright indirect light. They should be kept in temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit at a medium to high humidity, and kept away from drafts or cold windows as well as direct sunlight, which will burn the fronds. It can also be planted as an outdoor plant in areas where the temperature does not fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but needs shade.
Watering and nutrients
Though a bamboo palm does not have demanding water needs, it is important to understand those needs well so that you can keep your plant healthy. Though it comes from a tropical environment and loves humidity, its roots can easily be damaged by overwatering. The bamboo palm’s soil should be kept barely moist and allowed to dry about one third to halfway down from the soil’s surface before watering. Excess water needs to drain out to ensure that the roots don’t sit in wet soil, which can make them rot. Fading leaf tips and fronds turning yellow and then brown are signs of overwatering. To make up for the humidity that the plant experiences in its natural habitat, mist once a week.
Bamboo palm’s growing season is in the spring and summer, and during those months it should be fed a diluted fertilizer high in nitrogen. Nutrients should not be given if the soil is very dry or when the plant is in its dormant season.
Bamboo palms are grown from seed. The small plants that you can purchase in your local nursery are generally two to five years old, so propagating through offshoots makes more sense. If you choose to try growing from seeds, plant them in half an inch of potting soil kept around 85 degrees Fahrenheit for six to nine months. The seed medium should be kept moist and the environment should provide indirect light similar to what it would find on the floors of a rainforest. Even under the best conditions you are unlikely to see growth for about a year, at which point the seedlings can be transplanted into small containers and kept in more moderate temperatures. Keep them in low light until they are well established. Anticipate the total project taking at least two years until you have a plant big enough to resemble one you would purchase at the local store.
A faster alternative is to propagate through offshoots that can be split off from the parent plant when you are repotting into a larger container. The process is arduous and puts stress on the plant, leading many experts to suggest that it makes more sense to purchase a new plant. If you wish to attempt it, carefully shake off the dirt from the larger plant and then carefully identify the young offshoot and cut straight down with a sharp, sterile knife. Be sure to choose an offshoot that has a few roots, then pot it in a new container with evenly moistened soil and keep in an area where it will be able to recuperate in warmth.
Bamboo palms will thrive if they are wiped down from time to time with soapy water, which will keep its leaves looking fresh and deter pests. Though it does not require pruning, old fronds should be cut back at the base of the stem if they begin to fade or die, and brown leaf tips can be trimmed with wet scissors.
Pests and diseases
Bamboo palms are vulnerable to common pests including mealy bugs, spider mites, aphids and scale. Wiping the fronds with warm soapy water every few weeks will both protect against this problem and help to treat it, as will neem oil or insecticidal soap. To avoid spider mites, keep the plant’s environment humid.
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.
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are bamboo palms poisonous?
Though the plant’s leaves and stems are safe around pets and children, they do occasionally produce fruit which is highly toxic. The best way to avoid this is to remove flowers and fruit if they appear.
What should I do about salt buildup on the surface of my soil?
Salt can accumulate from minerals in tap water and can lead to leaf burn. The best way to rid the plant of this problem is to flush the soil by rinsing it with distilled water, allowing the water to drain well and let the soil dry out before providing with water again. If this becomes a chronic problem, try watering your plant with rainwater.