In any well-decorated public building, church or auditorium there are usually a few palms standing around. Nobody pays much attention to them, and yet they endure year after year. In adverse situations where almost any other plant would expire within a week, palms will grow with only the absolute minimum of care.
Palms reach a considerable height but grow slowly. They are remarkably tolerant of low light conditions. But, unfortunately, palms have been much abused. How much greater would be their decorative value if they were given proper care!
Besides the usual kentia, cocos and phoenix palms, there are three less-familiar ones worth knowing: Chamaedorea erumpens, the Burmese fishtail palm (Caryota mitis) and the lady palm (Rhapis excelsa). These three are very attractive and will endure a shaded spot or an air-conditioned room. They are desirable for porches and patios as well as for the indoors. The chief asset of these palms is their bushy shape. They all branch or sucker at the base, thus eliminating the leggy look which will sometimes develop in the single-trunk varieties. Taller than they are broad, these three palms are ideal for doorways, entrance halls and other loca-tions where height is desired.
Chamaedorea erumpens (Bamboo palm), is slender and compact and looks best when it is over 4 feet tall and has begun to branch at the base.
Everybody knows the fishtail palm Caryota urens. Lesser known but equally desirable is the slow-growing Burmese fishtail palm, C. mitis, which, unlike C. urens, branches at the base.
The lady palm, Rhapis excelsa, comes from southern China and looks reed-like and Oriental. Its fans, held aloft on unbelievably slender stems, are divided into several long, narrow segments. This palm will thrive in sun or shade.
Providing proper care for palms is a simple matter. Keep the soil moist; once a week immerse the pot in water, leaving it there for thirty minutes or until air bubbles stop coming to the surface. If the container is too large to move, add enough water to it to soak the soil thoroughly. Frequently sponge the foliage or spray it with a garden hose to keep dust off.
Indirect or reflected light is sufficient for indoor palm tree. If they are to be used in a dark location, such as on a stage, move the plants when they are not in use to a brighter spot. During warm weather set palms outside in the shade.
Palms grow slowly, so feed them only twice a year with a mild liquid fertilizer. This will be enough to maintain desirable texture and color in the new foliage.
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