The deep green foliage of bamboo palm adds wonderful depth to a shade garden. It also makes a fantastic houseplant. With its exceptional shade tolerance, this rugged palm is perfect in a bright window, and can even do well in north-facing light.
Palms have long been used for their versatility and their ability to bring a tropical flair to any space. Bamboo palms are no exception. These tend to be some of the most common palms grown, especially for the indoors because they aren't too picky about light. Bamboo palms can take anything from part sun to full shade and are ideal in the filtered light of a house or apartment setting.
This genus has more than 100 species to choose from. Most have lovely green pinnate leaves. A few varieties have smaller leaflets, and some have fused leaflets. Some, like the metallica palm, have blue and green metallic-looking foliage. Regardless of leaf size, most bamboo palms tend to stay fairly small.
As their name implies, bamboo palms form tall, slender trunks that often resemble bamboo, thanks to the rings around their trunks. Many species of bamboo palms also form suckering colonies of plants, giving them a grove-like effect. This isn't the case in all species, though—many are single stemmed and will never form colonies. Growers will often plant several of these trees in one pot to give the appearance of having colonies to make up for it.
Bamboo Palm Care Must-Knows
Bamboo palms are easy to care for and require no special skills to grow. These plants generally won't tolerate full sun, unlike many other types of palm. Bamboo palms prefer part sun but can manage fine in full shade.
Make sure to plant your bamboo palm in well-drained soils. While these plants like to remain consistently moist, they don't tolerate standing water; 1-3 waterings a week should do the trick. Container bamboo palms also like to have some room to grow, so if they look cramped in their current pot, consider bumping them up a container size. While bamboo palms like to be fed, don't go overboard when fertilizing them. The best route is to apply a slow-release fertilizer every three months or so.
Problems and Concerns
Bamboo palms are pretty rugged plants with very few problems. One of the main things your bamboo palm may encounter in a container setting is leaf burn. This often happens when too much salt from water and fertilizer build up within the soil. To solve this, either repot the plants and try and remove as much old soil as possible, or leach the soil out. To leach the soil, simply flush the pot with water until it runs clear.
Related: Hints for Healthy Houseplants
During hot and dry seasons, palms can also be susceptible to spider mites. Often, you'll see small webbing at the edges of leaves before you notice the mites themselves. Spider mites like hot and dry conditions, so be on the lookout in the summer. If you leave these plants outside, simply washing the leaves off with a heavy stream of water can remove spider mites. Otherwise, this problem can be treated with an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Occasionally, mealybugs and scale can be a problem—these can be wiped out with horticulture soap or oil.
More Varieties of Bamboo Palm
Chamaedorea seifrizii is a multitrunk palm that grows 8-10 feet tall and 5-7 feet wide, making it a good screening plant. Bamboo palm grows best in shade but tolerates brighter light if gradually acclimated to sunny conditions. It is often grown as a houseplant. Zones 10-11
Chamaedorea cataractarum is a mounded multistem palm that grows 6-8 feet tall and wide. It's native to Mexico, where it grows along streams and rivers, so it prefers moist soil. Cat palm grows well in full sun or moderate shade. Zones 10-11
Chamaedorea oblongata forms a single trunk and grows best in heavy shade. It grows 8-10 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. Cauqui palm hates dry soil, so keep it moist at all times. It looks best with other low-growing shade plants. Zones 10-11
Chamaedorea radicalis is slightly smaller than regular bamboo palm. It grows 4-6 feet tall and 3-5 feet wide with a single trunk, so it's not ideal for screening. It is hardier than some palms (to 25 degrees F), making it better adapted to slightly cooler regions. Zones 9-11
Chamaedorea microspadix is the hardiest of the bamboo palms (to 23 degrees F). It is a clumping palm with stems reaching 8-12 feet tall and 8-10 feet wide. Its leaves are dark green and have a silvery cast. Grow it in heavy to moderate shade. Zones 9-11
Chamaedorea metallica is a small shade-tolerant palm suited as a groundcover when grown in a large grouping. The deep bluish-green leaves are splashed with silver, providing the plant with a metallic sheen. Miniature fishtail palm grows 4-6 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. Zones 10-11
Chamaedorea tepejilote is a giant among bamboo palms. This tree grows 10-20 feet tall and 5-20 feet wide. It is a fast grower when given the conditions it prefers: heavy to moderate shade and evenly moist soil. Zones 10-11
Chamaedorea elegans may be better known as a houseplant than as a landscape plant. It has been popular for indoor use since Victorian times. In the landscape, it grows 5-8 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. Shade is essential: The foliage may burn and the plant decline if given too much sun. Zones 10-11