How to Plant and Grow Lady Palm

The dense foliage of this plant creates beautiful texture, indoors or out in the garden.

Lady palm (Rhapis spp.) is easy to grow indoors or outdoors. It is tolerant of low-light conditions and has large, hand-shaped leaves with long, glossy, dark green leaflets. The foliage forms a dense canopy above clumps of sturdy stems covered with dark brown fibers that give a woven appearance. 

Lady Palm Overview

Genus Name Rhapis spp.
Common Name Lady Palm
Plant Type Houseplant, Shrub
Light Part Sun, Shade
Height 3 to 15 feet
Width 2 to 15 feet
Special Features Good for Containers
Zones 10, 11, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Good For Privacy

Where to Plant Lady Palm

Lady palm is an attractive specimen plant in the landscape. It thrives in well-draining soil and prefers dappled light or morning sun. Plant it near a property line and use it as a living screen, or plant it alongside a garage or composting area to block a view. Lady palm is cold-hardy in USDA Zones 9-11.

Rich in texture, lady palm makes an attractive accent plant for indoors, too. Miniature species such as Rhapis gracilis are wonderful for tabletops in large spaces like living rooms and family rooms. Large varieties can enliven the corner of a room.

How and When to Plant Lady Palm

In Zones 9–11, plant the shrub any time of year. In colder areas, it can be planted in a container in spring after the last frost and moved inside before the first frost in fall.

Plant lady palm in a hole twice the width of the nursery container and only a couple of inches deeper in well-draining soil amended with compost. Lady palm likes crowded roots. Settle the palm at the same depth it was in the nursery container and backfill the hole with soil. Press down on the soil with your hands to remove any air bubbles. Water the plant.

Create a hedge or screen using lady palm by planting nursery-grown container plants about 4 feet apart. The plants will grow together within a couple of years, creating a dense screen. Lady palms grow up to 15 feet tall.

Lady Palm Care Tips


Lady palms grow best in bright, indirect light, although they will grow in partial or full shade. The less light they receive, the deeper green are the leaves.

Soil and Water

Plant lady palm in well-draining soil that has been amended with organic matter. Water the palm thoroughly when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. Don't overwater.

Temperature and Humidity

Lady palms in the garden can survive temperatures as low as 30°F and as high as 100°F. They are as content in humid areas as in dry areas.

When grown as a houseplant, keep the temperature between 60°F-80°F and provide the palm with at least 50 percent humidity.


Don't fertilize a lady palm for the first six months after planting. Most lady palms grown outdoors should receive a single dose of palm fertilizer (8-2-12 formulation) once a year in spring. However, if the soil is poor and the palm leaves turn yellow, the palm can be fertilized as many as three times a year during the growing season to supply missing nutrients. Don't over-fertilize.

Lady palm houseplants are slow-growing and benefit from a monthly dose of fertilizer from April through September. Use a houseplant fertilizer and dilute it to half-strength.


Lady palm spreads by underground stems called rhizomes. Plan to regularly remove the suckers on the outskirts of a lady palm to keep the plant contained. Dig the suckers out with a sharp spade or cut them off with hedge trimmers. Otherwise, lady palms don’t require much pruning except for removing damaged or dead fronds. Use a sharp pair of sterilized pruners to snip off the fronds.

Potting and Repotting Lady Palm

Select a palm-specific potting mix for a lady palm houseplant. Pot the lady palm in a ceramic or terra-cotta pot that is only slightly larger than the root ball, being careful not to damage the roots. Gently tamp down the soil and water the plant.

Repot the lady palm every other year in spring into a slightly larger pot.

A south- or west-facing window covered by a sheer curtain is a good choice to provide the bright indirect light lady palm prefers as a houseplant. These adaptable palms will grow in low-light areas, such as north- or east-facing windows, but expect them to grow exceptionally slow in this condition.

Pests and Problems

Lady palms are relatively disease-resistant. Some mild leaf spot may occur. As far as insects go, the palm—particularly when grown as a houseplant—is susceptible to mealybugs, mites, and scale insects.

How to Propagate Lady Palm

Lady palm can be propagated by divisions and seed.

Lady palm has a rhizome-based root system, which makes it easy to divide. Use a spade to lift an existing plant from the ground (or remove an indoor plant from its container). Brush away the soil until you can see the rhizomes. Using a sharp spade or pruners, cut one or more sections from the rhizome that contain both foliage and roots. Plant the divisions into a prepared bed in the garden in well-draining soil or into a ceramic or terra-cotta container filled with a potting soil/vermiculite mixture.

If you have an area you can keep at 80°F or warmer (or have a heating mat), you can grow lady palm from seed. Fill a seed-starting tray with a soilless mix and sprinkle the seeds on top. Do not cover them. Water well using a spray bottle and loosely cover the tray with a plastic bag to keep up the humidity. Place the tray somewhere warm and keep the medium moist. Rhapis palms are slow to germinate. It may take 3-6 months.

Lady palm
Paul Craft.

Types of Lady Palm

There are several species of lady palm in the Rhapis genus. Of these, Rhapis excelsa is the most common in the United States, although a few others are available.

Broadleaf Lady Palm

Lady palm
Paul Craft

Rhapis excelsa is the most widely grown species of lady palm. It has been cultivated for so long that its exact origins are unknown. This lady palm grows in light to heavy shade and makes an elegant houseplant. It also forms an excellent privacy screen. It grows 10 feet tall and wide. Zones 9-11

Slender Lady Palm

slender lady palm
Paul Craft

Rhapis humilis gets its name from its long, slender leaf segments, which grow to 18 inches long. It makes a good container plant or privacy screen and grows 15 feet tall and wide. Zones 9-11

Thai Lady Palm

Dwarf lady palm
Ed Gohlich

Whether grown indoors or outdoors, Thai lady palm (Rhapis subtilis) is easy to grow. Tolerant of low-light conditions, it has large, hand-shaped leaves with long, glossy, dark green, finger-like leaflets. The foliage forms a dense canopy above clumps of sturdy stems.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do lady palms live?

    Slow-growing lady palm takes four to seven years to reach full maturity, but after that, the sky's the limit. A conservative estimate for garden-grown plants is 25 years, although there are reports that the palm has reached 100 years in some locations.

  • Should I mist my lady palm houseplant?

    Yes, mist your plant daily to increase humidity. Lady palm prefers an environment with at least 50 percent humidity, which many homes don't have.

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