Rhapis excelsa: Broadleaf lady palm

Family: Arecaceae
Common name: Broadleaf lady palm, Bamboo palm, Lady palm

A beautiful palm tree that are ideal for indoor spaces, Broadleaf lady palms are cultivated for this very purpose. They prefer indirect sunlight and thrives well indoors. Broadleaf lady palms can grow to a height of 4-5 meters though varieties grown indoor, or in pots only grows to about 1-2 meters.

They are characterized by broad, fan-like, green leaves that are segmented from the petiole to their tips, which are distinctly saw-toothed. Younger leaves only have 2-5 segments, but older ones can have as many as 12 segments with fan-like origami folds running along the length of the leaves. Leaf petioles range from 20-60 cms in length.

As the plant becomes taller, the lower end of the stem becomes bare and bamboo-like, giving the plant its name ‘Bamboo palm’. There are male and female lady palms, but both are very similar in appearance and flowering.

Both plants are need for pollination, after which the plants produce viable fleshy white fruits with seeds inside. Mature plants produce many baby plants around them, which are offshoots from the root rhizomes. These baby plants can fill and crowd a pot quickly, requiring repotting.

Lady palm plants can remove common indoor air toxins like formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, ammonia and xylene, making them ideal plants for your homes or offices. The also make beautiful accent plants in malls and hotel lobbies, or attractive center pieces in parks.

There is a variegated species as well, with light yellow stripes along the leaves. Too much sunlight can burn the leaves, and too much fertilizer can mask the variegation. In fact, these lady palm plants like to grow in the shade and in moist soil. But overwatering can result in root rot killing the plant very quickly.

When grown outdoors, these plants can provide a good nesting area for small birds and insects. Regular pruning and removal of dead leaves can keep the lady palms bushy and healthy. They are pest-resistant and need very little fertilization.

Propagation is from seeds, which is quite time consuming. Dividing roots or rhizomes is a much more easier and efficient method of propagation.

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