Lady Palm | Plant Guide

This plant guide has everything you need to know about the Lady Palm. You’ll also find out how to use it in your Central Florida landscape. Find all the basics and expert growing tips right here.

The Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa), is precisely the palm you need for any area in your landscape that does not get full sun or for indoor use. They also make great privacy screens or shrubs.

They add a graceful oriental charm to your landscape. Additionally, they’re easy to care for and are relatively safe from diseases when grown outdoors.

Alternate names for this palm include: Broadleaf Lady Palm, Fan Tufted Palm, and (formerly known as) Rhapis flabelliformis. It is also called Bamboo Palm (not to be confused with Chamaedorea seifrizii).

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Lady palms thrive in low light conditions, such as shade and partial shade. It’s ability to grow in the shade and it’s low height make it the best choice for growing under well-established tall trees.

You can also use these palms in interior-scapes or in a container. Lady palms grow slowly in a pot and are a great way to bring natural beauty to your interior design.

This palm grows natively in Southeast China.

If you’re in search of a small palm that thrives indoors or outside in the shade, the Lady Palm is a great option.

In this post, let’s explore the Lady Palm in detail. We will talk about its characteristics, growing requirements, maintenance, and also it’s uses in landscaping.

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Lady Palm: Characteristics and Appearance

Rhapis excelsa palms have multiple thins stems and grow in clusters. They can cluster and eventually form dense thickets. They grow to a maximum height of 5-10 feet and each palm has a width of 1- 5 feet. But keep in mind that it’s clustering growing habit that allows it to spread out.

The Lady Palm self-propagates by growing from underground rhizome offshoots. These offshoots spread along the ground and allow this palm to spread in clusters. They can spread as much as their height, which is about 7 feet.

The stems, about 1 inch wide, are covered with woven palm fibers. Furthermore, they have a leaf scar pattern that makes them look like bamboo canes.​

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Variegated Lady Palm

Rhapis excelsa’s goregous fan-shaped leaves grow up to 1 -2 feet long. They’re divided into 4-10 blunt-tipped segments and never overlap. The fronds are slightly offset, and this gives it a lush, layered appearance.

Depending on the amount of light it receives, the fronds can range from dark green to light green.

Lady Palms grow slowly. When kept indoors, however, their growth rate decreases even more. These palms tend to be expensive because of the amount of time it takes (a minimum of 2 years) to grow to an acceptable height for sale as a landscape plant.

Furthermore, Rhapis excelsa is propagated through plant division, by seed with application of heat, or by cloning. Difficult propagating techniques adds to the high price tag of these palms.

During the spring months Rhapis excelsa produces flowers. Round creamy fruits follow shortly after.

Light Requirements

The Lady Palm thrives in the shade. However, it can also do well in partial shade.

This palm produces dark green leaves when grown in the shade. Furthermore, it will grow light green leaves when grown under brighter light conditions, such as partial shade.

When purchasing from a nursery, find out the light conditions the palm grew up in. If you take it home and suddenly give it too much light from what it’s accustomed to, the leaves could suffer burns.

Variegated Lady Palm. Upclose image of gorgeous light yellow streaks.

Temperature Requirements

Lady Palms grow natively in Southeast China. They are cold hardy down to 15°F. And that’s why these palms grow well in Central Florida’s USDA Hardiness Zone 9b. They also do well in Zones 8b to 11.

Water requirements for Lady Palm

Lady Palms require moderate watering. This is pretty much the only care you really need to give it.

Be sure to provide it with enough water so that the soil is just moist. However, don’t allow it to sit in water for an extended period of time. In fact, please ensure that your palm is planted in an area that has adequate drainage after watering or a heavy rain.

You may decide to grow this palm in a pot and keep it indoors. If you do, water it when the top 1 inch of soil feels dry. This may be around once a week, but it varies. Ensure that the pot you use has large drainage holes. This allows excess water to properly drain out after watering, and helps to prevent root rot.

Maintaining Your Lady Palm

Overall, this palm does not require too much fuss or maintenance-just moderate watering. But there are some best practices you should employ with this and other palms you may have.

Soil

Rhapis excelsa does great in well-draining soil. The same is true for most palms. If your soil is not well-draining, then choose an area in your yard that may allow gravity to help you out. That means planting your palm at the top of a slope instead of the bottom where water tends to accumulate.

You may decide to keep this in a pot and rightfully so. It looks gorgeous and does very well indoors or in a patio. If you do, use well-draining, chunky soil in a planter that has plenty of drainage holes.

When first planting your Lady Palm, amend the soil with top soil or organic peat moss.

Fertilize

Lady palms require fertilization during the growing seasons. That would be twice a year in the spring and summer. These palms are susceptible to nutrient deficiencies if grown outside of their comfort zone (such as too much light, poor soil aeration, and high soil pH).

If your palm is planted outdoors, you’ll have less need to fertilize. But if kept in a container, use a controlled-release fertilizer that supplies nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and dolomite combined with a micronutrient blend. Incorporate it into the potting soil to provide calcium, magnesium, and the micronutrients. Be sure to follow your fertilizers package directions. You can even halve or quarter the amount to avoid over-feeding your palm.

Pests

Although relatively resistant to disease, you may still face issues with insect pests. These include spider mites, mealybugs, and scale-most often occuring when the palm is kept indoors.

Pruning

Lower fronds will eventually dry and turn brown. Remove them to keep its attractive appearance. Cut the fronds off as close to the stem as possible to prevent bacterial infection.

Because Rhapis palms grow slowly, you can control their spread by removing suckers (new shoots).

You can even create different aesthetics in your landscape. One option is to keep the plant looking naturally round and full to the ground, by not pruning lower fronds. Alternatively, you can trim off the lower fronds to make the stems more visible, giving it an aesthetic that works well with Asian or minimalist styling.

Plant Spacing

Because Rhapis palms tolerate shade to partial shade, plant this palm in an area that receives full shade throughout the day. Or at the very most, dappled sunlight. This usually means under a canopy of larger trees.

It can be used in landscaping as a shrub or privacy screen. That’s because it will spread out as it grows and eventually form a dense thicket. You can place mulitple palms as close together or as close to a fence or wall as you’d like. It will spread out from wherever it is planted.

In addition to planting Rhapis palms close to structures, you can also plant them close to taller species of palms or low flowering plants. These palms serve as a filler for taller trees. They also look great as a backdrop for flowering perennials.

And since your Lady Palm grows slowly, you can keep it in a planter and enjoy it indoors or under a covered patio. Give your patio or home a lush tropical look with this palm!

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Lady Palm can be planted close to a structure and provides privacy

Landscape Uses for Lady Palm

These palms look great:

  • as a privacy screen
  • as hedges for a lush tropical feel
  • as a stand-alone specimen
  • when used under tall palms to fill out empty space
  • along walls, fences, or along property lines
  • planted together with shade-loving flowering plants
  • in large containers or pots as patio or poolside accents
  • indoors as home decor
  • in interior-scapes

Key Takeways for Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

  • Wonderful choice for a shaded location
  • Use as privacy screen, hedges, or to line a property
  • Lush, tropical, oriental aesthetic
  • Very easy care
  • Versatile: can be grown indoors and outdoors
  • Cold hardy to 15°F
  • Grows in full shade to partial shade
  • Requires moist, well-draining soil
  • Fertilize regularly 2 times per year during spring and summer with controlled-release granular palm fertilizer
  • Can grow in containers or large pots
  • Good for snowbirds? Yes. Slow growing and requires minimal care. Requires regular irrigation, but can also tolerate drought conditions once well-established.

Other palms you might like: Areca palm, Christmas Palm, Roebelenii Palm, Dwarf Sugar Palm, Bamboo Palm

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