Chamaedorea elegans, the neanthe bella palm belongs to the Arecaceae family and is commonly known as parlor palm. It is a variety of small palm trees native to Central America and one of the world’s most popular indoor palms.
It can grow to almost 10 feet tall outdoors and sometimes even taller, although Neanthe Bella Palms grown indoors usually grow to about 4 feet tall, reaching almost 8 feet in some cases. It has crescent-shaped pinnate leaves, with the crown bearing 3-10 long-leaf pinnate leaves that become more when the palm is mature.
The remarkable characteristic of this palm is its capability to flower prematurely when the palm is less than a foot tall.
The flowers are small, yellow, or orange-red and appear below or among the leaf and somewhat resemble mimosa flowers, with small berries appearing after the palm blooms. The stems look like bamboo and reach almost an inch in diameter, with individual stems having about 12 leaflets.
The Neanthe Bella Palm can flourish in different indoor lighting conditions but does best in bright to middling light.
The leaves become dark green in low light and grow well with lighting conditions of the average office or home although growth might become leggy. Avoid direct sunlight as the leaves can become bleached.
Under-watering is much better than over-watering. Water normally (once a week) and wait until the soil surface becomes dry before watering once again. It’s a very tolerant plant even if you neglect to water it occasionally.
Don’t water it too much if the lighting or temperature is low as plants don’t require as much water in these conditions. Overwatering puts the plant at risk of fungus growing, as well as root rot which is lethal for the palm.
Being a tropical plant, Neanthe Bella Palm grows best in surroundings with high humidity. It thrives under conditions of ordinary indoor humidity levels but leaves tips to become brown if humidity becomes too low.
A humidifier can help maintain humidity levels as well as putting the pot on a water-filled tray of pebbles that will produce humidity around the plant as the water evaporates.
Neanthe Bella Palms can also be grown in the bathroom if it’s big enough and there’s sufficient light, as continuous use of water in bathrooms generate satisfactory humidity for the plant.
It prefers to be grown at room temperatures between 65° and 80°F. It tolerates a low of 50°F but it will die if kept in cold conditions for too long. Avoid exposing it to cold wind near windows and doors as it will the leaf edges will become dry and/or leaf tips turn brown.
Neanthe Bella Palm is relatively small and doesn’t require regular feeding for it to thrive. A slow-releasing fertilizer for palms once every other month will be enough for mature plants. Younger plants will need to be fed monthly, except in winter.
Feed the plant with two tablespoons of a slow-releasing palm fertilizer when spring begins to give it a boost. Don’t let the fertilizer contact the foliage when you’re blending it into the soil.
The palm likes a rich, soil-based well-draining mix when grown indoors as it does not like to be over-watered. Neither Bella Palms can thrive in a variety of different types of soils except for salty soils when grown outdoors. It is drought-tolerant but thrives best in moist soil in its growing season of spring and summer.
It generally doesn’t like its roots to be disturbed root as the roots are weak and fragile and can get easily damaged. In spite of this, young plants have to be repotted once a year until they mature because they require space to expand.
As a rule, a mature plant should be repotted once every three years or when the soil becomes too compressed and watering becomes an issue as water might drain out continuously, or the roots become a soggy mass.
For repotting, use a pot one size larger, or reuse the old one after freshening the soil mix. Be sure to hold the root ball in place while tamping down the soil around it.
Pruning is not advised as these plants typically don’t grow very tall. These palms are slow-growers and stop growing if they are pruned too much. Just prune away yellow or brown fronds, dead leaves, and flowers that die.
It is usually propagated by division by splitting one or two stems away from the existing plant. Start with a palm that is growing well and has several healthy stems.
Prepare a suitably sized pot that keeps a single stem and fill it with an equal mixture of moss and perlite. Remove the mother plant with care and loosen the soil from the roots to uncover the bare roots. Choose a healthy stem with its distinct root structure and sever any roots connecting it to the mother plant carefully.
Place the new stem in the prepared pot, making sure that the roots are covered with soil. Return the mother plant to its previous pot, topping it up with fresh soil. Water both plants so that the soil is moist and keep both the parent plant and the new plant in a warm, shady position to recuperate, then attend to them as normal.
Some of the fronds on the new and mother plant might become dry, which can be pruned, leaving healthy leaves.
It doesn’t need much attention other than making sure it isn’t over-watered as this can lead to unwanted problems in the root system.
Dead leaves and flowers should be cut off from the plant to prevent pest or fungus growth.
There are some problems that may happen due to incorrect watering and lighting. A dry plant can attract insects, and sodden roots can lead to disease.
Spider mites, scale, and mealybugs are the usual culprits, damaging leaves by promoting fungus and disease. Neem oil along with insecticidal soap will control/kill them by spraying the plant thoroughly. Reapply as necessary and cut off affected leaves.
Root rot happens often in damp and wet soil and there is the treatment for root or stem rot, Prevention is the best cure by monitoring your watering schedule. Make sure that the pot has well-draining soil and don’t wet the leaves.