Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Meet a Palm That's Fine With Fluorescent Light

Palms seem to be everywhere in interior design, but don’t be deceived: Only a few make great houseplants. One of those worth getting to know is the parlor palm, Chamaedorea elegans, an easy-care variety that adapts to the average indoor conditions that can mean death for some of its cousins. With dark green arched fronds and long, blade-like leaves, parlor palm tolerates a lack of light and low humidity, making it a great addition to your office, parlor — or both.

Parlor palm was a favorite in English Victorian-era homes, where it helped relieve the drabness of winter days and the darkness of rooms with heavy draperies drawn to prevent sun damage to precious decor. Parlor palms were displayed on tall ornamental stands or placed on the floor in multiples to divide a space.

Today’s busy homeowners often look for low-maintenance and hardy plants, and easygoing parlor palm is popular for its abhorrence of bright light and too much water. It’s happy to get all of its light from fluorescent bulbs.

Although parlor palm will tolerate dry indoor air, it will be healthier with higher humidity. Mist your plant a few times a week with room-temperature water, which will also keep the leaves clean and help to prevent spider mites, who happen to be parlor palm fans as well.

Given enough light, a mature plant may produce tall stalks with sprays of small yellow flowers. Cut the flowers off when they begin to turn brown or you will have seeds all over the place, which are annoying and possibly a hazard if small children or pets roam the floor. (The seeds are rarely fertile, so don’t bother saving them.)

A corner window might seem like the ideal spot for a plant, but that’s not necessarily true for parlor palm. Windows can be a source of cold drafts as well as direct sunlight, both of which are not favored by this plant; it prefers warmth and indirect light.

Tip: To determine if the light intensity is too great for your parlor palm, do the shadow trick. If the plant casts a shadow when the light is the most intense, then the location should be fine.

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