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Indoor Palm Trees: Versatile, Tropical & Easy-Care Plants

Many people think of palm trees as tropical plants grown outdoors. But several palms make excellent indoor plants as well. Because they're relatively easy to care for, have a distinctly tropical appearance, and are pet-friendly, indoor palms are ideal in virtually any home.

Other names for this plant...

Varies based on species

About Indoor Palm Trees

Palms are beautiful and add tropical flair when grown indoors. All palm plants are slow-growing evergreens with feathery leaves (fronds) that emerge from a single stem. The fronds branch out from the top of the stem and resemble fans.

Indoor palm plants are the same as the ones grown outdoors, either younger or smaller (dwarf) by nature. All houseplants have air-purifying capabilities, but palms are particularly good at removing CO2 and formaldehyde and adding oxygen to their environment.

Botanical Name

Palms belong to the Arecaceae family. This family contains over 180 genera, each containing many palm species. The total number of palm species is over 2,600 encompassing the largest through the smallest.

Each species will be known by its specific genus, species, and common name.

Plant Type

Palms are flowering woody perennials, a classification that includes trees, shrubs, and vines.

Flowering woody perennials are characterized by a rigid stem that grows above ground, supporting the plant's leaves and flowers. These stems don't die back during the winter months as herbaceous perennials do but rather live and continue to grow year after year. New growth occurs during the warmer months of the growing season.

There is some debate as to whether palms are truly trees. Most trees are categorized as either deciduous or coniferous. Palms are neither. It's generally accepted that they're considered trees once palms have reached a certain height. While small, they're considered tree plants.


Palm trees are native to tropical and subtropical climates. This means they can be found in many areas of the Americas, Asia, the South Pacific Islands, Australia, India, and Japan. The origin of individual species can vary among these locations.

Palm trees have been present in these areas for centuries. Current information identifies palm trees as far back as 5,000 years when they were used as a food source in ancient Mesopotamia.


All palm trees are evergreen, with green fronds growing from a single stalk. As the plant grows, the stem will become taller and woodier.

The fronds of palm trees have blade-like leaves that fan out from the top.

Palm trees have long, slender fronds.

Types Of Indoor Palm Trees

There are many different types of palm trees, and several smaller species make excellent house plants. Knowing which ones best suit your home depends on the available space and the desired aesthetic.

The nine most common species of true palms chosen for indoor growing are listed below.

  1. Chinese Fan Palm or fountain palm (Livistona chinensis). Known as the fountain palm due to the fronds that create an arch and then drop down the sides of the plant like a fountain. These can grow as tall as 8-12 feet indoors and up to 30 feet tall outdoors.

  2. Areca palm or butterfly palm (Dypsis lutescens). This is one of the most popular indoor species and has cane-like stems clustered together. The butterfly palm can reach 8 feet tall at full maturity. 

  3. Majesty palm (Ravenea rivularis). Although beautiful, the majesty palm is more high maintenance than many of its cousins, requiring particular conditions to thrive. When happy, it can reach close to 10 feet at maturity.

  4. Parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans). This slow grower is known for its bushy foliage that can be cut and remains fresh and beautiful in a vase for over a month. It's also one of the few palms that can thrive in colder temperatures. At maturity, it will reach 2-6 feet.

  5. Pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii). This beautiful slow-growing palm will only reach 6-8 feet at maturity. It will produce small yellow flowers resembling dates on the female plants.

  6. Cat palm (Chamaedorea cataractarum). The cat palm never achieves tree status. It grows as a cluster of stalks and associated fronds. It's very low-maintenance and easy to grow. The full height is rarely more than 6 feet.

  7. Lady palm (Rhapis excelsa). The lady palm is an excellent choice for indoor growing because it can grow and thrive in low light. At maturity, it can reach 6 feet tall.

  8. Dwarf bamboo palm (Chamaedorea radicalis). This easy-to-grow palm species will reach 4-6 feet at maturity.

  9. Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana). Kentia palms are one of the most popular palms for indoor growing. This could be partly because they're one of the few cold-tolerant palm species. They can also happily grow outdoors and, under the right conditions, reach up to 40 feet tall. Indoors they'll reach 8-10 feet when mature.

Imposter Palms

When looking for the perfect indoor palm tree for your space, there are various choices. Among them are certain palm plants that resemble true palm trees but are members of other families. Below are three of the most popular imposter palms.

  • Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata). Despite the name and its regular inclusion in discussions related to palm trees, the Ponytail Palm is not a true palm tree. It's part of the Asparagaceae family. It bears a striking resemblance to other palm family members and is cared for similarly. It can reach 6-8 feet tall when fully grown.

  • Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta). This is another case of names being misleading. Although generally referred to as an indoor palm plant, the sago is not a true palm tree but rather a member of the Cycadaceae family. They are known for their extremely slow growth rate and small size. At full height, it may only reach 2-3 feet tall.

  • Yucca Palm (Yucca aloifolia). Yuccas are part of the Asparagaceae family. There are a variety of yuccas to choose from, some of which can reach 40 feet tall. Their single stem and bushy foliage give them a resemblance to true palms.

Indoor Palm Tree Styling 

When grown indoors, palms do well in containers that give them room to grow. Because of their size, placement within a room should be considered the same way furniture is. Large palms are best suited to entryways, corners, and accents around large windows.

Look for areas that receive ample bright light for optimal health and growth.

Tall palm trees look nice in corners and in front of windows.


You may only think of sun, heat, and tropical climates when it comes to palm trees. While many palms do enjoy full sun, they're also highly adaptable. Most species do well in various light conditions, including indirect sunlight and partial shade. Several species prefer low-light or indirect light rather than direct sunlight.


Although palms are forgiving of being under-watered, they do best with a regular watering schedule and moist soil rather than dry.

When growth slows in the winter, it's okay to let the soil dry out between watering. During the warmer months, they'll require more frequent watering.

Be careful of over-watering, however. Well-draining soil is crucial to keep from developing root rot.


Most palms prefer warmer temperatures, no lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures lower than that will lead to failure to thrive and may also kill them. That said, a few, like the kentia palm and the parlor palm, handle cooler temperatures quite well.

As a rule of thumb, plan to keep your indoor palms in the warmer areas of your home.


As a tropical plant, palms do best in humid environments. Humidity levels of 40-50% or higher are ideal. Overly dry air can lead to browning at the tips of the fronds.


Most palms will do well in regular potting soil with good drainage. Ideally, the soil will contain a mixture of porous materials like peat moss, bark, and pebbles. Including elements like vermiculite and perlite can help maintain the moisture level of your palm.


Healthy palm trees don't require much pruning, and healthy fronds should not be removed unless necessary to control size. Removing healthy fronds will weaken the tree.

Diseased or damaged fronds should be removed at the base.


Palms require feeding to stay healthy and thrive. There are many formulas available explicitly designed for palm trees.

Palms should be fertilized at the start of spring, summer, and fall.

Height & Growth

Palm trees can vary widely in size. Some outdoor varieties can be well over 100 feet tall. Those best suited for growing indoors are typically 2-8 feet tall at full maturity, depending upon the species.


Indoor palm trees are considered generally non-toxic to humans and pets. The exception is the sago palm, which is not a true palm at all and is highly toxic to pets if ingested.


Sago palm is toxic to pets. Other indoor palms are non-toxic.

Common Problems 

Palm trees are very low-maintenance plants and experience relatively few problems overall. Specific issues can arise due to the environment or improper care.

When growing an indoor palm tree, keep an eye out for these common problems:

  • Brown tips on the fronds. Generally an issue of over- or under-watering.

  • Yellowing. This is typically a sign of nutrient-deficient soil.

  • Fungal infections. These can be the result of environmental conditions.

  • Sooty mold. This is caused by insect waste and can be wiped away. It will resolve once the insects are removed.

  • Insect infestations. Pests like aphids, white flies, and mites are happy to make a home in your palm and cause damage. There are organic pesticides that can help treat these infestations.

How To Propagate Indoor Palm Trees

Propagating palm plants can be tricky and labor-intensive. They can't be propagated through cuttings like many plants can.

Palms must be carefully divided at the root, separating stems gently. They can also be grown from seed, which will take much longer.

Since some indoor palm trees can grow quite large, select a big open space for them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you grow palm trees indoors?

Palm trees make beautiful houseplants. There are several species well suited to growing indoors. Research should help you determine which species is best for your space.

How long will an indoor palm tree live?

Under the right conditions, indoor palms can live up to 20 years. The average is 12-15 years.

Do indoor palm trees need a lot of sunlight?

Contrary to popular belief, many palms prefer low light or indirect sunlight. This makes them perfect for growing indoors.

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