I guess it’s called the parlour (English) or parlor palm because people kept it in their parlours. I have a formal living room, but most new homes don’t even have those anymore. Today it would be called the “great room” palm. In Victorian times the parlour (I like the English spelling) was dim, cooler, and visitors were entertained there. It was filled with all their best furniture and bric-a-brac. And, of course it had to have a plant or two. This is were the parlour palm or Chamaedorea elegans (Kam-ee-DOR-ee-uh EL-uh-ganz) entered the picture.
These palms are native to the forests of Mexico and Guatemala, where they grow as understory plants. Because it grows under the larger plants and trees there, it can live comfortably in our homes where the light is low. Some pluses include the fact that they are usually inexpensive and they are on NASA’s list of 50 plants that clean out indoor air. They also don’t get huge and are easy to take care of. They rarely grow more than 4-5′ tall in the home setting and are 2-3′ across. Bright light is best- an eastern or western exposure would work well. Water well and then allow the top 2-3″ of soil to dry out. One very important thing is to keep the humidity up around your plant to deter an infestation of spider mites. They love palms and dry air, so the two things together is going to guarantee spider mites. Use a saucer larger than the saucer you have the plant sitting in. Fill it with small pebbles and fill with water. Sit your plant back in the saucer on top of the rocks, making sure it isn’t sitting in water. As the water under the plant evaporates, the humidity raises. It is a slow grower and is a single stemmed plant, but when potted for sale, three or more plants are combined for a fuller look. If they have enough light, they may flower, as seen in these pictures. The fruit is black.
They are easy to care for, but once in a while, you will have a brown frond or two. Usually this is just an old frond that is past its prime. Just cut it off. Never trim the top of your palm as they grow from a terminal bud. If you prune it, it won’t grow back. Only trim the fronds off at the bottom. If you are getting yellow leaves, it is too dry or may need some fertilizer. If you have brown spots on the leaves, you may be over watering the plant, or it may be too cold.
These palms are a very nice addition to your home, cleaning the air, and just adding a tropical feel to a room.