The number of palms adapted to house culture is very limited but they
comprise the most elegant of the decorative plants.
Although popular now, they would be much more widely used if their
culture were better understood. Mistakes made in handling palms are
in results, for they produce for the most part only two or three
new leaves in a year, and so any injury shows for a long time; it is not
soon replaced by new growth and forgotten, as with many of the more
rapid growing house plants.
Nevertheless, if the few cultural requirements of palms are carefully
attended to, they are as easily grown as any plants and yield a solid
and lasting satisfaction.
The house palms, as I have said, grow very slowly. It is not only
useless, but dangerous, to try to force them into unnatural growth.
Palms do best when restricted as to root room. When your plant comes
from the florist, do not get impatient after a month or so and think
that a larger pot would make it grow faster. Repotting once a year while
palms are growing, and not so frequently as that after they are in
eight-or ten-inch pots, will be sufficient. The best time for repotting
is late spring--May or June. Use a pot only one size larger than that in
which the palm has been growing. Remove carefully, do not disturb the
roots, and put into the new pot carefully, ramming the new earth in
firmly about the old ball with a thin piece of wood (see directions for
repotting, page 40).
The soil for palms need not contain as much humus (leaf-mould or peat)
as that for most other house plants. Good rich garden loam, with sharp
sand added, and bone meal worked through it, will be right.
Be sure the drainage is perfect. Crock the pots carefully (facing page
41). If any of the crocking from the old pot comes out with the ball of
earth, remove it as carefully as possible and fill in the space with
soil. After potting, keep shaded for several days.
While palms require plenty of water, no plants are more fatally injured
by overwatering. Above all must care be taken never to let water
accumulate in saucers or jardinieres in which the pots are standing.
Water will soak up through a pot as well as down through it, and
water-saturated soil will quickly become sour. When you do water, water
thoroughly and then see that the pots are kept where they can drain out,
and do not water again until they show a tendency to get too dry. Much
water will cause the leaves to turn brown. In this case change the
treatment at once. (The looks of the leaves can be somewhat improved by
cutting them to shape with a pair of scissors.) The amount of water
required is much greater in summer than in winter, when the plants are
practically at rest.
Direct sunlight is not desirable for palms, but they should have plenty
of light. Do not stick them away in a dark corner or an inner room and
expect them to do well. They will stand such a situation several days
without injury, but should be brought back to the light as soon as
possible. They do well in north windows, providing the temperature of
the room is high enough. Remember, however, that pots kept in a shady
place will dry out much less quickly than those in the light or
sunlight. If they are to be kept permanently where the sun does not
strike, it is a good thing to add charcoal to the soil, as this aids
greatly in keeping it from getting sour.
Give plenty of air. The more the better, so long as a proper temperature
is kept up, as that counteracts the effect of the more or less poisonous
atmosphere of living-rooms kept closed during winter. Beware of drafts
blowing across the plants, but provide plenty of fresh air.
In the spring as soon as it warms up outdoors--say after the apple
blossoms fall--plunge the palms outside, in a sheltered position, where
they can be given plenty of water. At this time, if they are not
repotted, bone meal should be worked into the surface of the soil and a
liquid manure of bone meal given once a month or so during the growing
Both during winter and summer, shower the leaves frequently, with as
forceful a stream as possible, to prevent scale and mealy-bug getting a
start. (For treatment see page 135.) Keep the leaves and stems clean by
wiping off every once in a while with a soft cloth and soapy warm water,
syringing with clean water afterwards.
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Next: The Best House Palms
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