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What is a Bamboo Palm?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A bamboo palm is a palm in the Chamaedorea genus, with many people thinking specifically of Chamaedorea seifrizii when they refer to bamboo palms. This palm is extremely popular as a houseplant, and it can also be grown outdoors in USDA zones 10 through 12. Many garden supply stores sell bamboo palms, typically at a very young age, because these palms can grow quite slowly, making it time-consuming to rear large mature specimens for sale.

Bamboo palms, as their name would suggest, have a growth habit similar to that of bamboo. They develop light green stalks from which fronds of feathery leaves protrude. Many gardeners grow bamboo palms in clumps to emphasize the resemblance to bamboo, and this plant can grow up to six feet (two meters) tall if it is allowed to thrive, eventually growing to resemble a thicket of bamboo.

The bamboo palm is native to Central and Southern America, where it evolved as an understory shrub in the rainforest. Bamboo palms like indirect light, and they require soil which is moist, but not wet, preferring rich, loamy soil like that found in their native rainforest. Their preference for indirect light makes these palms ideal for growing indoors as houseplants, since they will thrive almost anywhere, as long as there is a steady supply of light.

You may also hear a bamboo palm referred to as a reed palm. People who grow these plants indoors should be aware that they like to be fertilized every summer, and that it is important to empty the drain pan under the pot after watering, or to water bamboo palms in the sink and allow them to drain completely, to ensure that their roots are never exposed to standing water. Bamboo palms also like to be allowed to fill their pots before being repotted, and they can be periodically rotated if the leaves appear to be leaning in one direction or another in order to encourage the plant to grow upright.

Bamboo palms naturally shed their leaves as they grow, developing leaves which start to yellow and brown. Pruning dead bamboo palm leaves away is important, as it allows the plant more light. If all of the leaves start to yellow or brown, this is a sign that the plant is not happy, and it may need to be watered less or more, or moved to a new location in the house. Bamboo palms are also at risk of infestation by mites, which can be prevented by washing the plant with mildly soapy water once every few weeks. Pet owners should know that the fruit of the bamboo palm, along with its leaves, is toxic to many animals.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon88368 — On Jun 04, 2010

According to the ASPCA, ingestion of bamboo palm is not harmful to dogs or cats.

By docnoir — On May 31, 2010

I heard this plant is prone to getting spider mites...and is it safe in a house with cats?

By leilani — On Nov 01, 2009

A good house plant to keep in the bedroom for relaxation enhancement.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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