Lady Palms (Rhapis excelsa) are a small to medium size, clump-forming fan palm. It has slender, cane-like trunks underground rhizomes and are covered with matted brown fibers. In part shade to shade the fronds are a glossy dark green. The fronds stay healthy on the trunks almost to the base. Some people prefer to trim them up accenting the trunks.
They originated from subtropical and tropical regions, although most came to the US from cultivation in China. Once established they require little additional water and are cold hardy to Zone 9A. As far as pests are concerned, they may get scale or mealybugs, especially if kept inside, but I haven’t had any infestations.
They can be used in all kinds of planting situations. They are excellent tropical accent in the shade in the landscape and can be used to fill in areas under trees and between houses. They make beautiful container specimens for the screened pool, porch and patio, and even as a houseplant. Just be sure to use large pots so they have room to grow. When they fill the pot, they require repotting.
Because they spread easily, some homeowners object keeping them in bounds by digging up the new shoots. Of course, you can share these shoots with other gardeners. This is the fastest way to propagate them. They don’t set seed in Florida.
The pictures show my Rhapis in the landscaping at the front corner of my home, on the back screened porch in a container and at the bottom of the stairs in a pot in the house. As you can see, I take full advantage of their form, adaptability and tropical accent.
Note: Rhapis humilis, Slender lady palm, is slow growing and not usually found in the landscape. Variegated Rhapis is rare and coveted by collectors.
This article was contributed by Chris Nott, a Master Gardener in Volusia County. All photographs are courtesy of Chris Nott.