The Cat Palm (Chamaedorea cataractarum) is also called a Cascade Palm or Cataract Palm. Cat Palms are native to southeastern Mexico and resemble the inexpensive Areca Palm and the very pricey Kentia Palm. During Victorian times, having a Cat Palm in your home indicated that you were high up on the social ladder. These plants were often displayed in the windows of homes so everyone passing by would know that a rich and respected person lived there.
Cat Palm Description
Although in its native environment a Cat Palm can grow as tall as 6ft (1.8m) and have a width up to 8ft (2.4m), indoors a Cat Palm is a slow growing, smaller plant eventually reaching a height of about 4-6ft (1.22m-1.8m). This compact, bushy, airy plant doesn’t have a trunk like some other indoor palms. The bright green, pinnate (feather like) fronds grow in a clump-like fashion off thin shoots. The fronds are made up of leaflets that can be 1ft (30cm) long and 1” (2.5cm) wide.
Quick Care Tips for a Cat Palm
Place in bright light, but no direct sun.
Keep the soil barely moist, never allow the soil to totally dry out.
Too much plant food is worse than too little.
Provide high humidity, dry air can severely damage a cat palm.
Avoid placing a Cat Palm near air conditioners, cold drafts, or heaters.
Cat Palm Problems and Causes
Yellow fronds: Underwatering
Brown fronds: Overwatering
Brown leaf tips: Dry air due to low humidity, using water from a water softener, or using water with a lot of fluorine or chlorine in it
A Cat Palm is an easy care, attractive plant that is safe to have around pets and children. An added plus, most palm plants have been shown to clean the air of harmful pollutants.
How much light for a Cat Palm: Provide bright, indirect light but no direct sun. Direct sun, especially in the afternoon, burns the fronds.
How to water a Cat Palm: Water often enough to keep the barely soil moist, but not soggy, at all times. Never allow the soil to totally dry out. The fronds of a Cat Palm turn yellow when the soil is too dry. Salty water or water containing chemicals such as fluoride, chlorine cause leaf tip burn. Entire fronds turn brown when a Cat Palm is over watered.
How to fertilize a Cat Palm: Less rather than more plant food is always better with palms. Feed a Cat Palm monthly in the spring and summer with a balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. Fertilize only once or twice during winter and fall when the plant is not actively growing.
Best temperature for a Cat Palm: These plants do well in 70°- 80°F (21.1°-26.7°C) during the day and no lower than 45°F(7.2°C) at night. Palms like to be in a warm environment, but too much dry heat causes leaf damage. Keep Cat Palms away from air conditioners, heating vents, fire places, and cold winter drafts,
Does a Cat Palm need high humidity: A Cat Palm gets brown leaf tips and does not grow well when the humidity is low and the air is dry. Ideally the humidity in the room should be 55% or higher; but this is rarely the case in our homes or office. There are several ways to increase the humidity around your plants: place a small humidifier in the room; group plants together to create a mini greenhouse effect; place your plant on a “wet pebble tray. A wet pebble tray consists of a shallow pan of water and a layer of small pebbles that reaches above the water line. Be sure your plant is sitting on the pebbles and not in the water,
Cat Palm plant pests: Spider mites, scale, mealy bugs, and ants can be a problem. Read more about these pests and how to treat them in the Glossary of the website. Never use a commercial insecticide spray on a palm, it will damage the fronds. Use Insecticidal soap, Neem Oil, or warm soapy water to treat plant pests.
Cat Palm plant diseases: Leaf Spot disease is a fungal disease that affects the fronds of a Cat Palm. It appears as a reddish-brown lesion between 1/8-1/4″ in length. Learn how to recognize and treat Leaf Spot disease in the Glossary of the website.
Best soil for a Cat Palm: Use a loose potting soil that drains quickly. If your soil is heavy and clay-like, add some peat moss or sand. If the soil constantly stays too wet, a Cat Palm develops root rot and may die.
Pot size for a Cat Palm: Palms grow better when they are slightly root- bound. Do not re-pot until the roots have filled the existing container. The new pot should be only one size larger than the existing pot and must have drip holes in the bottom so excess water can escape. Do not allow a Cat Palm to sit in the excess water.
How to prune a Cat Palm: Immediately prune any yellow or brown fronds. You can trim brown leaf tips, caused by low humidity or too much fertilizer, with a wet scissors. Using a wet scissors usually prevents the browning or yellowing from spreading up the entire leaf.
How to propagate a Cat Palm: Commercially palm plants are propagated by seeds. Seed propagation is not an easy to do and best left to the professionals; using the offsets (a shoot growing sideways off the base of the plant) is much more successful. You’ll have to take the plant out of the pot and find an offset growing out of the root ball. Remove the offset, and any roots attached to it, and plant it in a small pot of soil. The pot should only be 1″-2″ larger than the root ball of the offset.
Clean Air Plant
Is a Cat Palm a clean air plant: Most indoor palms have been shown to clean the air of harmful chemicals.
Poisonous Plant Info
Cat Palms are non-poisonous and safe to have around cats, dogs, and small children.
You should never repot a palm until its roots have filled the existing pot. These plants really like to be root bound. I’d put it back into its original small pot, keep it moist but not soggy, and place it in good indirect bright light. It should start to recover. Also, wait at least 6 weeks before re-potting a new plant tallow it to get used to its new surroundings.
Plants like to be fed when they are actively growing in the spring and summer. When you do feed a palm be sure to dilute the food to 1/2 the recommended strength and only feed once a month. If the fronds start to turn yellow, this may indicate that the plant needs more nitrogen, magnesium, or potassium.
There are several possible causes: too much salt or fluoride in the water you are using or too much fertilizer buildup in the soil. Low humidity coupled with minerals in the water can also cause tip burn.