Fishtail Palm


If you love indoor palm plants but are getting tired of the usual ones like the Bamboo Palm or Parlor Palm, it’s time to try a Fishtail Palm. This unusual looking palm, native to Indonesia, Asia, and the South Pacific, is a large plant that grows well in a bright room, and is a member of the Arecaceae (Palmae) family.

Fishtail Palm Description and Varieties

A Fishtail Palm has large, arching, fan-shaped fronds (leaves) with bipinate, smaller leaflets about 6″ long and 4″ wide.  The plant gets its name, Fishtail Palm, because the leaflets are jagged at the distal end and resemble the tail of a fish As a houseplant, when properly cared for, a Fishtail Palm can reach a height 4ft-8ft (1.2m-2.4m). There are several types of Fishtail Palms such as the Caryota gigas (Giant Fishtail Palm) Clumping Fishtail palm, Toddy Fishtail Palm, that are too large to use indoors.

Although most Fishtail Palms have single trunks, Caryota mitis,  the most popular variety used as a houseplant, is a suckering type. It produces several stems, growing near the base of the main stem and has numerous, ragged- edged leaflets. Caryota urens variety (Wine Fishtail Palm) has fewer, more triangular shaped leaflets.

Quick Care Tips for a Fishtail Palm

Leaf Tip burn – occurs when the plant is under watered, in the direct sun, or there are too many chemicals in the water

Bright, indirect light but no direct sun.

Keep the soil barely moist and never allow it to totally dry out

Fertilize spring, summer, and fall when plant actively growing

Warm temperatures and high humidity help the plant look better and grow faster

Spotted fronds and leaflets – try using a plant food with some magnesium and chelated iron

Propagate by plant division

A  Fishtail Palm produces poisonous red berries should be kept away from pets and children. Read more about common houseplants that are poisonous in  Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants.

Plant Care


Fishtail Palms need very bright indirect light from an east or west-facing window. Avoid direct exposure to the sun.


Water well and then allow the top 25% of the soil to dry out before watering again. Never allow the soil to totally dry out or permit a Fishtail Palm to sit in excess water. Leaf edges turn brown if there are too many chemicals in the water or the plant is under watered.


Fertilize monthly, when it is actively growing, with a basic houseplant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Never fertilize in the winter.


Fishtail Palms prefer temperatures between 75°-85°F (23.9°-29.4°C) during the day and 60°-70°F (15.6°-21.1°C) at night. Keep a Fishtail Palm out of cold drafts and away from air conditioners. Nighttime temperatures should never go below 45°F (7.2°C).


A Fishtail Palm thrives in high humidity. It does exceptionally well in spas and indoor pool areas.


Spider mites are the main problem. Spray a Fishtail Palm with a mild solution of warm soapy water a few times a month. This prevents and gets rid of spider mites. It also keep the fronds clean and free of dust.


Fishtail Palms grow best when planted in a fast-draining porous soil containing a large amount of organic matter.


The new growth on a Fishtail Palm comes from the end of the stalk only. If you cut the newest frond off below where it is attached to the main stem, there will be NO more new growth on the plant.


The best way to propagate a Fishtail Palm is by plant division.

Clean Air Plant

This is an excellent clean air plant.

Poisonous Plant Info

The red berries on Fishtail Palm contain calcium oxalate and are poisonous to cats, dogs, and small children.


I Love Fishtail Palms but I Live in a Tiny Apartment; Can I Get a Small One?

I’ve never seen a small Fishtail Palm for sale commercially. Fishtail Palms are large plants and usually come in grower’s pots that are 10” or bigger. These plants grow about 6-8 inches a year. Fishtail Palms are really for big homes or businesses that have lots of room and lots of light.

Why Are the Tips of the Leaves on My Fishtail Palm Turning Brown?

There could be several reasons: too much fertilizer (this usually affects the bottom leaves first), too much fluoride in the water, too little humidity, or allowing the soil to totally dry out. You’ll have to check them out one by one.

My Fishtail Palm Is in a Bright-unheated Sunroom. It Was Doing Great; Then Around December It Started to Get These Rust Colored Marks on the Leaves. Is That Spider Mites?

I don’t think so. The temperature in the room probably got too cold for a Fishtail Palm and damaged the leaves.

My Fishtail Palm Is Touching the Ceiling. How Can I Cut the Main Stem Back to a Better Height?

Sorry to say, you cannot cut a palm back to reduce its height. The palm will never grow again. Give it to a friend with higher ceilings.

If I Use More Fertilizer, Will the Fronds Turn a Darker Green?

No, but you will cause the tips of the leaves to turn brown. If the leaves look faded, you may be giving your Fishtail Palm too much light; if the leaves look blotchy, the plant may have spider mites.

I Put My Fishtail Palm Outside for the Summer. I Can’t Believe That It Got Fruit and Flowers. Should I Keep Them or Cut Them Off?

If you don’t cut the flowers off, the entire stem of the Fishtail Palm will die back. The fruit of a Fishtail Palm contains oxalic acid which can burn your skin; so put on some plastic gloves when you remove the fruit.