Magazine article Sunset

"Something like a Pet Parrot." That's a Dwarf Rhapis Palm

Magazine article Sunset

"Something like a Pet Parrot." That's a Dwarf Rhapis Palm

Article excerpt

Why bother with dwarf rhapis palms? They're expensive, slow-growing, and a bit temperamental. But they're also beautiful and long-lived: century-old speciments are not uncommon. "It's something like deciding to have a parror for a pet," says one grower. "It requires constant attention, but will likely outlive you and you'll grow to be crazy about it."

Through available only recently in this country, dwarf rhapis palms have been cultivated extensively in Japan, where they were developed. Varieties such as 'Daruma', 'Gyokuho', 'Kotobuki', 'Tenzan', and 'Zuikonishiki' offer a range of heights, foliage densities, leaf forms, and colorations (including variegated).

Average maximum height is 12 to 48 inches, depending on the variety. Each plant develops only one or two new stems a year, and a 10-year-old specimen requires only a shallow 12- to 14-inch pot.

Care in Containers. Unlike some popular house plants such as sansevieria and aspidistra, these palms won't tolerate neglect--let them go dry too long or too often, and they'll die; overwater them, and they'll rot. But their other requirements are quite reasonable.

Plant in a rich, loose, sterile potting mix. If the mix is too loose (soil should compact a bit if you squeeze it in your hand), you'll have to water more frequently; if it's too heavy, stir in a few tablespoons of coarse builder's sand.

Good drainage is a must. Choose a pot with a drain hole, rather than putting drainage material in the bottom of a solid pot. Water well, then let the topsoil dry to the touch before you water again. …

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