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The Neanthe Bella Palm or botanically Chamaedorea elegans ‘Bella’ (kam-ee-DOR-ee-uh ELL-eh-ganz) is a small low-light interior palm and houseplant species. ‘Bella’ can adapt to just about any typical office or home interior. This small or “miniature” palm has been in use for decades as a houseplant and among plantscapers.
As an indoor plant, it was first grown as one of the five & dime store plants. Bella soon found its way into the terrarium craze and is now used in many dish gardens. The Neanthe Bella Palm is a member of the Arakanese (ar-ek-AY-see-eye) family hailing from Guatemala and southern Mexico where it grows as an understory plant in the rain forests.
Neanthe Bella is an attractive, easy care evergreen, perennial plant and a very popular houseplant. This tabletop palm can also grow outdoors year round in USDA zones 10 through 12. In addition to the common name Neanthe Bella Palm, the plant has several other common names including:
- Parlor Palm
- Miniature Fishtail Dwarf Palm
- Lucky Palm
- Table Top Palm
- Good Luck Palm
The plant’s genus name is a combination of two Greek words: chamai and dorea which respectively mean “on the ground” and “gifts“. This name is a reference to the fact that the plant is very short and its fruits are easy to reach from the ground. The specific epithet, elegans, is the Greek word for elegant.
Chamaedorea Elegans Neanthe Bella Palm Care
How Big Does The Neanthe Bella Grow?
It’s commonly known in the trade as the ‘Neanthe bella palm’ and grown primarily for indoor use in 6″ – 14″ inch containers, ranging in height from 18″ inches to 3-4 feet tall. Although I’ve seen plants of 6′ to 8′ feet in height, that’s uncommon. In a “growing” environment 4′ feet tall is about the maximum.
You’ll find it used as a table top plant, grouped together in beds as under plantings, and as a low stand alone plant. These small trees have thick, pretty foliage which naturally grows in a compact shape. The arching, pinnate leaves typically bear a dozen sets of narrow leaflets.
Does Neanthe Bella Palm Flower?
Miniature Fishtail Dwarf Palm is a seasonal bloomer which may produce small yellow flowers when grown outdoors. The yellow flowers grow in loose, spiraling clusters and will bloom in the springtime if the plant is getting enough light. The flowers transform into clusters of attractive black fruit.
Understand that not every tabletop palm tree will bloom and produce fruit because these plants are dioecious, meaning that they come in both male and female.
Light & Temperature
In low light ‘elegans’ develops dark green leaves and can be maintained very well with lighting you’ll find in most offices or homes. Where ever you place a Neanthe ‘Bella’ in medium light make sure you don’t place it in the afternoon sun. Morning sun or bright filtered light is fine but the afternoon sun can bleach out the foliage.
The Good Luck Palm does best in full to partial shade. It can even do well in heavy shade. These small palm trees cannot tolerate exposure to direct, harsh sunlight.
As a houseplant, Neanthe Bella Palm does well when placed in a northern window. Watch for browning of the leaf tips. If you see this, you’ll know that your plant is getting a chill through the window. Set it back a bit so that it doesn’t suffer cold coming through the glass. Also, protect it from hot or cold drafts.
Lucky Palm is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 10 through 12. Indoors, keep your Parlor Palm at temperatures between 65° and 80° degrees Fahrenheit.
Don’t allow the temperature to drop below 50° degrees Fahrenheit. Outdoors, definitely protect your plant from frost as this will kill it.
Watering & Fertilizer Care Tips
The Number #1 problem in caring for the Neanthe ‘Bella’ palm is overwatering. Plants that sit in saucers full of water or plants being overwatered and never allowing the soil to dry, lead to root rot.
Leaf tips and fronds turn yellow, leaves may drop, and new growth will come out pale yellow. Underwatered plants will often have brown tips on leaves, new growth will be pale and older fronds may yellow. When Watering:
- Check the soil periodically.
- When the top inch is dry, it’s time to water.
- When you water, water thoroughly making sure the soil and roots all get a good drink.
- Yellowing leaves may also indicate a need for water.
Thorough watering is one reason we like sub-irrigation which waters from below!
- DO NOT let the plant sit in water or allow the soil to become soggy. As with all plants, excessively soggy soil will lead to root rot.
- Protect your Parlor Palm against dry air by placing potted plants on trays of wet pebbles to promote good humidity levels.
- Throughout the growing season (spring through early autumn) provide monthly feedings of diluted (half strength) standard liquid houseplant fertilizer. Do not fertilize during the winter months.
Soil & Transplanting
Chamaedorea palms likes to be planted in well draining, rich soil. A good quality, soil based potting mix that is rich in peat is a fine choice.
Transplant no more frequently than once every couple of years. Good Luck Palms are slow growers and have fairly weak root systems, so it’s best not to disturb them unnecessarily.
Grooming & Maintenance
Do not prune the ‘Bella’ palm Chamaedorea as you would other plants. The leaflets grow from a main stem. If you do need to cut away some yellowed or damaged vegetation, the leaflets should be “tipped” or the leaf itself removed.
How To Propagate Neanthe Bella Parlor Palms
Chamaedorea Bella is originally from Guatemala and grown from seed. Each year or season, fresh seed is harvested and shipped to the States where it is sprouted in flats or “cell packs”. Sprouting can take 6-9 months from the time they are planted. Once the plants reach the desired height, usually 10-30 seedlings are selected and planted into larger containers.
Some growers are beginning to look at the number of plants they use to plant with and are coming to the conclusion of – Less is More. Once planted these plants will grow for another 6-12 months before they reach a salable 6″-inch pot of 15″-18″ inches. Ten-inch pots may grow for 18 – 24 months to reach 24″-36″ inches in height.
Imagine the plant you purchase even in a 6″ inch pot can already be 18-24 months old and the 10″ inch pot, 3 years old. Time is the reason palms generally cost more. Professional nurseries propagate Chamaedorea elegans from seed, and you might want to try your hand at it. However, it is not difficult or complicated. But patience is required.
When transplanting your Parlor Palm, you may find several plants in one pot. They are typically sold this way because it makes a bushier plant, faster.
You may wish to try propagation by division or separating these plants. This can be quite damaging to the plant. Generally speaking, you are better off simply buying another plant if you want another Bella palm plant.
Chamaedorea Palm Pests and Diseases
Generally speaking, Parlor Palms are quite carefree. They do not tend to succumb to illness or pests. However, the Number #1 plant pests problem is small red plant spider mites. Look for clean plants to begin with. Overwatering will cause roots to rot. Lack of light will cause wilt.
Plants weakened by overwatering, under watering, incorrect lighting and/or extreme temperatures are naturally more susceptible to pests such as:
- Spider mites
- Plant Scale
According to the American Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, these attractive and popular houseplants are non-toxic to both cats and dogs. These sensitive plants are not invasive, and indeed, have not been naturalized in any part of the United States.
Suggested Uses For Neanthe Bella Palms
If you live in an area where Miniature Fishtail Dwarf Palm is winter hardy, it makes an excellent choice as an accent in shady areas. Remember that it naturally grows as an understory in deep forests.
It also does well when kept as a container plant indoors or outdoors. The most common use for Parlor Palm (as the name would imply) is as a houseplant. These plants do very well inside in low light settings with steady, consistently warm temperatures. This is why they are such a popular choice in homes and in public settings such as offices and malls.
If you’re looking for indoor house plants but particularly for a low light tabletop palm tree also used as an accent plant check out the Chamaedora elegans ‘Bella’ palm, just be careful not to overwater and keep an eye out for spider mites.