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The tropical palm plants have gone out of fashion a while back because they are fussy plants. For this reason,
Plantly decided we all need to give the cat palm trees a break and try to help keep your Chamaedorea cataractarum palm happy. So, if you want the cat palm in your home, check out the care guide here.
More About the Cat Palm
The most striking feature of cat palms is the gorgeous dark green leaves. You find them growing along stream banks in Southeastern Mexico and Central America.
Some people refer to the cataract palm or the cascade palm. Tropical plants can grow up to six feet tall and eight feet wide. Still, as a houseplant, it typically grows up to three feet.
Unlike other palm trees, the cat palm has no trunk and grows a compact, bushy shape. The featherlike shaped fronds produce clusters of white or yellow flower stalks. The flowers develop into blackberries hanging from red stems if pollination occurs.
So, if you want an indoor plant combining Victorian aesthetics with a modern touch, the cat palms are what you need.
How to Care for Cascade Palm
Chamaedorea cataractarum needs well-draining soil made up of bark chips and perlite with some sand added. The cat palm plant loves bright indirect light with a high humidity level.
The Right Soil Mixture for Cat Palms
For growing a palm tree like the cat palm having a well-draining potting mix is essential. For example, you can use the African violet added to a soil ratio of 3:1. Or, you can add peat moss with bark chips and sand with your potting soil.
Both drainage holes with air circulation in the soil are essential to prevent root ball rot. Hence, you need to be able to remove excess water to avoid waterlogged soil and root rot. An ideal soil pH is slightly acidic to neutral.
The Right Amount of Light for Cat Palm
The best place to grow your cat palms is in bright indirect light and no direct sunlight. If you have your cascade palm close to a window, we recommend you rotate them to provide even light distribution.
Cat palms can tolerate a couple of hours of full sun, but best be cautious as it can burn the fronds. We recommend bright light for six hours at the most during the day. An ideal spot for cat palm trees is at the west or south-facing window.
Still, if you live in a warm climate, you can grow cat palm trees outdoors where the sun falls on your plant indirectly.
Water Needs to Prevent Yellow or Brown Fronds
Chamaedorea cataractarum loves water but not heavily. So when you notice dry soil of about four inches, you can water your cat’s palms. It also helps to provide even water distribution to keep the soil moist.
During winter, you can water less as you do not want to have soggy soil. You can mist the leaves daily during dry spells to keep them hydrated. We recommend using distilled or filtered water at room temperature to prevent shock to your plant.
If your cataract palm is underwater, the fronds turn yellow, while overwatering makes the fronds go brown.
Temperature and Humidity Needs
Indoor palms like the cat palms prefer temperatures between 70°F to 80°F (21 to 27 degrees Celsius). Your plant thrives in warm temperatures but does not enjoy cold environments. It is also essential not to leave your cascade palms standing in excessive heat as it damages the foliage.
So best keep your cataractarum palm away from drafts, heaters, and air conditioners. As much as your indoor plant thrives in bright indirect sunlight, it loves humidity. To boost the moisture levels, you can use a pebble tray with water or a humidifier to prevent the leaf tips from drying out.
What and How to Use Fertilizer
To keep the bold green leaves, you will need to feed your cat palm like other plants once a month in the growing season of spring and summer. We recommend using a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly at half-strength. You can use a 10:10:10 one in the growing season. But feed your Chamaedorea cataractarum in winter once or twice.
Re-Potting and Pruning Cat Palms
The cat palm tree loves to be root bound and best done after three years. So the first thing you will need is to freshen up your indoor plants’ soil. We recommend adding peat-based potting soil in a pot with about a two-inch larger diameter than the current one.
Also, when it comes to cat palm care of the roots, be extra careful as they are brittle. After re-potting your cascade or cataract palm, place it in a sunny spot for the excess water to drain freely.
The only time you can prune your cat palm is when you notice yellow or brown leaves. You can also remove diseases fronds or if you want added growth.
Propagating Cat Palm
The fantastic thing is you can propagate your plant with shoot cuttings and seed germination. Here we will discuss both these methods to make your life a bit simpler.
Remove your palm tree from the pot and look for a sucker growing from a root ball about one foot tall.
Choose a sucker with roots growing close to the base of the plant.
The best time to do shoot propagation is in early spring.
Prepare a potting mix of two parts potting soil and one part perlite.
Place the shoot in the soil and cover the pot with some plastic wrap for humidity.
Keep watering the soil, and after a month, you should notice new growth.
Remove the wrap and water the soil when dry. Then, move your cat palm to an average room temperature and care for it.
Wash the seed placed on a mesh screen to scrub the skin away.
Soak the seeds in lukewarm water for about a week to soften them up.
Place the seeds in well-drained soil and place them in a semi-shade and water well.
For growing outdoor plants in the ground, ensure that the seed is about six feet apart.
You should notice new shoots growing after a month.
Cat Palm Varieties
The cat palm is not the only tree growing in a tropical environment. Here are some other dwarf palms you can grow indoors.
Chinese Fan Palm Trees
The palm tree has a feathery frond leaf and is another slow-growing tree to place indoors. The miniature tree grows well in bright light, but younger plants prefer shady spots.
Areca Palm Trees
The bamboo palm is a popular houseplant with soft fronds and grows well in low light. For a lush look, you can do monthly fertilizing.
The palm tree is tolerant to shade and grows well with artificial light. Still, it needs constant moisture and will outgrow an indoor space with time.
Dealing with Cat Palm Diseases and Pests
Your cat palm can become the home of fungal diseases like root rot from overwatering. But your plant is pestered mainly by insects.
Spider Mite Infestation
You cannot see the spider mite easily, and only noticeable when a heavy infestation occurs. Then, you will see white webs covering the babies and themselves. The insect thrives under the leaves and looks like black dots.
You will notice the foliage turning yellow or brown with a bleached look. You can prune the affected parts and shower your plant with water. Insecticidal soap sprays help to remove the insect as well as neem oil.
It is another sap-sucking pest that looks like tiny clouds or cotton balls on the leaf. Your cat palm will grow slowly, and the foliage will turn yellow. To remove the insect, you can use cotton balls with rubbing alcohol and touch them. Or, you can use a liquid soap or neem oil.
The problem is that these pests thrive when overfertilizing your plants.
These pests look like small bumps on the leaves and stems. Like the mealybug, the scale insect sucks out the nutrients of your cat palm. They cause stunted growth and can result in your tree wilting. You can use neem oil or rubbing alcohol to control them.
Another sap-sucking insect is the whitefly with cloudy wings, and it has a triangular body shape. You find them on the underside of the leaves, also producing a honeydew sooty mold. Finally, the cat palm weakens with yellowing fronds. To remove the eggs, use a water hose and spray your tree with some neem oil.
Also, remove the infected parts and change the soil with a fresh mixture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, the cat palm is low maintenance plant that grows well indoors. All they need is bright indirect sunlight with proper humidity to thrive.
Improper watering can lead to brown tips, and if you overwater, it can also suffer. Another concern is overfertilizing or the wrong lighting conditions. Hence, you need to work through your list to find out what is causing the problem. Finally, check the soil moisture to see if it is too wet or dry and water accordingly.
Yes, you can use coffee ground with your cat palm to help add acidity to the soil. Still, it would be best to use fresh grounds and not used ones. When you compost them, it also adds nitrogen to the soil.