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The stick palm (bot. Rhapis excelsa) is an extremely uncomplicated and shade-tolerant indoor plant that has been cultivated in the living rooms of the German bourgeoisie since the end of the 19th century. To this day, the species known as the umbrella palm or - in English - the lady palm is one of the most popular indoor palms.

The stick palm is a frugal indoor palm

Table of Contents

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  1. origin and distribution
  2. use
  3. appearance and growth
  4. flowering and flowering time
  5. toxicity
  6. Which location is suitable?
  7. substrate
  8. planting / repotting
  9. Water the stick palm
  10. Fertilize the stick palm properly
  11. Cut the stick palm correctly
  12. propagate stick palm
  13. hibernate
  14. diseases and pests
  15. species and varieties
  16. origin and distribution

    The stick palm is originally native to the south of the People's Republic of China, where it thrives in the undergrowth of the evergreen tropical forests. Early on - more than 300 years ago - the species Rhapis excelsa came from China to the imperial court in Japan, where the vigorous and attractive plant soon found great favor and can still be found in many apartments and houses today. In contrast to the species represented in this country, there are numerous varieties in Southeast Asia, including some with variegated foliage. The stick palm did not reach Germany until 1840 via England, where the palm plant was cultivated as early as 1774 in Kew Gardens - at the time the most comprehensive collection of plants in the world.


    The stick palm is perfect as a house palm, but can also be kept as a container plant on the balcony or terrace. The species Rhapis excelsa tolerates light frost for a short time, but should then be cleared as soon as possible. Overwintering outdoors is not possible. Rhapis excelsa feels just as comfortable in the living room as it does in the conservatory, in the stairwell or in the entrance area of the house.

    appearance and growth

    The stick palm Rhapis excelsa is a very slow-growing umbrella palm, which also explains the comparatively high price for specimens with a growth height of 70 centimeters or more. In nature, the species reaches heights of up to five meters, but in pot culture it remains significantly smaller with an average height of around two meters. From the underground rhizome, the plant develops several thin, tube-like trunks, giving it a bamboo-like, bushy appearance. For this reason, the species is sometimes referred to as the bamboo palm. The lush green umbrella leaves are palmate and usually consist of five to eight segments. They arise directly from the trunks and sit on leaf stalks that are up to 30 centimeters long. The leaves are tapered at the end and are a bit reminiscent of needles.

    flowering and flowering time

    The white to cream-colored flowers usually do not appear in a pot culture, since the plant has to reach a certain minimum height - which is not the case in the bucket.


    The stick palm is not poisonous to humans or animals and can therefore easily be placed as a houseplant in households with small children and/or pets.

    Which location is suitable?

    As a typical forest plant, the stick palm needs a semi-shady location that is protected from direct sun - after all, it is also protected from the sun's rays in its natural location by the tall trees and accordingly reacts to a too bright location with yellowing or browning of the leaves. A bright location is ideal - it should be at least 700 lux - but not in the sun, for example in a corner of the living room, in the stairwell or in the conservatory.


    The stick palm feels most comfortable in cooler temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius, which is why you can put it outside in a partially shaded place even in summer. The species Rhapis excelsa tolerates frost down to about minus four degrees Celsius for a short time.


    Spraying the stick palm is not absolutely necessary, but regular moistening has clear advantages for plant health: Pests such as spider mites don't stand a chance with higher humidity, especially during the heating period in winter. Feel free to shower Rhapis excelsa with the hand shower from time to time, this not only drives away leaf suckers, but also rinses the dust off the leaves.


    The stick palm feels most comfortable in a well-drained and slightly acidic compost-based substrate - peat soil is less suitable, as this ingredient is not very permeable, not to mention the serious damage that is done to the environment when it breaks down. Either use commercially available palm soil or mix compost with lava granules (€13.99) or expanded clay. (€19.73)

    planting / repotting

    It is best to move the stick palm to a larger pot and fresh substrate immediately after purchase - in the trade, the plants are often in planters that are much too small and need space to grow. Choose a pot that is as wide as it is deep so that the rhizomes can spread out and don't forget the drainage! Waterlogging is absolutely deadly for the plant, which is why excess irrigation water has to drain off quickly. Due to the slow growth, repotting is only necessary every few years, but you can replace the used substrate about every one to two years. The best time for this is spring.

    Water the stick palm

    Do not let the stick palm dry out, because it needs a substrate that is always well moistened for balanced growth - but it must not be wet. Always water the plant generously when the top layer of soil has dried slightly. Irrigation water escaping from the drain hole should be removed immediately. Rhapis excelsa needs less water during the winter months than during the warm summer months - this is especially true if the plant is overwintered in a cool place. Pour the stick palm with low-lime water, as it - like so many exotic houseplants - has little tolerance for lime. To do this, use collected, clean rainwater or filtered or well-stale tap water.

    Fertilize the stick palm properly

    During the main growth period between April and October, fertilize the stick palm about every two weeks with a liquid palm fertilizer that you administer together with the irrigation water. Alternatively, you can also use a long-term fertilizer, such as granules or sticks. In winter, on the other hand, no fertilizer is used.

    Cut the stick palm correctly

    A pruning is neither necessary nor sensible. However, you can carefully pluck dry, brown leaves - which is completely normal to a certain extent, because older leaves die off after a while.

    propagate stick palm

    Small daughter plants often develop at the foot of the stick palm, which you can carefully dig up in the spring, separate from the mother plant and plant separately. The young plants should already be rooted by this time. Seeds are sometimes commercially available, from which you can also grow your own plants.


    Although Rhapis excelsa tolerates slightly below zero for a short time, you should still allow the plant to winter quarters in good time if you cultivate it outdoors in summer in autumn. If it is bright enough (at least 700 lux) it can be cultivated in the living room or another room, since the plant does not necessarily have to be cool. However, a bright hibernation at temperatures between ten and twelve degrees Celsius is ideal, since the stick palm takes a break from growth - and a too light, but warm hibernation makes it easily susceptible to diseases and pest infestation. During the winter months, water the plant less than in the summer and do not fertilize at all between October and March.

    diseases and pests

    Although the stick palm is basically very robust and rather insensitive to diseases and pests, it quickly resents care mistakes. Pests such as spider mites, scale insects and mealybugs infest the palm tree if the location is too dark (or too bright) or if it is not cared for properly. The animals usually hide at the attachment points of the leaf fronds, but later often migrate to the leaves themselves.

    It is completely normal for the lower leaves of the stick palm to gradually turn brown - as long as new green leaves keep developing at the top. However, as soon as the leaves on top turn brown, you are probably watering the plant too much or too little. Yellow leaf fronds, on the other hand, indicate either a substrate that is too wet or too much direct sunlight. Brown leaf tips, on the other hand, indicate that the air in the room is too dry. You can carefully cut them off with pinking shears, but you shouldn't cut into the healthy, green leaf - it would then continue to wilt. Instead, increase the humidity to avoid browning again.


    Stick palms are among the air-purifying plants that filter pollutants from the room air and instead have a positive influence on the humidity. Thus, with a culture of these (and other air-purifying plants) you improve the indoor climate in your living room or bedroom.

    species and varieties

    The species Rhapis excelsa belongs together with 10 other species to the genus of stick palms (bot. Rhapis), all of which are native to Southeast Asia and are assigned to the palm family (Arecaceae). In addition to the species described in this article, the following representatives are also cultivated as indoor plants.

    Rhapis humilis

    With a growth height of around one meter, Rhapis humilis remains significantly smaller than Rhapis excelsa, and is also more delicate overall with its finely feathered leaf fronds and narrow trunks. Therefore, this dwarf palm is wonderfully suited for apartments that do not offer enough space for a large palm tree. In terms of location and care, Rhapis humilis has the same requirements as the closely related Rhapis excelsa.

    Rhapis subtilis

    When cultivated in pots, the species Rhapis subtilis is also smaller than the more well-known Rhapis excelsa, but can still grow to heights of up to two and a half metres. Their trunks are very narrow with a diameter of up to 15 millimeters, but the plant appears very bushy due to the numerous hand-shaped, dark green leaves. However, there is also an interesting variety with broad leaves that looks much more delicate. In contrast to Rhapis excelsa, which is quite tolerant of cold, Rhapis subtilis needs more warmth and has to be watered more frequently. The species is still rare as a houseplant in this country, but widespread in the USA.

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