When my friend recently asked me for advice on what plant to place in her living room for a more tropical atmosphere, I immediately responded: “fishtail palm!”. As she’s not the greenest thumb out there, I knew it’s ideal because indoor fishtail palm care is easy.
It belongs to the Caryota genus. The interesting common name comes from the leaves’ shape which reminds of a fish’s tail. There are 13 species of fishtail palm and they originate from northern Australia, the South Pacific, and Asia.
It’s one of the few palm trees that has bipinnately compound leaves with plenty of leaflets. (A bipinnately compound leaf is divided twice: each leaflet is subdivided into smaller leaflets).
Thanks to the grayish-green leaves, the plant will create a unique dappled shade in any indoor space, whether it’s at home or in the office.
Caring for this plant is recommended only if you have plenty of free space. It can grow between 8 and 20 feet in height! In width, it can spread between 10 and 35 feet. Of course, indoor fishtail palms will grow less than this and grow quite slowly.
In terms of light, it needs plenty of brightness so this is another factor to consider.
In addition to beautifying indoor spaces, the indoor fishtail palm has air purifying properties too. Palms filter a lot of formaldehyde as well as other pollutants and help us breathe cleaner air.
I wouldn’t recommend keeping it in an area where there are kids and pets! Or, it must be kept away from their reach.
The plant produces poisonous berries which can cause a burning and itching sensation lasting for days upon touch, if ingested.
How to Care for an Indoor Fishtail Palm
My fishtail palm thrives in my dining room where there’s plenty of bright and indirect light. It may adapt to medium bright areas too.
If you want to transfer it outside in the summer days, make sure it’s not exposed to direct sunlight for too many hours; this could torch its leaves.
To ensure your fishtail palm is happy and healthy, it needs a daytime temperature in a range of 70 to 80 degrees while nighttime of 60 degrees F would be ideal.
Never keep it in areas with drafts and air conditioners. Although it’s praised as a cold-hardy plant, it must never be kept where the temperature drops below 45 degrees F.
Water & Humidity
This tropical “queen” dislikes entirely dry or entirely soggy soil. Therefore, water it after some 25 percent of the top part of the soil has dried out. If you notice that the edges of its foliage are turning brown, it’s probably because of the chemicals in the water you’re using.
Choose distilled water instead.
Since it’s a tropical plant, it prefers high humidity and being kept moist at all times. You should mist it several times on a daily basis to boost the humidity or invest in a humidifier.
Your fishtail palm will appreciate a porous soil that drains fast and is enriched with organic matter like pine bark, perlite, and coir. This optimizes the drainage and reduces the risk of overwatering.
For a more luscious fishtail palm, fertilize it every month during spring and summer. Never do it in the winter. Opt for a basic houseplant fertilizer diluted at half the recommended strength.
Generally speaking, fishtail palms are slow growers and will need repotting only every other year or so. If your palm is quite larger, repotting may not be possible. If this is the case, you can remove old soil on the top and replace it with a fresh one.
When repotting fishtail palms, it’s best to do it in spring. Choose a pot that’s 2 inches bigger in diameter than the current one and fill it halfway with fresh soil.
Remove the palm from the old pot and inspect the roots. Clean surplus soil from the roots and set them into the new soil. Fill up the pot and water it well.
Propagating Fishtail Palms
I’ve shared my fishtail palm with several friends through suckers. They can also be propagated from seeds. Namely, its flowers have female and male parts and a single plant can provide you with proper seeds.
Sprout them by keeping them in a warm and moist, small pot, for up to eight months. I prefer propagating it through suckers which I cut off ensuring they have some roots on them, from the bottom.
Expect the new growth after several months.
Best Types of Fishtail Palms
Caryota mitis or clustering fishtail palm
This is the most common fishtail palm used in indoor spaces. It needs moist soil and usually has several stems or trunks.
Its plants flower and then die over a period of two years. The dying stem is replaced by seedlings.
Caryota albertii or Australian fishtail palm
Native to Queensland, Australia, this fishtail palm is my personal favorite!
It grows tall and slender and its foliage consists of arching and dark, bipinnate leaves. It’s easy to care for and a fast grower.
It’s excellent for tropical areas and warm climates. Probably best suited to larger outdoor gardens.
Caryota urens or Toddy fishtail palm
Suitable for both indoors and outdoors, this variety will bring a tropical forest vibe to your home or office. It’s best when placed in large areas because it grows quite tall.
The sap from this palm’s flowers is used for the making of a popular alcoholic drink in Southern India that’s sold in their so-called “toddy shops”.
Other Indoor Fishtail Palm Care Tips
Pruning your fishtail palm is recommended if you notice browned leaf stems. Prune it only a bit because it’s a moderate grower. Being a clustering plant, you can cut off the trunks to ground level.
When trying to keep its height under control, prune it lightly by cutting the vertical stalks on the top.
My fishtail palm is placed near an eastern-facing window and it thrives. Another option is near a window on the west.
Trouble Shooting- Common Indoor Fishtail Palm Care Issues
Problem: discolored foliage or foliage with spots
Cause: A deficiency in iron, magnesium, and manganese.
Solution: Regular feeding in the growing months and occasional boosts with chelated iron and magnesium.
Problem: Waxy tufts, white sap
Cause: Pests like mealybugs, scale, whiteflies, and aphids.
Solution: Opt for the least toxic treatment, for example, neem oil.
Problem: yellowing lower leaves with brown spots
Solution: Use well-draining soil and water the plant after 25 percent of the soil on top is entirely dry.
Like to see more indoor palms?
Checkout these easy to care for beauties;
Chinese Fan Palm: chinese-fan-palm-care
Areca Palm: areca-palm-care
Sago Palm: sago-palm-care
Parlor Palm: parlor-palm-care
Broadleaf Lady Palm: broadleaf-lady-palm-care
Ponytail Palm: ponytail-palm-care-indoor