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A palm for the parlour

It is rare today to hear someone refer to their parlour, a room which became synonymous with this month’s plant showcase, Chamaedorea elegans, otherwise know as the parlour palm.

Derived from the French word parler, meaning to speak, a parlour is generally a reception space where ‘one would greet one’s visitors’, a room which in a bygone age would help define a family’s social standing.

Picture a middle class, Victorian sitting room, with burgundy, velvet drapes, an ornately pattern carpet, mahogany table, and lace tablecloths and of course the parlour palm in the corner, delicately decorative. A ‘good’ room, which for much of the time would lie in unheated, darkness until a special guest was expected – not ideal conditions for a tropical plant.

But although the Chamaedorea elegans originally hails from the rain forests of Southern Mexico and Guatemala, it’s ability to with stand cooler, shady conditions make it the ideal specimen for the spot.

And as one of the easier to grow houseplants, it remains one of the most popular indoor varieties today.

The parlour palm is slow growing, hence it’s other common name, dwarf mountain palm, but it can still reach around three feet in height, producing lots of gentle, feathery foliage, in average room temperatures of 18 to 24°C.

Several plants are often potted together in a bunch to produce a bushier display and although they will continue to grow in shaded areas to achieve the best results the palm likes to be settled in bright light, but not direct sunlight or next to radiators. It also likes humidity – just like the jungle. Don’t fret through, there is no need to humidify your living room, simply mist the leaves regularly with a fine water spray to sooth it’s yearning for the tropics.

Brown leaf tips on your Chamaedorea elegans are a sign that it may be too dry or perhaps too cold. It’s best to keep the soil evenly moist, letting it dry out slightly between giving it a drink as overwatering will produce dark green, almost black leaves and the palm could begin to rot.

To maximise the growth potential of this compact palm you should feed it monthly in the spring and summer.

So, if you desire elegance without effort, pop out and pick up a Chamaedorea elegans to add some class to your contemporary entertaining area or every-day living space.

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