Several species for example parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans) and kentia palm (Howea forsteriana) are easy to grow indoors, needing little special care and tolerating fairly low light levels. Others require more care but are still rewarding houseplants over a long period.
A minimum winter night temperature of 10-13ºC (50-55ºF) is required, and slightly higher temperatures of 16ºC (61ºF) for Chamaedorea, Howea and Cocos. Day temperatures can be 3-8ºC (5-15ºF) higher in summer as long as ventilation is provided. Do not position palms near radiators or in draughty situations.
Most palms prefer bright but indirect light in summer but in winter move to a brighter position such as near to a south- or west-facing window. Chamaedorea, Howea and Rhapis can tolerate quite low light levels, away from windows. Cocos and Chrysalidocarpus need good light levels. The leaves of most palms will be scorched by direct bright sunlight through glass.
Water and feeding
Allow the surface of the compost to slightly dry out before watering in winter. In summer, water so that the compost never dries out, but do not allow the plant to stand in excess water.
Newly potted palms should not be fed for six to eight weeks after potting. Then feed fortnightly from April to mid-September with a general purpose liquid fertiliser.
If the room is centrally heated or becomes very hot in summer mist plants regularly. Sponge the leaves to prevent dust building up or stand outdoors in summer rain (but do not put out or leave out in the hot sun, as they would not be acclimatised to it and could soon scorch).
Maintain humidity by standing the container on tray of gravel, expanded clay granules (Hydroleca) or recycled lightweight aggregate (Hortag) and keep moist, with the water level slightly below the surface of the gravel.
Compost and potting
Palms can be grown in John Innes No 2, or multipurpose compost, repotting every two years in early spring if pot bound until plants are in 20-5cm (8-10in) pots. Ideally use a peat-free potting media formulated for indoor plants. If growing in larger containers less frequent repotting will be required. In years when not repotting, top-dress by removing a little old compost from the surface (5cm (1in) or so), replacing with fresh compost. Coarse sand can be added to the compost when repotting for extra drainage.