Common Names: radicalis palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
Palm Tolerant of Shade and Low Light Conditions Can be Grown in
Containers Grows Well Indoors. Has Ornamental (non-edible) Fruit Has
evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage
Chamaedorea radicalis is a rugged but charming dwarf palm that
deserves to be famous. This pretty little palm is usually seen
without a trunk. Although a slow grower this palm will produce,
after many years, a short trunk covered with old leaf attachments.
Radicalis palm grows from 3 - 4 ft (0.9 - 1.2 m) in height. If
planted closely together in clusters they grow even taller as the
leaves support one another producing a more erect form. When given
the space, radicalis palm sprawls as its pinnate (feather) leaves
relax into its more typical loosely open arrangement. Each plant has
about 6-8 leaves that are about 3 ft (0.9 m) long with a short
smooth petiole (leaf stem), that is 10 - 12 in (25 - 30 cm) in
length. About 30 to 40 glossy, deep green leaflets are held in a
flat plane along both sides of the leaf stem. These are about 10 -
14 in (25 - 36 cm) long and 0.5 - 0.75 in (1.3 - 1.9 cm) wide and
droop gracefully toward the ground.
The male and female flowers are tiny and borne on separate plants
like all of the species of Chamaedorea. They are held on 4 - 5 ft
(1.2 - 1.5 m) singly branched inflorescences that reach above the
leaves. This species blooms when quite young and it is not unusual
to see palms already bearing seeds when only half their mature size!
The female plants are particularly showy when adorned in their
bright scarlet fruits. These are approximately 0.4 in in diameter
and, also like many other members of this genus, may cause skin
irritation due to the presence of corrosive oxalic acid (don't grow
these where children can reach the temptingly colored seeds).
Radicalis palm is native to the shady forest floors of tropical
This palm can adapt to most soils. In light infertile soil it will
survive but grow very slowly. Moist well-drained soils rich in
organic matter are recommended for best look and fastest growth.
Light: Very shade tolerant. Likes low light conditions but can take
some direct sun. When growing radicalis palm indoors provide bright
Moisture: Provide regular waterings when soil dries to maintain
looks and growth rate. This palm is surprisingly tolerant of drought
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. In Jack's North Florida garden
radicalis palm seedlings have endured temperatures to 10 F (-12 C)
suffering only leaf damage and recovering the following season.
Propagation: By seeds which germinate irregularly over a 1 to 6
month period depending on temperature and freshness. I have success
sowing them directly in the garden despite our Zone 8 cold snaps.
Radicalis palm is superb in shade gardens. Mass them in clusters at
the rear of shady beds to serve as a background for colorful annuals
like impatiens and begonias. Spaced farther apart they'll erupt like
fountains from expanses of groundcover. Use a single palm to anchor
a container planting for shady patio or porch. The radicalis palm is
a fine palm for indoor culture too. I grew some on my office
windowsill for a couple of years where they thrived despite
inattention and neglect.
The rich green of radicalis palm's foliage makes a handsome
backdrop for the female plant's bright orange-red fruit.
Radicalis palm is a close cousin of the hardy bamboo palm (Chamadorea
microspadix) which is taller, has multple stems and non-glossy,
lighter green leaves. Both are perfect for Zone 8B gardeners who are
looking for durable, low maintenance and interestingly attractive
items to grow in the shade. Those gardening in Zone 9 and warmer
have even a greater selection of Chamadorea species to enjoy like
the blue metal palm (C. metallica) and that familiar houseplant, the
bamboo palm (C. seifrizii).