Sumo Gardener

Cat Palms Care – Everything You Need to Know

Cat Palms (Chamaedorea cataractarum) are a beautiful addition to any home! A tropical plant with lush, green foliage, this palm will do well in any bright, sunny spot.

To ensure your plant thrives, we’ve written a complete guide to Cat Palms care, including tips on how often to water a Cat Palm, and using the right Cat Palm fertilizer.

Cat Palms Care Everything You Need to Know

Cat Palm Plant Details

What are Cat Palms?


A Cat Palm, also known as a cataractarum palm or cascade palm, is a small sized palm plant that is ideal for growing indoors. Originating from Mexico, and featuring bold green leaves off its multiple stems, it’s a tropical plant that loves sunshine and warmth.

While it can grow to 6 feet in height, this plant is a slow grower and will take quite a long time to reach a notable size. In Victorian times, these plants were associated with a high social status, with families proudly displaying their palms and other tropical plants as a sign of their wealth.

Benefits of Growing Cat Palms

Cat Palms require regular watering to keep the soil moist


Cat Palms have great benefits, adding a lush and tropical feel to your space and invoking that wonderful summer vacation feel! These palms also naturally purify the air in your home, removing carbon dioxide and other toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Which are commonly found in the air as a result of smoking, living in an urban environment, or even in your home’s paint and flooring. This makes it a great plant for improving your home’s indoor air quality, and was even endorsed as a clean air plant in a NASA study!

Another one of the many Cat Palm benefits is that it is a very low maintenance indoor plant. This makes it a great choice for people who are learning gardening skills or simply want an indoor plant that isn’t too much work.

Caring for Cat Palms

How to correctly care for your cat palms

Providing Cat Palms with Enough Sunlight

Watering Cascade Palms

Cat Palms require regular watering to keep the soil moist. They really don’t like dry soil, so test the first inch of soil in the pot regularly – if it’s dry, the palm needs to be watered.

The soil should be moist, not waterlogged, and the plant must never sit in excess water, so well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes is essential.

They can be sensitive to chemicals in your water supply, which can cause the leaves to burn. If you live in a hard water (high mineral content) area, it’s a good idea to water your plant with filtered water.

Fertilizing Cat Palms

Although these are low maintenance plants, you will need to feed your plant with a Cat Palm fertilizer a few times a year. 

You should feed it monthly in the spring and summer with 10 10 10 fertilizer at half the manufacturer’s recommended strength. This is because this is the main growing season for this plant, although they are not heavy feeders.

Your plant will only need feeding again once in the fall and once in winter, as they are fairly dormant during the colder months.

We recommend 10 10 10 fertilizer because this is a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer that is especially good for leafy, green plants. It contains plenty of nitrogen and phosphate to support healthy, vigorous growth, and can be found in both liquid and granular forms.

Don’t over-fertilize your plant, as this will cause a build-up of minerals and salts in the soil that can burn the plant. That’s another reason why we recommend only using half-doses monthly when you fertilize your plant. 

If you notice signs that you have over-fertilized your palm, which include a white slat-like substance when the soil dries and burned palm leaves, you can correct it. Simply flush out the container with plenty of water, letting it all drain out.

Benefits of Having Cat Palms in your home, is to purify the air

Temperature Requirements for Ideal Growing

These plants love to be in a room that is warm, but too much heat and dryness can cause damage to the leaves. When placing your plant, make sure that you are not putting them in front of air conditioners and heat vents.

Ideally, your Cat Palm should be in an environment that is around 80 degrees in the day and no colder than 45 degrees at night.

Provide Cat Palms with Enough Humidity

As they are tropical plants, so they need humidity in order to grow well and keep those glossy, green leaves looking healthy. The ideal humidity for these plants is 55%, which is a comfortable level for people as well.

If your home gets very dry, it’s a good idea to install a humidifier in the room where your plant lives to keep the environmental humidity within a healthy range. This will also help you, as higher humidity keeps your skin from getting dry and itchy and helps prevent respiratory irritation!

If you don’t have a humidifier, then placing the plant on a tray of wet gravel will also work however, nothing beats the benefits of having your own so be sure to check our humidifier buying guide for 2022.

Choosing the Right Soil and Pot for Your Cat Palm

best soil for cat palms


Cat Palms need soil that can quickly drain so that they don’t get waterlogged, as this will rot the plant. The container and soil that you buy your plant in should be good for around 3 years – after that, you can repot your plant, repeating the process in another 3 years or so.

When repotting, start with a good quality potting soil and add some peat moss to keep the soil from becoming clay-like and heavy.

Choose a pot that has good drainage and is only a couple of inches bigger than the plant’s current pot, as keeping the pot smaller will allow the Cat Palm to grow without it getting too big.

When planting it in the new pot, keep it at the same soil level as the old pot. Don’t bury the stems any deeper or pile soil against them, as this will cause the stems to rot and the plant to die.

Be very gentle with the root ball, and don’t try to shake it out or spread the roots, as this will damage them severely. Instead, keep it intact and gently move it to the new pot.

Prune Cat Palms Regularly

To keep your plant looking it’s best, you should any yellow or brown fronds as soon as they appear. You should also cut away any leaves that have been burned or affected by disease. 

See some of the best pruners we were able to review here

Common Cat Palm Pests and Diseases

cat palm are susceptible to mites, scale and fungal diseases

Cat Palms care is pretty simple, but you still have to be alert for pests like ants, mealy bugs, scale, and spider mites. It’s best to act immediately as soon as you notice an infestation. Remember to check under the leaves, as some pests like to hide there.

If you detect an infestation, the best thing to do is use an all-purpose plant-insect repellent that you can purchase from your local garden center. It’s also important to check for diseases too, as their leaves can be vulnerable to fungal infestations like Leaf Spot.

This will appear as a lesion that is reddish to brown in color and measures 1/8 to 1/4 inches in length. It can be treated with a fungicide from your local garden center.

Cat Palms Frequently Asked Questions

Can Cat Palms be planted outside?

These palms can live outdoors, especially in containers on patios. They need bright, indirect light and warm weather to thrive, and can be brought indoors for colder months.

Remember to keep them out of direct sunlight and water them frequently to keep the soil moist, but don’t let them become waterlogged.

Why are my Cat Palm leaves turning yellow?

The leaves can turn yellow if the plant is not getting enough water. Remember to keep the soil moist but not soaking by watering at least once a week.

If the first inch of soil is dry, your plant needs to be watered more often. Hard water (high mineral content) can also burn the leaves, so try filtered water.

How much light do Cat Palms need?

These are tropical plants and need 4-6 hours of bright, indirect light each day. Don’t place it in direct sunlight, as this will burn the leaves. If your plant is not getting enough light, you can place it near a full-spectrum light to supplement the sunlight.

Are Cat Palm leaves toxic to cats and pets?

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Cat Palm (Chamaedorea cataractarum) is not toxic to cats and dogs.

You can look at the full list of plants that may be harmful to your pets here

Do Cat Palms clean the air?

These palms are classified as a clean air plant by NASA, which means that they are a great plant for helping to keep the air in your home free of carbon dioxide and other VOCs that can be harmful to your health. They can also help you sleep better.

Should I cut off brown cascade palm leaves?

Regularly prune all fully brown or yellowing leaves and fronds on your palm to keep it in good condition. This will help keep your palm healthy and looking lush.

Should I mist my Cat Palm?

These are tropical plants that love humidity, so it’s a good idea to mist your plant regularly, especially if you live in a dry climate. The ideal humidity level for these plants is around 55%.

To further increase humidity, you can install a humidifier or place your plant container on a bed of wet gravel.

Wrapping Up Our Cat Palms Care Guide

With a well-positioned palm in a warm, bright location, you’ll instantly add a tropical feel to your space! Just remember to keep the soil moist and well-drained, and to give it a light dose of fertilizer on a monthly basis through the spring and summer. 

And treat any pests or diseases with an all-purpose spray. Cat Palms are a rewarding and beautiful indoor plant that most people will find easy to grow and low maintenance.

About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann Katelyn, Creator and Chief Author of Sumo Gardener. Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with plants and gardens, and as an adult this has developed into my most loved hobby. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening and started Sumo Gardener as a way to express my knowledge about gardening with the hope of helping other people's gardens thrive.

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Leave a Comment:

Dan says April 14, 2020

Hello… I need help with a Cataractarum Palm, Cat Palm…. I live in Staten Island NY and I’m looking for an outdoor potted plant for the backyard to put at the ends of a large bench, …. I fell in love with the Cat Palm and purchased it… but now I’m home, trying to research it and don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it outside in a pot, what kind of care does it need, will it survive and do I need to bring it indoors in the winter? …. I’m putting it in a sunny location… do I bother attempting it… or should I return it?

    Ann Katelyn says April 16, 2020

    Hi Dan,
    First of all, thank you so much for your question. Cat palms make beautiful additions to any home and can be kept outdoors or indoors. However, they are a tropical plant native to Mexico, so the climate in Staten Island, NY, will be a bit of a challenge for your palm. We’d suggest keeping it outdoors through the late spring, summer and early fall months, and bringing it indoors when the weather gets colder (below 40F).

    When outdoors, keep it in a spot that gets a lot of sunlight (5-6 hours per day) but is out of the direct sunshine during the heat of the day, as this can burn the leaves. While outdoors, your cat palm will need daily watering through the warm months to keep the soil moist (but not waterlogged) and should be fertilized with a standard liquid fertilizer once a month.

    During the late fall and winter months, keep it indoors near a window that gets plenty of sunlight, and reduce watering to once a week. You can even grow it in lower light spaces if you place it near a full spectrum grow lightbulb.

    All tropical plants need a bit more care in cooler climates, but since the cat palm thrives indoors as well as outside, it’s worth keeping!

    I hope this answer helps. Please contact us again if you need any further information.


Diane Williams says May 21, 2020

Hello, I just received a Cat Palm from an anonymous person. I live in Scottsdale, Arizona and by the looks of it, it’s still in the original container from when they purchased it. It took me a long time to identify it. Our weather gets extremely hot here in these up coming months and from what I just read, it states that the Cat Palm shouldn’t be in temperature higher than 80 degrees. My dilemma is that my Condo is Sub- below and I don’t get a consistent amount of sun to suit this Palm plants need. All my plants and my Dwarf palm are outside plants. Is there anyway to pull this off by having the Cat Palm outside and out of the Sun in a temperature of 95-105 degree- to which of course I’ll have it on top of a tray of rocks and fresh water?? Please help.. Thank you, Diane

    Ann Katelyn says May 22, 2020

    Hi Diane,
    Thank you for your query! While 80 degrees is the recommended maximum temperature, your cat palm should be fine outdoors in hotter weather.

    The tray of rocks and fresh water will absolutely help, as will more regular watering (check the top inch or so of soil in hot weather and water when it’s dry).

    Just make sure you place it in a spot where it is shaded during the main heat of the day during summer (from about 11am-4pm), as the leaves can burn fairly easily. It should still get enough indirect light to thrive.

    I hope that helps!

    Thanks Ann

Larry R Watters says October 10, 2021

Hello,I have a indoor cat palm and It seems to stay moist for 8 to 9 days,should just water the soil or the plant center,I’ve had it a month seems ok I’m old and run a/c sometimes,I keep it by the window,Mist it,repotted in bigger planter,roots were coming out of old pot it came in,Sorry I’m taking,is it water soil when dry only or the center of the plant?Thank you so much.

    Mabel Vasquez says October 15, 2021

    Hi Larry,

    Thank you for your question! Cat palms are tropical, so they love moisture but don’t like their roots to sit in waterlogged soil. The misting and regular watering are the best way to water this plant, so you’re clearly getting it right!

    We recommend that you water when the first inch or two of the soil is dry rather than watering the center of the plant. You can flood the container as long as the excess water can run out.

    Kind regards,
    Mabel Vasquez

Audry says September 17, 2023

I bought this cat palm and obviously didn’t do any home work, I thought it was like my other palm trees, I planted it outside in the ground. Was this a mistake?should I pull it up and replant it in a pot? And if not how often should I water it,

    Ann says October 1, 2023

    Hi Audry,

    It was only a mistake if you don’t like it. Cat palms can grow happily into big bushy evergreen shrubs. It’s never going to develop a true trunk, and will always be quite a large, dominant feature, but personally I think they look beautiful when they establish, and will proper feed (any general purpose feed with do) it could end up looking pretty special.

    Also, they recover well after droughts, so let it tell you when to water it. If the leaves look a bit wilty, give it a full watering can/bucket of water and it will perk up pretty quickly.

    Best regards,

    Ann Katelyn

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