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 Palm Plant Details
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 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
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.
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
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 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.