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  HOME AND GARDEN » House Plants

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Plants for your home (By Mary Efanti)

Rhapis

Description - Origin

Rhapis or commonly called Lady Palm, is one of the common plants we see mainly indoors but also in some gardens. 

It belongs to the palm family and is classified in two main varieties: the robust tropical plants that mainly originate in China and Taiwan and the smaller varieties that originate in Thailand and Laos. 

These plants have been cultivated as ornamentals as far back as the 17th century. The upper social class in Japan started to cultivate rhapis
plants in their homes since 1600 while the plants were introduced to Europe about 100 years later. Rhapis has started to become more and more popular in the Western World around 1850. 

Today, rhapis is cultivated throughout the world since it is very adaptable to different climates, soils and environments. This is the main reason why rhapis has become such a popular indoor plant. Other reasons are its ease of culture, its hardiness and its longevity.

The leaves appear in groups on top of thin stems that remind canes. Their color is dark green while during summer you will notice tiny cream-colored flowers among the leaves.


Care

Rhapis is an impressive plant with its height reaching approximately 1 meter. The plant grows sideways with shoots coming out from the ground next to the basic branches. The shoots can increase in great numbers so the width of the plant may reach or exceed 1 meter.

The growth rate of rhapis is rather slow but vary depending on the variety and the conditions. Obviously, it grows much faster if planted in the ground. Usually, the plants for sale at the nurseries are about 2 years old. The larger plants may be as old as 7 years and this is why they are much more expensive.

Rhapis is probably the easiest palm to grow indoors as long as you provide it with plenty of filtered light. It can however slowly adapt to lower light conditions. Never let the plant get direct sunlight, especially if this is coming through windows. The ideal temperature for this plant is between 16-29°C. Rhapis is not freeze hardy, so if planted in the garden, protect it during extremely low temperatures.

Remove the lower leaves when they start to age and fade. You can also carefully cut off the brown tips with a pair of scissors. As rhapis is a slow grower, only remove what is really necessary to avoid stripping your plant. 

Rhapis is not demanding regarding soil quality as long as you provide excellent drainage. It prefers light soils which allow the water to slowly soak all of the soil. When you transplant, keep in mind that raphis needs to be root-bound so keep the pots small. It also prefers its own pots so do not add other plants in the same pot. 

When you water, it is important to make sure all the soil gets wet. Do not let the soil dry out completely because the leaves will fade and dry out very quickly. At the same time, make sure that the soil is not waterlogged because rhapis is prone to root rot. Make sure to provide excellent drainage and do not let the pot sit in water.

Rhapis is a slow grower so fertilizing cannot really speed up its development. If however you think your plant needs some fertilizer, use half the dosage mentioned on the instructions label. 

A good indicator of when to fertilize is the color of the leaves. Dark green color shows that the plant is getting all the necessary nutrients. If the leaves are fading and starting to yellow, it is possible that your plant needs more minerals (contained in fertilizers for foliage plants) or iron deficiency. Brown tips may also indicate that the water has too much chlorine. Especially for this plant, try to use distilled water or rain water when watering. Brown tips also indicate high temperature, lack of humidity or that the soil is not adequately soaked during waterings


Insects and disease

Rhapis is very prone to scale while it may also be attacked by spider mites. If you notice such insects on your plant, take measures immediately because they can damage your plant in no time. Spray the plant making sure that the underside of the leaves is also covered since this is where these harmful insects are. 


Propagation

Rhapis plants, depending on the variety, can be propagated through seed or offshoots. In order for the plant to produce seed the existence of both male and female plants is necessary. In general, growing raphis from seeds is very demanding and requires specialized care, you should prefer growing it from offshoots or buying new developed plants.


Mary Efanti
mefanti@otenet.gr

 

 

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