Home & Garden

Missing your Christmas tree? Try a palm

The lady palm is easy to grow and tolerates lower light conditions than most.
The lady palm is easy to grow and tolerates lower light conditions than most. TNS

Not only is it a chore but it is also kind of depressing to take down the Christmas tree. I remember my favorite restaurant in Mississippi would fight off the dilemma by leaving the tree up all year. In February, it is a Valentine tree, followed by an Easter egg tree and on through various celebrations. It is also obvious to you now, that it is an artificial tree.

But if you’ve grown accustomed to having a live tree you may be going through a depression from a lack of living green. You do not have to despair when the old Christmas tree comes down, simply replace it with a nice tropical tree.

One of my top picks is the lady palm, Raphis excelsa. This rugged palm may be among the easiest to grow indoors especially since it can tolerate a little lower light than might be expected. Don’t get me wrong, bright indirect light is still the best. The ones we have chosen for our visitor center are right at 4-feet tall and located next to a baby grand piano.

The palms send out frond-like stems from the middle of the plant giving it a bushy appearance. As it slowly grows, you may have to occasionally remove a dead trunk or branch. Cut these at the bottom removing the whole shoot. In most cases you will hardly even notice one has been cut.

While your lady palm likes to be kept moist do not overwater as this will initiate rot. As you plant your lady palm into its new container home notice how the majority of the roots are congregated at the bottom. This will give you your first tip on watering. Though the plant seems dry at the top it may still be moist enough where the roots are active. Since you are indoors in a much lower light situation it stands to reason your palm will not need as much fertilizing. In fact if you have good deep green color you are just fine.

My next favorite Christmas tree replacement is a fig called Alii, Ficus maclellandii, and you may very well not recognize it as the wonderful ficus it is. Unlike the weeping fig or Ficus benjamina its long willow shaped leaves are not prone to drop. Like the Ficus benjamina, you can find these with straight or braided trunks.

Let the plant dry completely between watering and then drench it thoroughly. Remember that all figs will suffer if left to stand in water. Plants in a brightly lit area like a mall will need fertilizing about 4 times a year while yours in a normal home situation will need fertilizing in spring and summer. In other words, fertilize lightly when the plant is growing. This indoor ficus is not prone to insects, but if they become a problem, use a fine horticultural oil spray.

All indoor tropical trees go through a period of adjusting to their surroundings, and unless it is too dark, these plants should do fine. Tropical trees are excellent choices to give you that feeling of having a little bit of Jamaica growing inside. They are definitely perfect for that spot where the Christmas tree stood.