Propagating Rhapis excelsa (Lady Palm) by division

Rhapis excelsa (Lady Palm) has broken its pot. Shot June 2008Did you notice in the right photo that the Lady Palm had broken its pot?

Hence, we were forced to replant them but it took an awful long time for us to actually do so….which we finally did early last month. Unbelievable, we procrastinated for almost a year!

Anyway, it was a blessing in disguise as young plants emerged from the underground rhizomes between the cracks. Just timely to present them to our younger son who had moved to his new home late last year and wanted some Lady Palm! ;)

Machete and meat cleaver - our garden tools for this tough task of propagating Lady PalmThus began the big job of propagating the Rhapis excelsa (commonly known too as Broadleaf Lady Palm or Bamboo Palm), by dividing the large and compact clump of plants. We did not realized that it was such a tough nut to crack! Our machete was so blunt and though the meat chopper was sharp, it seemed overworked after a while! By the time, we completed the task over 2 grumbling days, handicapped by unsharpened tools, John and I had blisters on our palms and aching backs!

Looks like Lady Palm did a better job, having cracked its pot easily for the second time within 5 years!

Here’s sharing steps on how-to propagate Rhapis excelsa by division:

  1. Break the existing pot with a hammer or machete and discard the broken pieces. This is easy but the subsequent steps are tough if not equipped with the right tools. A machete and meat cleaver is handy (you may know of better ones) but these tools have to be very sharp.
    Step 1: Propagating Rhapis excelsa or Lady Palm, April 2 2009 at our backyard. Broken pot removed Step 1: Propagating Rhapis excelsa or Lady Palm, April 2 2009 at our backyard. Broken pot removed
  2. Remove about a third of the height of the rooted mass by tilting the clump to lie horizontally on the ground. Then, use a machete, meat chopper or other relevant tools to remove that one-third section.
    Step 2: Propagating Rhapis excelsa or Lady Palm, April 2 2009 at our backyard. Remove a third of its height
  3. Next, try to remove as many young plants from the clump, being careful to include some of their roots too, using the same tools. (Wow, we managed to separate 7 plants from our clump, 6 of which were given to our son. We retained the smallest one plus the shaven old clump for ourselves)
    Step 3: Propagating Rhapis excelsa or Lady Palm, April 2 2009 at our backyard. Separated 7 young plants
  4. You can then plant these, 2-3 young plants in a pot filled with potting mix. Press the soil firmly around each stem. A 15-inch pot of good quality will be just fine for a start. Lady Palm is not particular with soil, those sold in garden nurseries is suitable. Wet through thoroughly and site at a sunny place. With regular watering, they should flourish to become new plants. That’s it.
  5. But, if you want to replant the just shaven clump of old canes, you can. Though first, you have to downsize further the old clump widthwise so that it can fit into the new container, with sufficient space around it and be enclosed with new soil. Do this by chopping off right down a third of its width on two adjacent sides. Not to worry as these canes are tough and can withstand the stress of division. Probably some canes have to be discarded in the process.
    Then, replant it as you would for a tree with the crown at the previous soil level, in a good quality container filled with garden soil. As mentioned earlier, any soil type will do. Ensure that all the exposed roots and bases of canes are firmly covered with soil. Water through thoroughly. Its normal for some fronds to brown as the Lady Palm canes try to establish to the new surrounding and spread their roots. Just snip away as they appear. With proper care, they will reward you with luxuriant growth and even new shoots eventually.
    Step 5: Propagating Rhapis excelsa or Lady Palm, April 2 2009 at our backyard. Downsize its width Step 5: Rhapis excelsa (Lady Palms) replanted. They are thriving well in a cylindrical metal container, a month after being shaved and replanted, shot May 8 2009

If interested to know more on Rhapis excelsa (Lady Palm), read here.

Update: July 7, 2009
Stem shavings of Rhapis excelsa (Lady Palm), and exposing lovely bamboo-like cane withinGardening tip: When replanting or thinning large clumps of Lady Palm, do not discard the unwanted stems, recycle them instead! Just peal off the fibrous material and leaf sheaths covering them with a pen-knife, to get strong and sturdy bamboo-like canes that are excellent for staking vines, climbers or other tall flowering plants that need support.

Last edited: Sept 28 2009

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9 Responses to “Propagating Rhapis excelsa (Lady Palm) by division”

  1. Kay Says:

    I struggled/wrestled too this past weekend separating my Lady Palm. We live on the south west coast of Florida and my Lady Palm is planted in the ground – sandy soil with morning sun . I had to move a storage box as I was attempting to separate a volunteer that was on the wrong side of the fence (just couldn’t get it to budge even after I cut the horizontal roots so I gave up on that one at least for now!). I found another volunteer growing under the box! Sturdy crooked stalk with small almost yellow leaves but very much alive so I have transplanted it into a pot. We’ll see how it does. I transplanted a stalk a few weeks ago and it is growing as if nothing has happened and we had not had much rain and my watering is sporatic at best. Wish all my plants responded so well to transplanting! Love your website as it is very informative! Keep up the good work.

  2. Jacqueline Says:

    Hi Kay! I can just imagine you ‘wrestling with your Lady Palm, who is no lady but a big bully, yes? ;)
    Anyway, wish you the very best in your transplanting.
    And thanks for the compliment…really appreciate it!

  3. james Says:

    Hi Jacq,

    I’m curious about the root mass. You mean the whole root ball thingy is unwanted and the only thing that matters is those few root trails from the plant?

    From the pic, I see its like (chop..chop..chop)
    just remove the shoots. So, I guess what is important is the main root and not the fine roots encircling?

    Do let me know how is the lady palm doing now.
    Thanks.

  4. Jacqueline Says:

    You’re right, James…it’s chop, chop and chop, but beware that each young plant must have at least its tap root with some healthy lateral (or is it fibrous?) roots to continue its growth, as illustrated in the image above.
    Our lady palm is doing very fine now, with an addition of 3 new shoots (now about 8 inches tall) since the replanting. And, according to our son who received 6 young offsets from us, 4 out of 6 are growing fine too. These palms are real tough ladies!! :)

  5. Carolyn Says:

    So glad to have found this information. I’m about to re-pot my Lady Palm. Looks like I may need to enlist my hubby for the extra muscle even though it’s just a houseplant.

    The tallest canes no longer have fronds on the lower part of the stems. Is it possible for them to sprout new leaves on the bare stems. Or must I rely entirely on new shoots and younger/shorter canes to fill the void?

    This is the only palm I’ve ever grown, so my knowledge is very limited.

    Thanks,
    Carolyn

  6. Jacqueline Says:

    Haha…you’d definitely need that extra muscle, Carolyn! This is one tough ‘Lady’, you’ll see! That’s typical of most palms, no more new fronds will emerge from where the old fronds have dropped and left leaf scars on the stems. Nonetheless, as you’ve guessed. suckers will sprout to create a multi-level look, which gives a lovely appearance, I think.
    Cheers and all the best in your repotting!

  7. Jen Says:

    Question: Is there a way to keep these tough lady palms, planted in the ground, from spreading? I have dug up and repotted so many already! Somewhere I heard that copper might work, along the line of a chemical reaction, but no details! I am getting ready to remove a clump that has outgrown its bed, and am thinking of adding a copper strip (like a drip or threshold strip) at the edge of the bed. Don’t mind spending the $ or time to do this, but am wondering if a building supply store available strip would be deep enough to stop the rhyzome spread?

    Does any one have any insights or other ideas?

  8. Laurel McCarthy Says:

    We have just spent the afternoon removing the dead bits from our Lady Palms. These palms grow in the ground along a fence. Some of the palms are now looking a bit skinny with a few gaps here and there. How do they thicken up? Should we lop them from the top? We live in Australia in Queensland so these palms do well here – they were planted by previous owners so we don’t know much about them although your website has been a great help. Thanks Laurel

  9. Jacqueline Says:

    Hi Laurel! These palms cannot be pruned back to promote bushiness as new growth occurs at the top central growing point of the canes. Nonetheless, if your clumps are healthy and well-cared, they should be producing offshoots or new plants from the underground rhizomes which will then add fullness themselves.

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