John&Jacq~s Garden

Propagating Rhapis excelsa (Lady Palm) by division

Did 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! ;)

Thus 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.
  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.
  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)
  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.

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

Update: July 7, 2009
Gardening 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 edit: June 2, 2016