University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #FPS501

Rhapis excelsa Lady Palm1

Edward F. Gilman2


The delicate lady palm forms dense clumps of bamboo-like stalks topped with very dark green, broad, fan-shaped leaves (Fig. 1). Performing well in northside foundation plantings or other shady locations, slow-growing lady palm is also ideal for containers. They lend a rich tropical look to the landscape. Lady palms can be effective accents in a shrub border or near an entryway. Plant on three- to four-foot centers to create a mass effect. Locate them in a low-growing ground cover such as mondo grass or lily turf for a dramatic effect. This palm looks wonderful when it is lighted from below or silhouetted at night.

Figure 1. 

Lady palm

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Rhapis excelsa
Pronunciation: RAY-piss eck-SELL-suh
Common name(s): lady palm
Family: Palmae
Plant type: palm
USDA hardiness zones: 8B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 8: year round
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: screen; border; mass planting; specimen; container or above-ground planter; naturalizing; accent; suitable for growing indoors
Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range

Figure 2. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 6 to 12 feet
Spread: 3 to 12 feet
Plant habit: palm
Plant density: moderate
Growth rate: slow
Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: lobed
Leaf shape: fan-shaped
Leaf venation: palmate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 8 to 12 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristic: pleasant fragrance; spring flowering


Fruit shape: oval
Fruit length: 1 to 3 inches
Fruit cover: fleshy
Fruit color: white
Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: showy; typically multi-trunked or clumping stems
Current year stem/twig color: not applicable
Current year stem/twig thickness: not applicable


Light requirement: plant grows in the shade
Soil tolerances: alkaline; clay; sand; acidic; loam
Drought tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerances: poor
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: sprouts from roots or lower trunk
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Lady palm needs partial to deep shade and fertile organic soil to look its best but will tolerate the poor light, dust, and drought usual of indoor container culture. Be sure that drainage is adequate for indoor use.

Spreading slowly by underground stems, lady palm is usually propagated by division. Make more divisions than you need since many canes may not transplant successfully. There are several other species of Rhapis for different leaf sizes and shapes.

Pests and Diseases

Pest problems include scale, palm aphids, sooty mold, and caterpillars, although none are usually serious.

No diseases are of major concern.



This document is FPS501, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.