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Home » Cat Palm (Chamaedorea cataractarum): Plant Care and Growing Guide – House Plants Expert

Cat Palm (Chamaedorea cataractarum): Plant Care and Growing Guide – House Plants Expert

by Elyssa Goins
This article was fact checked.
Helpful: 100%

Despite it looking similar to a palm tree, the Cat Palm is most definitely a plant. With clusters of big, bold, green leaves, this plant can give any house a tropical ambiance. Be warned though, this plant requires a lot of love to grow and thrive.

Cat Palm beside a white sofa

More About the Cat Palm

Cat Palms are originally from Southeastern Mexico. It is also known as the Cascade or Cataract Palm. It can grow up to 6 feet high, even if it does take a while to get there.

An interesting aspect about the Cat Palm and palm plants, in general, is that in Victorian times palms were equated to social status. If you were rich and well-respected, you had palms throughout your house, especially in your windows so all could see them. It is mostly due to wealthy Victorians and their experimentations that we know how to take care of these plants.

Cat Palm in a living room with tables and sofa in display

This is a plant that can be a bit challenging due to needing a more tropical environment. But, if you know what you’re doing you should have great success.

10 Ways for a Cat Palm Care

1. Give It the Right Amount of Light

This plant needs bright indirect light but not direct sun. That could cause the leaves to burn. This plant would be great in a sunroom or near a window like the Victorians.

2. How Much to Water This Plant

This plant likes to live in moist – but not overly soggy – soil at all times. This plant is not tolerable to dry soil. Be careful with the type of water you use, too much salt or too many chemicals will cause the plant’s leaf tips to become burnt. Also, never let this plant sit in water, it doesn’t like that.

3. Picking the Right Soil

You should get soil that drains quickly. You can add peat moss to the soil to keep it light instead of heavy and clay-like. Also, you can use a pot with a drainage hole at the bottom to help with the draining.

4. What to Feed This Plant and How Often?

Less is more with this plant. You should feed this plant monthly in the spring and summer with basic houseplant food at half the recommended strength. It only needs to be fertilized one to two times during the fall and winter.

5. The Perfect Temperature

This plant like heat, but too much of a good thing can cause leaf damage. You should avoid putting this plant near areas that are in front of heat vents or near drafts. The ideal temperatures are 80 degrees during the day and no lower than 45 degrees at night.

6. How Much Humidity does This Plant Needs?

Humidity may be the most important thing to this plant. This is one of the main reasons why these plants do not do well indoors. Ideally, the room should have around 55 percent humidity, but since that is not always possible you have to get creative. You can use a humidifier or place this plant on a wet gravel tray. Make sure it sits on the gravel and not in the water. You can also try misting this plant with a spray bottle.

Cat Palm Berries

7. How Much Should You Prune This Plant

You should cut off any yellow or brown fronds quickly. Burned leaf tips can be trimmed, but they never look quite the same afterward.

8. Pests and How to Get Rid of Them

This plant can get infested with spider mites, scale, mealy bugs, and even ants. You should check all over the fronds, especially underneath because they like to hide there. Try spraying your plant with an insecticide to get rid of these pests – but be cautious to use one that is safe around your other plants, your pets, and your children. You can also scrape off any scale with a child’s toothbrush.

9. Dealing with Diseases

This plant can suffer from Leaf Spot, which is a fungal disease that affects the leaves of this plant. They appear as small reddish-brown lesions.

10. How to Propagate This Plant

Propagation means to create more plants from the original one. This plant is propagated through seeds and can be difficult to. The seeds are slow to germinate, and the seedlings are slow growing, meaning you have to wait years for them to grow into trees. You can’t propagate through division because the plant is too fragile.

Cat Palm in a black flower pot

Thoughts on the Cat Palm

The Cat Palm can be high maintenance, but if you want to put the work in, then it’ll give you a taste of paradise. It tends to collect dust, so you should be sure to add it to your cleaning list. You can just use a damp cloth and wipe down the fronds. It will also be useful because it’s been deemed a clean air plant by NASA. This means that if you keep it clean, healthy, and happy – it will return the favor by cleaning the air in your home for you!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I save my Cat Palm?

First, make sure you’re not over or underwatering it. Secondly, make sure the air in the room isn’t too dry, these tropical plants love humid air, just like in their origin country, Mexico. If none of that works, try repotting it and make sure you follow all instructions on the correct water and soil to be using.

Is the plant air-purifying?

Yes! One of the fab bonuses of this plant is that it will help to improve the quality of air in your house.

What diseases should I be aware of?

Leaf Spot is the most common, so look out for red blotches. To prevent leaf spots, avoid getting leaves wet and increase the air circulation in the room.

How do I control pests?

You may find that your palm has attracted mealy bugs, spider mites, scale, or aphids. Simply wipe the leaves with rubbing alcohol to get rid of them.

Is the Cat Palm pet safe?

Yes – although be careful not to confuse it with the very similar-looking sago palm, which is toxic to pets.

Should I use fertilizer?

Slow-release fertilizers are best, especially those made for indoor palms, these can be found in garden centers or online. Try feeding once or twice during spring and summer for the best results.

How do I test how humid the surroundings are?

You can use a digital hygrometer, which can be found online.


If you want the tree to look without the trunk and big roots, the Cat Palm tree is the plant for you. Its bushy foliage brings a tropical vibe to any room and will guarantee to brighten up your space.

However, these plants are only great if you have the time to care for them. This article has a step-by-step guide to caring for your Cat Palm so read that thoroughly for all the details.

Choosing a position for the Cat Palm is vital. The plant is quite fussy, needing light surroundings but not direct sun. If you’re noticing the leaf color fade or bleach, your plant is getting too much sunlight.

A quickly draining soil is ideal for the Cat Palm, it likes to be well-watered but never sat in moisture. Make sure to use clean water, any added chemicals can be harmful and affect the condition of your plant.

When you notice the topsoil becomes dry, you can water it again. Make sure the water is evenly distributed to get all the soil moist.

Even though Cat Palms can tolerate temperatures down to 25°F, it’s really important to try to imitate its Mexican origins and keep it relatively warm. The foliage will suffer in any temperature below 50°F. While some palms can live outside, Cat Palms will really struggle in colder weather.

Make sure you keep the surroundings of your Cat Palm humid! This plant will not survive in dry conditions, so your room should have around 55% humidity. If this isn’t possible naturally, humidifiers are a great alternative.

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1 year ago

Your advise is good. Just wondering the tips of the leaves on my cat palm are dry and burnt. Is is not in direct sun. Could I be overwatering it? I try to water it once a week

Mary Lloyster
Mary Lloyster
Reply to  Karen
1 year ago

Hi! Karen. Brown leaf tips on your cat’s palm can be a sign of several problems. First, make sure you’re not over- or under-watering. Second, if the air in the room in which you’ve set the palm is too dry, that could be the issue. Third, a recent repotting may make the entire palm look unhealthy for about six weeks while it recovers. It’s so good to hear that you notice every change in your plants. That only means that you take really good care of them, but always remember that they have the proper ways to grow healthy and bloom properly. Thank you for your positive feedback. The House Plants Experts wish to hear updates on your beloved cat’s palm. Grow!

9 months ago

I’ve had several flower stalks start to open, but always shrivel up & die before the flowers thoroughly open. The plant was pot bound so I repotted in palm soil, they did a little better, but still shriveled up.

Rhonda Schuler
7 months ago

Are cat palms ok in your home with the AC set at 72
And is it good for this plant to get light thru a sky light in my living room

Gloria Schiernbeck
Gloria Schiernbeck
7 months ago

I received a cat palm about a month ago. I have it by my patio doors. The bottom leaves are turning yellow. I water it about once a week. Why are the leaves turning yellow. What ami doing wrong. This plant was a wonderful gift from wonderful friends I do not want to lose it.

5 months ago

These plants need good air circulation to deter mite infestation. Also, they enjoy rain showers. Keep away from air vents.

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