How to Grow and Care For a Cat Palm (Chamaedorea Cataractarum)

cat palm leaves

Its bushy yet airy fronds distinguish the Cat Palm, also known as cataract or cascade palm from its species family members. This stylish yet laidback to care plant is planted on large containers and used for dividing large living areas, softening corners, and dividing entryways, among other purposes.

To care for a Cat Palm (Chamaedorea Cataractarum), keep its soil moist but not soggy by watering once every 5-7 days. Use slightly acidic and organic-rich soil for potting. Grow it in warm temperatures between 55ºF(12.5ºC) and 80ºF(26.6ºC) and humidity. Provide a lot of bright light but not direct sunlight.

The Cat Palm is hardy and will thrive in a wide range of environments based on the conditions you provide. This perennial plant does not have a trunk. Neither does the cat palm grow too high, reaching 3ft indoors and at most 6ft outdoor.

So, what do you need to offer the Cat Palm to make it thrive at home or in your office? Here are a few tips to follow.

Basic Care Guidelines for Cat Palm (Chamaedorea Cataractarum)


Keep the soil moist all the time. However, please do not allow it to get soggy. If the soil becomes too dry, the fronds will begin yellowing at the tip, damaging the aesthetics of your plant. Water your Cat Palm at least once a week or within ten days.

The frequency and amount of water will depend on the surrounding temperature, humidity, and drainage of the potting container. Press your finger up to 2 inches below the soil’s surface to determine its moisture levels before watering—water when the top layer of the soil is dehydrated. 

You should also ensure that the moisture is due to natural drainage and not soil that is holding back most of the water.

Cat palms love a good soak once in a while. Run plenty of water through the soil until it drips through the drainage holes. Such soaking also helps to remove chemicals that buildup from the use of fertilizers and fluoridated water. Use distilled, rain, or aged water to prevent chemical buildup. It affects nutrient absorption by the roots, resulting in the eventual death of the plant.

Cat Palms planted outdoors require more water because of wind and a higher rate of evaporation. The best trick to guarantee sufficient water is to drench the large pot using a hosepipe. Always remember that soaking works if your soil has excellent drainage.


The Cat Palm loves a lot of humidity and will produce gloriously green leaves when the moisture is right. Such an environment mimics what is found along the streams of tropical forests, where the plant is native.

Therefore, humidity becomes one of the aspects that you must get right for you to enjoy a plush and leafy Cat Palm.s

The high demand for humidity makes misting almost ineffective because it does not sustain the required moisture levels. However, you can still mist the leaves of your Cat Palm if there is already high humidity in your area.

A pebble tray counts among the most effective humidifying tricks for Cat Palm. It will maintain high humidity through evaporation. Since you can see when the dish has dried up, replenish the water, guaranteeing the plant has the perfect moisture.

If you are looking for a place indoors to keep the plant, the bathroom will be the most ideal. Plant grouping is also an alternative that will guarantee sufficient humidity. When using clustering as a technique to enhance moisture, ensure that the other plants also love a lot of humidity as well to avoid incongruence.

Because of the high sensitivity to humidity, an electronic humidifier could help. It is especially important in enclosed spaces where air conditioning results in loss of moisture. In low humidity, the Cat Palm develops brown tips and leaf spots. If high moisture is not balanced with proper aeration, the chances of fungal diseases will increase.


Cat Palm loves slightly acidic and organic-rich loamy soil. The soil must also drain sufficiently to prevent chemical buildup. If it holds too many chemicals in the soil, the plants will eventually die.

Peat moss is the best potting mix for your Cat Palm. It drains quickly, is adequately aerated to promote root growth, and will retain sufficient nutrients for the roots. Use compost to enrich the potting mix instead of chemical-based fertilizer. Compost releases the nutrients slowly to avoid scorching the roots. 

Topsoil is also excellent for potting because it tends to drains quickly, is aerated, and will hold the necessary nutrients for your Cat Palm.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with Cat Palm is planting it on soggy soil. The soaking sessions will do more damage than help because most of the water will be retained. Saturated soil will also result in root rot, one of the common diseases you have to deal with when growing Cat Palm.


Compared to other houseplants, Cat Palm requires more light. Place it near the east-facing window where it can enjoy abundant bright light in the morning and late afternoon. However, too much direct sun will scorch the leaves, causing brown spots and tips.

When growing your Cat Palm outdoor, provide shade against the noon sun, especially during summer when it is hot. Luckily, the Cat Palm can still survive in temperature up to 90ºF(32.2ºC), meaning that the direct sunlight is only dangerous when prolonged and during hot summers.

To survive in bright light and high temperatures, you must provide a lot of water and high humidity—monitor how the leaves behave in the bright light to know whether to reduce or increase the brightness. If low light combines with high humidity and poor air circulation, you will begin to have fungal infection problems.


Cat Palm loves a lot of heat as long as you enhance humidity. It will do well in temperatures between 55ºF and 80ºF (12.5ºC-26.6ºC). If you live in the temperate regions, the plant will still tolerate temperatures as low as 45ºF(7.2ºC) at night or during winter. The temperatures should not go beyond 90ºF (32.2ºC) when it gets too hot.

The temperature should always be balanced with humidity levels. High temperature requires a lot of humidity, while low temperature requires low humidity. Because temperature will affect evaporation from the soil, you will need to continually check the moisture levels of your soil, depending on the temperature in the area.

Advanced Care For Cat Palm

Cat Palm is a hardy plant that can survive without much attention. However, the airy fronds appreciate good care with their appearance. Here are advanced care tips for Cat Palm that will give you a lush green plant that is an indoor spectacle.


Palms appreciate less rather than more fertilization. During the vigorous growth months between spring and summer, apply diluted balanced plant food. Use liquid fertilizer instead of granules to protect the roots from scorching and the soil from chemical buildup. Reduce fertilization to once or twice during autumn and winter.


Cat Palms are robust growers where therein lies their beauty. Pruning should target the yellow and brown fronds if it is being done for aesthetic purposes. Monitor the yellowing and drying of leaves so that it is not caused by conditions related to soil, water, or fertilizer application.

Make a clean cut using a sharp scalpel to avoid injuring the fronds in a way they cannot recover. A wet knife or scissors will protect further browning or yellowing of leaves.


Cat Palms love large pots, meaning that it will take time before the roots or foliage overpowers the pot. The large vase also helps to support the thick foliage and palm tree that could topple a smaller container.

Repotting is only necessary if the soil is damaged by chemical buildup or root rot. It can be done two to three years after planting or when other factors damage the soil.


Cat Palms are propagated by division. Cut the younger shoots using a sharp knife to inflict minimum damage to the roots. Plant them in nutrient-rich moist soil in spring and summer when the weather is warm to promote tranquil root development.

With adequate water, heat, and light, it will take 3-4 weeks for the new plant to establish.

Pest Prevention

The plant is quite resistant to pests and diseases when you provide the right conditions. Depending on temperature and humidity levels, you will have to deal with spider mites, mealybug, and scales. Ants are also a common problem for Cat Palms.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cat Palm

Why is My Cat Palm leaves turning yellow?

Check the amount of light to ensure that it is not too much. The soil could have been damaged by salt buildup or is soggy. Check the soil also to ensure that it is not too dry.

Should I cut off brown palm leaves?

It will depend on the extent of browning. If only the tips are affected, do not cut the entire leave. Cut the brown part to improve on the aesthetics of your plant. However, you must address the cause of browning so that it does not extend to other leaves or affect the entire leaf.

Is Epsom good for Palm trees?

Epsom salt enhances the beauty of palm fronds because it provides the nutrients necessary to produce lush leaves. It turns the plant into a spectacle because the palms take two to three years to replace old leaves. You, therefore, need the salt to keep the leaves green and beautiful.

Love palms? You may also like our guides on Chamaedorea Elegans (Parlor Palm) and the Kentia Palm

Sebastian Moncada

I’m also a plant enthusiast and researcher. I’ve been privileged to have lived my whole life around the wilderness of Colombia and I’m happy to share everything I learn along the way. “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience” – Emerson.

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