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A Floridata Plant Profile #968 Chamaedorea radicalis
Common Names: radicalis palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
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Palm  Tolerant of Shade and Low Light Conditions Can be Grown in Containers Grows Well Indoors. Has Ornamental (non-edible) Fruit Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage

radicalis palms
This planting of radicalis palms in Jack's garden is dominated by the 51 in (1.5 m) group of five closely planted individuals. Those in the foreground are more widely spaced and so sprawl horizontally to a height of only 32 in (0.8 m) without the support of neighbors.
Description
Chamaedorea radicalis is a rugged but charming dwarf palm that deserves to be famous. This pretty little palm is usually seen without a trunk. Although a slow grower this palm will produce, after many years, a short trunk covered with old leaf attachments. Radicalis palm grows from 3 - 4 ft (0.9 - 1.2 m) in height. If planted closely together in clusters they grow even taller as the leaves support one another producing a more erect form. When given the space, radicalis palm sprawls as its pinnate (feather) leaves relax into its more typical loosely open arrangement. Each plant has about 6-8 leaves that are about 3 ft (0.9 m) long with a short smooth petiole (leaf stem), that is 10 - 12 in (25 - 30 cm) in length. About 30 to 40 glossy, deep green leaflets are held in a flat plane along both sides of the leaf stem. These are about 10 - 14 in (25 - 36 cm) long and 0.5 - 0.75 in (1.3 - 1.9 cm) wide and droop gracefully toward the ground.

The male and female flowers are tiny and borne on separate plants like all of the species of Chamaedorea. They are held on 4 - 5 ft (1.2 - 1.5 m) singly branched inflorescences that reach above the leaves. This species blooms when quite young and it is not unusual to see palms already bearing seeds when only half their mature size! The female plants are particularly showy when adorned in their bright scarlet fruits. These are approximately 0.4 in in diameter and, also like many other members of this genus, may cause skin irritation due to the presence of corrosive oxalic acid (don't grow these where children can reach the temptingly colored seeds).

Location
Radicalis palm is native to the shady forest floors of tropical Mexico.

Culture
This palm can adapt to most soils. In light infertile soil it will survive but grow very slowly. Moist well-drained soils rich in organic matter are recommended for best look and fastest growth.
Light: Very shade tolerant. Likes low light conditions but can take some direct sun. When growing radicalis palm indoors provide bright indirect light.
Moisture: Provide regular waterings when soil dries to maintain looks and growth rate. This palm is surprisingly tolerant of drought conditions.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. In Jack's North Florida garden radicalis palm seedlings have endured temperatures to 10 F (-12 C) suffering only leaf damage and recovering the following season.
Propagation: By seeds which germinate irregularly over a 1 to 6 month period depending on temperature and freshness. I have success sowing them directly in the garden despite our Zone 8 cold snaps.

Usage
Radicalis palm is superb in shade gardens. Mass them in clusters at the rear of shady beds to serve as a background for colorful annuals like impatiens and begonias. Spaced farther apart they'll erupt like fountains from expanses of groundcover. Use a single palm to anchor a container planting for shady patio or porch. The radicalis palm is a fine palm for indoor culture too. I grew some on my office windowsill for a couple of years where they thrived despite inattention and neglect.

radicalis palm fruit
The rich green of radicalis palm's foliage makes a handsome backdrop for the female plant's bright orange-red fruit.
Features
Although the graceful little radicalis palm appears dainty and frail it has proven itself to be a tough survivor. In my garden they have endure freezes, drought, neglect and the occasional rudeness of a dog pee shower. I purchased my first trio of radicalis palm seedlings over a decade ago and within a few years was harvesting seeds from these plants (albeit in much smaller quantities than is produced by more mature plants). It's impossible to have too many of these little beauties so I'm happy to have a second generation already several years old and look forward to planting more of these radically pretty radicalis palms next year.

Radicalis palm is a close cousin of the hardy bamboo palm (Chamadorea microspadix) which is taller, has multple stems and non-glossy, lighter green leaves. Both are perfect for Zone 8B gardeners who are looking for durable, low maintenance and interestingly attractive items to grow in the shade. Those gardening in Zone 9 and warmer have even a greater selection of Chamadorea species to enjoy like the blue metal palm (C. metallica) and that familiar houseplant, the bamboo palm (C. seifrizii).

Jack Scheper 1/14/03, 5/7/03, 8/31/03, 2/26/06




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