S & J Tree Farm and Nurserys Guide to Growing
Cat Palms / Cataract Palm
in the Northeast Florida, Jacksonville /
St. Augustine area Landscape
( Chamaedorea cataractum )
Cat Palm / Chamaedorea cataractum Palm Origins:
-Chamaedorea is a large genus of palms from Central and South America that include some of the most commonly cultivated species in the world. Bamboo palms Parlor palms and Cat palms are among them. Chamaedorea cataractum / Cat palm is native to Mexico and grows in moist soils that are frequently underwater during rains making cat palm a difficult plant to overwater even indoors!
– Plant these palms as understory plants under larger native Oaks and
Maples or on the south side of the house and where fences, etc. protect them from harsh north winter winds in our Northeast Florida Jacksonville and St. Augustine gardens cat palms can damage every few years with the cold.
Plant can suffer frond damage in more frost prone areas of Northern Florida but will acclimate itself into its new home and become hardier through the years. They are root hardy in zone 9A to 25 degrees and should regrow from the base if temperatures do not drop below that on an established palm. In Zone 9B -11 they are frond hardy and should not get much winter damage on a regular basis. Cat palms can be used as an indoor or patio plant in cooler regions and make an excellent potted specimen that stays small enough for tight spaces indoors.
Cat Palm / Chamaedorea cataractum / Cataract Palm Preferred Exposure:
– Full sun or full shade, even tolerates indoor applications in bright indirect light. Plants will need more water in full sun locations and fronds will be lighter and much more yellowed than when grown in a shade location where they will be deep dark green. I have my Cat Palm in a container outdoors that receives morning sun and afternoon shade in my St. Johns area garden and it thrives. It rarely needs any attention from me other than an annual frond cleanup from winter damage or just the yearly old fronds that need removed from its natural growth process. Most years it remains beautiful year round, some years the whole thing is browned out by frost and needs trimmed off. It really just depends on the winter temperatures we get that year. ( I do not bother to cover it)
Cat Palm / Chamaedorea cataractum Fronds | Trunk:
– Widely cultivated member of the Chamaedorea genus cultivated for its highly decorative foliage, deep green fernlike fronds have a gentle arching form and are densely suckering at the base in a generous trunkless clump. Very Similar in appearance to the popular indoor Areca Palms in overall appearance of the frond except on the cat palm the petiole is green instead of yellow as it is on the Areca palm.
– Foliage of the Cat Palm remains evergreen through the winter in the North Florida landscape. ( Plant may suffer frond damage every few years and is root hardy to 25 degrees. Planting in shadier locations out of the reach of light frosts helps protect the palm from winter damage as well as placing it on the south side of a home or fence or another tree etc.
Cat Palm Soil Preference / Salt tolerance:
– Cat Palm / Chamaedorea cataractum grows in very moist to wet soils in into native land and mimicking that situation is probably to our benefit. Avoid areas of the garden that dry out quickly after rains. Cat palms are widely tolerant of virtually any soil components, as long as those soils are more on the moist side.
– Low salt tolerance, avoid coastal area plantings.
Cat Palm / Chamaedorea cataracum Size Variance:
– Cat Date Palm / Chamaedorea cataractum are very slow growing
and only reach sizes of 6-8 feet High and wide.
Cat Palm / Chamaedorea catarctum Growth Habit:
– Cat Palms have highly decorative foliage and a clumping habit with fronds form a broad full crown with gracefully arching foliage that tends to weep slightly downwards with a gently arching habit.
Cat Palm / Chamaedorea cataractum Growth Rate:
– These members of the Chamaedorea family are extremely slow growing and reach that mature height very slowly. Expect 5-7 years or more to get them to their mature size in our Northeast Florida Jacksonville and St. Augustine area gardens.
Cat Palm / Chamaedorea cataractum Palm Bloom:
– Yellowed flower clusters are inconspicuous near the base of the palm typical of the Chamaedorea genus and followed by green fruits that age to a deep black.
Cat Palm / Chamaedorea cataractum Palm Water Requirements:
– This palm should be difficult to overwater as it grows in moist soils that are occasionally inundated in its native range. And will require biweekly supplemental irrigation when planted into well drained soils.
Best Uses For Cat Palm / Chamaedorea cataractum in the Northeast Florida | Jacksonville | St. Augustine area landscape:
– Cat Palms are an excellent choice for planting in shady areas of the garden where a shorter palm is needed that will not outgrow the space.
- Excellent potted plant for patio and pool areas or bright indirect light indoors.
– Soft root systems allow palms to be planted near house foundations,
patios, walkways and other hardscape with no damage to the tree or the paved areas.
Care of the Cat Palm:
– Cat Palm will need good water during the establishment period and supplemental irrigation when planted into well drained locations in the landscape.
– Cat Palms respond well to supplemental irrigation and fertilizer treatments.
– In our Northeast Florida landscape, you can fertilize each fall with magnesium sulfate and a palm food mix to ensure your palm goes into the winter season as healthy as possible when planted outdoors.
– Minimal pruning is required to keep these palms looking their best, trim off old browned out palm fronds each year in early spring or as needed.
Remember not to trim off fronds that are yellowing until they have completely browned.
MINIMUM PALM FERTILIZER REGIMEN – what you should be doing to keep your palm healthy
– Fertilize only as needed when palms show signs of nutrient deficiencies with a specially targeted nutrient that it needs, follow manufacturers directions and apply 1/2 lb o 1lb of fertilizer per inch of diameter of trunk on your palm, measured from a hands width above the ground level. That means for a 12 inch wide trunk from left to right you would need 6-12 lbs of fertilizer for just that one palm! To know what your palm needs get familiar with the nutritional deficiencies and their symptoms of your palm or take a frond to your local county agricultural extension office for them to analyze.
St. Johns County Agriculture Extenison Office:
Clay County Agricultural Extension Office:
Flagler County Agricultural Extension Office
Duval County Agricultural Extension office:
– Fertilize cold sensitive palms each fall with magnesium sulfate to keep your palm green and healthy through the winter months!
MAXIMUM PALM FERTILIZER REGIMEN – what you can do to get your palm up and growing Fast!
– Palms and other plants grow in direct relation to the amount of water and nutrient available to them. In Florida’s sandy soils nutrient deficiencies can occur after a few years of growing in the same space. When signs of deficiency occur Fertilize every three months with an application of the missing nutrient. Your local department of agriculture extension service will be able to provide you with the needed nutrients to purchase and apply. In most cases, this is all that is needed to keep your palm healthy and thriving, the occasional correction of nutrient deficiencies. In the 14 years of growing Queen/ Pindo / Mule / Sylvestris and Pygmy Date palms in the sand in front of my house, two palms ( both queens) have needed nutrient correction twice. Once requiring only one application of palm food and once requiring three applications before correcting the issue.
If attempting to get your palm growing at its maximum rates as would be done in a nursery setting, fertilize every three months with a well balanced palm food mix and apply supplemental irrigation twice weekly.
TIP – Wait till fronds have turned completely brown before removing from the palm as the palm will take back in the nutrients from those older leaves and use it when forming new ones.
*CAUTION – DO NOT FERTILIZE NEWLY PLANTED
/ TRANSPLANTED FIELD GROWN PALM TREES WITH PALM
FOOD! Palm food instructions are for ESTABLISHED palms not palms with confined root systems that are as little as of what they would be had they been grown from seed in the ground. Let your palm develop new roots for a year in the ground before applying any fertilizer.
Note : When planting smaller palms being grown in a container, this rule does not apply, rather, use one third to one half the recommended application rate for your trunks diameter, as container palms roots have not been damaged or cut during planting but are still only a portion as large as they would be if the palm had been growing in the ground and excess fertilizer on a confined root system is still not preferable for maximum health.
Palm fertilizers are water soluble and will burn the new roots your palm tree is trying to put out as it establishes itself into the landscape. It is best to use only poly coated plant food that is heat release like Osmocote general purpose fertilizer or non burning Milorganite in the first year in the landscape, and then the following year, start your palm food regimen that will provide all of the minor nutrients that your palms will need to keep them healthy and problem free in Florida’s soils.