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Want a new houseplant? Here's a great choice.

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There are times when you want or need a tall plant that grows well indoors, adds to the decor, and has structural good looks. The common choice is a weeping fig, which is a lovely plant but often a bit finicky.

I'd like to suggest another choice, which I consider easier to grow. The lady palm (Rhapis excelsa) is an elegant plant with an appearance that's a bit out of the ordinary. Its thick leaves are wide and blunt on the ends. Its stems are covered with what looks like brown fuzz.

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Like weeping figs, lady palms prefer good light, but they aren't fussy about humidity or temperature -- as long as it isn't below 26 degrees F., or above 100 degrees F.

Although it isn't as easy to find lady palms for sale as it is many other houseplants, you've seen them before -- they're often part of the interiorscaping in shopping malls and office buildings.

Is this the perfect large houseplant? Well, not really. For one thing, they're expensive. That's because they're slow growers. And that slow growth habit can be a drawback for the homeowner, too -- or a blessing.

Often, I buy a plant for a particular place indoors and want a plant that fits there perfectly. If it grows quickly, it soon has to be moved somewhere else and I have to find another for the original spot.

But if you want to save money and buy a smaller lady palm, you'll be waiting quite a while for it to grow large. Ones with variegated leaves grow even more slowly than all-green types, but also can tolerate lower light levels.

There's also a dwarf lady palm, Rhapis subtilis, which is sometimes called Thailand (or Thai) lady palm. It's somewhat difficult, so I wouldn't recommend it unless you're looking for a challenge.

I remember ordering my first lady palm from Texas years ago, wondering if I was making a big mistake paying what seemed like a fortune for it. I can honestly say I never regretted it. I think you'll feel the same way.


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