Parlor Palm vs. Cat Palm (Differences & Similarities)

Parlor palms (Chamaedorea elegans) and cat palms (Chamaedorea cataractarum) are quite similar in the world of indoor palms.

If you are deciding to purchase one, you might want to know the differences between the two to find out which one is right for your home.

They are both easy plants to take care of and are from Mexico and Central America. Their main difference is in their size and aesthetics. A parlor palm is known to grow taller than a cat palm. A cat palm’s foliage is also quite thicker than a parlor palm.

Depending on your home, and your needs, there are subtle differences that you will need to know before making a decision.

The Parlor Palm

The parlor palm is a tropical palm that is most popular as a houseplant.

It is a low-maintenance plant that almost anyone can own. They do great in low or bright light conditions.

The palm is slowly growing and can grow up to 6 to 9 feet tall with its foliage becoming almost 6 feet long.

It is also great for people with allergies or people who want clean air in their homes. The palm is best known for being a great natural air filter.

The Cat Palm

The cat palm is similar to the parlor palm as it is usually seen as an indoor tropical plant.

Just like the parlor palm, it is low-maintenance and easy to care for. The cat palm, however, is quite smaller, reaching up to 3 to 6 feet in size.

The cat palm is also a great choice when buying a plant to purify your indoor air.

Parlor PalmCat Palm
Native EnvironmentCentral AmericaCentral America
Plant FamilyChamaedorea Chamaedorea 
Leaf ColorLight GreenDark Green
FoliageWispy, feathery foliageWide and full foliage
HeightGrows up to 6-9 ft indoorsGrows up to 3 ft indoors
Light RequirementLow and Bright LightBright Light
Toxicity to PetsNon-toxicNon-toxic
Purify Air?YesYes
Where to Grow?Indoors and OutdoorsIndoors and Outdoors

Parlor Palm and Cat Palm: How Are They Different?

While they may seem very similar and almost the same plant, the parlor palm and cat palm are different species in the same family.

Their differences are subtle, but they are still noticeable.

Plant Size

When it comes to size, both plants are slow growers. However, the slender parlor palm can grow quite tall indoors, becoming almost 6 feet tall.

The cat palm, however, is much wider with its leaves spilling out of its space. In turn, it can grow up to 3 feet tall indoors.

Leaf Size

The parlor palm’s leaves are quite feathery and wispy. Their foliage is slender, spacious, and grows straight up.

The broad and full leaves of a cat palm grow curved and take up a large amount of space.

When it comes to growing them indoors, people usually place small parlor palms on their tables as ornaments. While the cat palm is placed in corners to fill up a space.

However, the parlor palm can do just the same, it will just not be as wide as a cat palm.

Leaf Color

The parlor palm leaves are a light green color. However, the cat palm’s foliage is dark green.

Depending on your home and what colors are displayed, one palm may fit better than the other.

If you want something deep green, the cat palm is a great choice. If you need something light, you should go with the parlor palm.

Bright Light vs. Low Light

When it comes to their growing conditions, a parlor palm is much more tolerant of different light conditions than a cat palm.

A cat palm will do well in bright light, preferable in a space where light is coming from the west or south of your home.

The parlor palm can grow in different types of light conditions.

If you need the plant in a darker place in your home or even in an office, the parlor palm will easily thrive. It can also grow well in bright light and will grow faster in these conditions.


The parlor palm may have a slightly higher price than a cat palm. Because the cat palm is not as easy to be a table palm as the parlor palm, a cat palm will be slightly cheaper.

In contrast, the parlor palm is sought after as it is easy to place a younger plant in convenient places like a desk or table. Causing the price to be slightly higher than a cat palm.

However, both palms make for great affordable houseplants.

Parlor Palm and Cat Palm: How Are They Similar?

Along with their differences, the cat palm and parlor palm are very similar as they come from the same family of palms.

Native to Central America

Both palms are naturally found in Mexico, Guatemala, and other parts of Central America.

Low-Maintenance and Easy to Care For

  • The cat palm and parlor palm are both low-maintenance plants, making them sought after by homeowners that are busy and on the go constantly.
  • They are also great for beginner plant owners. They usually need to be watered once or twice a week, but if you forget, they will survive until you water them again.
  • They usually do not need to be repotted until they are noticeably different in size after years of growth.
  • They also do not require pesticides or fertilizers and grow well without plant food.

Slow Growers

The cat palm and the parlor palm are both slow-growing plants. You will find that you do not need to repot them as often as other plants.

Great Air Purifiers

People usually choose to grow parlor palms and cat palms in their homes due to their ability to purify their air.

Noted in a NASA study on house plants, the parlor palm removes harmful toxins such as formaldehyde and ammonia. The cat palm is known for removing the same amount of toxins.

Indoor palms are also great for allergy sufferers, as they take out harmful particles in your home air that may cause you irritation.

Safe for Pets

According to the ASPCA, the Chamaedorea family of palms are non-toxic to cats and dogs.

If you have a pet at home that gets into your plants or tries to eat them, the cat palm and parlor palm are perfect. If your pet accidentally gets into your indoor palm, you will not have to worry as it will not harm them.

Both Double as Indoor and Outdoor Plants

Both plants thrive in bright light conditions and are found naturally in the tropical outdoors. Because of this, the cat palm and parlor palm do well in outdoor conditions.

If you notice that your palm needs more light or is growing larger in its indoor space, you can easily take it outdoors on your patio or garden.

The cat palm and parlor palm are not restricted to just an indoor living space. Having a plant that you can move around when you need to, is great when you enjoy switching up your space often.

Related: Parlor Palm vs. Areca Palm, Parlor Palm vs. Majesty Palm, Parlor Palm vs. Kentia Palm