Parlor Palm vs. Cat Palm (Differences and Similarities)

Parlor palms, or the Chamaedorea elegans, and cat palms, or the Chamaedorea cataractarum, are pretty similar in the world of indoor palms.

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

They are both easy plants to care for 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 relatively 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 grows slowly and can grow up to 6 to 9 feet tall, with its foliage reaching 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, which is usually seen as an indoor tropical plant.

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

The cat palm is also a great choice when buying a plant to purify 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 to 9 feet indoorsGrows up to 3 feet 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, reaching almost 6 feet tall.

The cat palm, however, is much broader, 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.

People usually place small parlor palms on their tables as ornaments when growing them indoors. On the flip side, the cat palm is placed in corners to fill up empty spaces.

The parlor palm can do the same but will 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.

The cat palm is an excellent choice if you want something deep green. 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, preferably in a space with light from the west or south of your home.

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

The parlor palm is an excellent option if you need a plant that will thrive in a darker place in your home or office. However, remember that bright light will allow it to grow faster and more beautifully.


The parlor palm may have a slightly higher price than a cat palm because the latter is more challenging to use as a table palm or a table decoration.

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 a more popular choice for busy homeowners constantly on the go.
  • 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 typically only need to be repotted once 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 because they can purify their air.

NASA study on house plants noted that 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 remove harmful particles in your home air that may cause 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 an indoor living space. Having a plant that you can move around when needed 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