These are two quite different palms, and it is not uncommon for there to be some confusion when deciding on which of the two to make your next houseplant.
The Cat palm is quite tolerant and thrives in an indoor environment. The Majesty palm is not quite so easy. While it can be grown indoors, it requires much more tender loving care, so let’s have a look at the differences between the two and decide which plant will work best for you.
Both of these are fabulous palms, but if you opt for the majesty palm, be aware that it is going to be far more demanding.
|Growing Requirements||Cat Palm||Majesty Palm|
|Mature height||4-6 feet (1.2-1.8m)||10 feet (3m) indoors. Much larger outdoors|
|Mature Width||3-5 feet(1-1.5m)||4-6 feet(1.2-1.8m)|
|Growth habit||Clump-forming||Upright and weeping|
|Light requirements||Bright indirect||Very bright indirect|
|Soil type||Free draining||Free draining|
|Watering frequency||5-7 days or when nearly dry||5-7 days but likes to remain moist|
|Pests||Spider mites: mealybugs||Spider mites: mealybugs|
|Diseases||Leaf spot and fungal diseases||Leaf spot and fungal diseases|
Differences Between Cat Palm and Majesty Palm
Looking at the table above, it would seem that there are so many similarities that it would be easy to grow either plant using pretty much the same care routine. Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Again, I want to stress that both plants can be grown indoors, and both will provide you with a handsome indoor specimen.
The Cat palm is a much smaller plant in its natural environment and this is an important point to take note of. With the normally towering Majesty palm, you are asking that it deviate considerably from its normal conditions and that often causes problems.
Leaf Shape and Texture
Both of these plants have arching fronds that are dark green. The larger Majesty palms leaves tend to become quite tough while those of the Cat palm is somewhat softer. In the wild, the Majesty palm would become enormous while the Cat palm would remain much smaller.
When grown in a home, neither of these plants is likely to produce flowers and both should be considered foliage plants. That’s fine because in both cases the foliage is lush and attractive, giving these plants a strong architectural appearance.
You will normally find the Cat palm below the leafy canopy of taller plants so it grows in a clump shape. The Majesty palm, which can achieve as much as eighty feet in the wild, is a taller plant with more of an upright structure to it.
Although the Majesty palm is more manageable when grown in a container, it will still need plenty of space into which to grow, so think about the room size before purchasing one. Fine if you have a large high ceilinged room, but overpowering if you live in an apartment.
That overall height difference means that these plants have slightly different light requirements. The lower-growing Cat palm thrives in the filtered light of the forest floor and therefore does not like too much light, and definitely not direct sunlight.
On the other hand, the Majesty palm is accustomed to receiving more light and even a little direct light without adverse effects.
Both plants don’t like to dry out completely, but at the same time, they don’t want to be waterlogged. This means that they need free-draining soil.
With the Cat palm, you want that soil to remain slightly moist, but not to become dry. An easy way to achieve this is by allowing the top four or five inches of soil to dry out between each watering.
The Majesty palm hates to get dry and likes higher levels of humidity. Like many plants that favor high humidity, they are prone to spider mite if the humidity levels drop too low. Spider mites prefer drier conditions.
In both cases, pay attention to drainage and don’t leave the plant standing in a saucer full of water. If these plants go through a prolonged period with wet feet, it will lead to root rot or fungal disease.
Because the Cat palm is happy in virtually neutral soil, you can use an easy to access house plant potting soil and add just some perlite to increase the drainage.
Majesty palms like more acid soil and they are often grown in a cactus mix with a little peat thrown in to lower the pH.
This can become tricky for the novice gardener, and sometimes even for the experienced house plant connoisseur. It may require some experimentation to get your plant to a point where it is entirely happy.
In my opinion, this is where the biggest difference occurs. Because the Cat palm is tolerant of such a broad spectrum of conditions, it will probably grow uncomplainingly in most homes.
If it does show some signs of humidity stress, simply placing it on a pebble tray or misting lightly will soon have it looking at its best again.
The Majesty palm demands more constant humidity, and so to keep it looking good, you might need to use more extreme measures. This isn’t to say it can’t be done. It is simply something that you need to be aware of when making your choice of plants.
You can monitor the humidity levels in the area around the plant with the use of a cheap hygrometer. If it starts to fall out of the plant’s comfort range, then you will need to take corrective action and this may include the use of a humidifier.
Even this is not a game stopper because these machines are now no longer prohibitively expensive. They enable you to control humidity levels much more easily.
Your home will probably have a humidity level of between 30 and 40 percent. The Cat palm prefers humidity to be at around 50 percent and the Majesty palm is not that different.
The issue here is that the Cat palm is quite tolerant of differing humidity levels, while the Majesty palm tends to be more of a prima dona and sulks if its humidity falls too far out of that 50 percent range.
Height and Structure
The Cat palm is clump-forming with soft fronds and little in the way of stems. The Majesty palm has longer more rigid fronds growing from several stems. In the wild, this palm can reach 60 – 80 feet while the smaller Cat palm will rarely achieve more than 10 feet.
Both of these palms like temperatures of between 65- 80° F (18-27 °C). Both like indirect light, but the Majesty palm is more tolerant of bright light and would be happy to receive a couple of hours of direct light each day.
The Cat Palm is tolerant of drier conditions and so you can allow the top half of the potting mix to dry out between each watering. The Majesty palm likes to be kept moist, but never soggy. Feed it every two months during the spring and summer and the Cat palm once a month.
Pests and diseases
Both plants are susceptible to that plague of the house plant gardener, the red spider mite. These tiny pests attach themselves to the base of leaves and are often so small that they are nearly invisible. Look out for brown patches on the lower leaves and small webs.
Spider mites don’t like moisture so you can usually wash them off with a garden spray. Keep the plant well watered and use insecticidal soap regularly to keep them at bay.
Disease with these palms usually tends to be of a fungal nature. Make sure they drain correctly, that they never stand in water, and that your water at the base of the stem rather than allowing the leaves to become wet. Watering early in the morning also reduces the risk of fungal issues.
Similarities Between Cat Palm and Majesty Palm
If you look at the growing requirements for both of these palms, you can quickly see that they require many of the same conditions. And it is normal to assume that they should both be equally easy to grow in the home.
Unfortunately, most growers will tell you that the Majesty palm is far more demanding. It is not so much that it requires very unusual conditions; it is more of a case that it is just less tolerant of conditions that aren’t perfect.
If you manage to achieve the exact conditions that make this plant happy, it will reward you by becoming a stunning architectural plant and a definite focal point in any room.
The Cat palm, while also attractive, is an altogether more forgiving plant, so you will need to weigh up for yourself where your priorities lie and how much effort you can afford to expend on keeping your palm in peak form.