Rhapis is the term for a genus of small palm trees that are native to Asia. These plants are fan palms, meaning that their leaves usually form a fan shape. Some varieties may be used as houseplants, while others can be planted outdoors in privacy hedges or used as ornamental plants. They are generally very cold hardy and can usually withstand temperatures as low as 20°F (-6° C).
The leaves of these plants are normally medium to dark green in color. They have stems that are typically around 12 inches (30.5 cm) in length. These stems usually have clusters of 10 to 12 long, narrow leaves that grow in a fan shape on the stalk. The leaf clusters are generally two to three inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) in diameter. This foliage tends to be very dense and usually begins one to two feet (.3 to .6 m) from the base of the plant.
The size of a rhapis plant mostly depends on the variety. Types that are used as houseplants usually grow to between two and three feet (.6 to .9 m) in height. These varieties do not usually spread in width. Others, that are grown for use as a privacy screen or hedge, may grow up to 10 feet (3.05 m) in height with a spread of around four to five feet (1.22 to 1.52 m) wide.
Rhapis palms are thought to have originated in the southeast Asian countries of China, Thailand, and Japan. They are now occasionally grown outdoors in other countries, such as the United States, Mexico, and England. Houseplant varieties are sometimes found in Canada and the United States, and are often sold under the name Lady Palm.
These palms generally prefer partial shade rather than full sun. They tend to grow in a variety of soils, but generally do not like very wet or soggy conditions. Most varieties need little water to survive and can usually even tolerate short periods of drought. They could become slightly damaged during a freeze, but are likely to recover, unless exposed to repeated frosts.
Plants in the rhapis family are versatile and well suited to indoor and outdoor use. These palms are generally very easy plants to grow, requiring only a minimal amount of watering and mulching. This typically makes them a good choice for beginning growers.