These miniature palms with colour are perfect for Interior Scape. With their vivid display of stripes, blushes and spots of creams and whites against a background of greens which range from vivid lime thorough to a rich deep forest green. These plants are fascinating, unique and rare.
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There are some habitats of Rhapis excelsa found in Japan, but it would appear that the two species were originally sourced from China as garden plants during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and were planted in many gardens in the southern parts of Japan.
The name Kannonchiku is derived from Mt Kannon Yama on Okinawa Island where there was a habitat of Rhapis excelsa! Kannon is a god's name in Buddhism and chiku means bamboo. Its leaflets are wider than Shuro-chiku (Rhapis humilis) and its height is 2-3m. If you visit Southern parts of China or countries in Southeast Asia you will find the Rhapis excelsa and Rhapis humilis growing in many gardens where they have been thriving for hundreds of years. The earlier cultivated palms were a tall standard form, often growing up to 4metres (12-13 feet) in height and attaining immense width.
They were first described in detail in 1670 by Kaibara Ekiken in the "Yamato honzo" and again in a gardening encyclopaedia written in 1695 the "Kadan Jikinsho" written by Ihei The people living in Edo (Tokyo) grew both as house plants because they were not hardy to that climate. The records of the Kansokai date back to 1702 with the discovery of Kannonchikushima the oldest variety of variegated rhapis excelsa.
Several species of rhapis palm are prized for their ‘beauty, colour and form’ the most popular of these are the
All variegated Rhapis originate from the green types
Most (not all) of the dwarf cultivars were bred from Rhapis excelsa. These palms have been documented in cultivation for over 400years by the Japanese Samurai who began, in the 17th century, to identify different dwarf green and variegated forms which were especially suited for indoor culture. Unusual leaf shapes, colours, markings and growth habits were identified and each distinct variety was named, documented and graded. These highly selected cultivars developed into an array of "Miniature Lady Palms", some reaching only 60cm of height after decades of growth. They are palms with colour, which are are perfect for indoor pot culture. Exquisite in their variety with stripes, blushes and spots of creams and whites against a background of greens which range from vivid lime through to a rich deep forest green.
They have unusual names. Some of the names relate to their appearance, others are named for mythical characters and animals while other names indicate religious and political inspiration! The term nishiki refers to the fact that the variegation is immediately visible on new emerging leaves and noshima indicates that the variegation becomes apparent as the leaf matures.
These plants are unique and rare. Breeders and enthusiasts have continued developing new varieties and, since 1947, these new types have been listed, registered and ranked by the Japan Rhapis Palm Association. The Rhapis that appear on this list are the result of years of cultivation, mostly by Japanese enthusiasts, using techniques such as cross pollination and careful selection based upon the most desirable characteristics [size, leaf shape, colour and/or variegation (stripe or spot)].
Some have been asexually propagated since the sixteenth century.
As they became increasingly appreciated as focal displays in people's homes, exquisite pots were specifically designed for their display. These pots are deeper than normal pots to give the roots plenty of room for development, have a rounded body to allow unrestricted drainage and a large drainage hole usually covered with a flat pottery disc known as a sana which stops the potting medium from falling through. The styles best known are the exquisite Nishiki pot which is a hand-made work of layered art.
New varieties are the result of careful selection and breeding from either a mutant cane or a rare variegated seedling. When the mutant cane/seedling produces the next generation it is then compared to the 'parent plant'. If the change has remained stable and the plant still looks totally different to the parent a new variety is born but it must continue to replicate the new variety consistently before it would be recognised. The breeding process can take many years as some plants only produce new canes every 1-2 years and as a result canes from these and other varieties can be extremely rare.
Today there are more than 120 registered in the list of Nihon Kansokai (Japan Rhapis Palm Society, established in 1947).
Japanese Rhapis are classified on a Ranking List which is upgraded whenever the Kansokai meet. There are usually 3 or 4 rankings. Each variety is then graded on its ability to variegate in the desired form. Some varieties have 3 grades (e.g. Zuikonishiki) others have 2 (eg. Mangetsunotakara).
The grades are as follow:
Imahaze -Japans Very Best - Rarely offered for sale. 9 in 10 suckers will be of excellent quality. Prices of this grade of plant can be five to ten times more.
Choice - Excellent quality palms with very desirable stripe patterns and on average 7 in 10 of suckers produced will be of high quality.
Medium - Have a reasonable stripe pattern, with the chance of 4 in 10 of producing better quality suckers.
Average - The stripe pattern is poor, probably only an odd stripe per frond. The chances of these types producing better quality suckers is around 1 in 10.
Whether in the home, garden or office, these beautiful palms capture the imagination and mystery of their ancient Eastern heritage.