The Miniature Palms of Japan
Cultivating Kannochiku and Shurochiku

By Yoshihiro Okita and J. Leland Hollenburg

The Miniature Palms of Japan cover featuring a photo of the variegated variety R. excelsa 'Hakuju'

The Miniature Palms of Japan was published in 1981 when named varieties of "Lady Palms" were first introduced to the U.S. by author J. Leland Hollenburg of Rhapis Palm Growers of California and Lynn McKamey of Rhapis Gardens in Texas. Leland retired from growing and selling Rhapis in 1997, and his marvelous book is long out of print. 

However, I was able to find a few remaining copies and you can purchase them (until the supply runs out) from Rhapis Gardens which still grows the "miniature palms of Japan". 

This book includes details about the traditional Rhapis culture used in Japan, but is best known for the wonderful color photos of Rhapis excelsa varieties, especially the variegated ones. The specimens pictured in the book are no doubt "show winners" and grown by very dedicated Japanese horticulturists. 

If you collect Rhapis, you'll want to add this book to your library! 

---- Lynn McKamey 

Introduction to the book

What plant lover doesn’t dream of the perfect house plant?  A trouble-free, leafy green beauty that would grow happily in little sunlight, resist insects and diseases, multiply effortlessly, perhaps even make the transition smoothly to the garden outdoors . . . 

Such a treasure really does exist.  It is the miniature Rhapis palm, known for centuries in Japan as kannonchiku and Shurochiku or, when referred to together, as kansochiku. 

These attractive, vigorous plants are just beginning to be known in the West, and here, for the first time in English, is a complete manual for their care.  Not that these small evergreen palms need much attention – a little basic watering and fertilizer keeps them happy most of the year.  Kansochiku actually prefer reduced sunlight; they grow readily in limited space; and with only simple precautions they can withstand the winter cold.  Healthy plants send up annual quantities of baby shoots, which if desired can be cut off and potted, for new generations of pleasure. 

Rhapis excelsa 'Towaden' an unusual, rare green variety
Of the two species of palm, Kannonchiku is the more compact, having broader, thicker leaves.  Shurochiku, with long, finger-like fronds, can be allowed to grow as high as six feet, and its excellent resistance to cold makes it a fine choice for garden planting as well.  Together, kannonchiku and Shurochiku are so elegant and durable that they are often called the "Rolls Royce of palms." With proper care, a plant will last a lifetime. 

Kannonchiku and Shurochiku are found in several appealing varieties.  Some are solid green, with crisp, shiny leaves.  Others are marked with delicate yellow stripes or snakeskin-like spots.  To date, nearly one hundred cultivars have been developed and named.  In Chapter Four of this volume, eighty of the most popular and readily available are introduced in detail.  Forty of these appear outstanding color plates that communicate better than words the beauty of these miniature plants. 

Rhapis excelsa 'NanzanNishiki', a rare variegated variety
Also included in this book are over eighty line drawings and monochrome photographs, which clearly illustrate the simple requirements of Kansochiku cultivation.  Appendices of cultural information aimed at the professional grower complete this volume.  The Miniature Palms of Japan is a thorough introduction to everything you need to know to raise and enjoy these delightful plants. 


YOSHIHIRO OKITA has spent most of his life surrounded by plants.  After graduating from Kyoto’s Doshisha University, he followed in his father’s footsteps as a horticultural researcher.  Specializing in native orchids and Rhapis palms, he has published more than ten books on Oriental plants.  Mr. Okita’s home and laboratory are in Nara. 

J. LELAND HOLLENBERG divides his time between the University of Redlands in California, where he is a professor of chemistry, and his palm nursery.  A long-time Rhapis  palm enthusiast, he has published articles on kannonchiku and Shurochiku in several horticultural magazines. 

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