The European Fan Palm Tree (Chamaerops humilis) has become very popular in recent years, mostly due to its cold hardiness that makes it perfect for landscape in USDA Zones 8-11.
It’s a nice looking palm tree that can give exotic focal point to any garden with its evergreen fan-shaped leaves. Since it grows only to about 10ft tall, it is often used in small yards.
|Scientific name:||Chamaerops humilis|
|Common names:||European Fan Palm, Mediterranean Fan Palm, Dwarf Fan Palm, and Palmito.|
|Origin:||Native to Mediterranean region of Europe.|
|Growth Rate:||Slow. Up to 5 – 10 ft tall and 1-5 ft wide.|
|Cold Tolerance:||USDA Zones 8a (10F – 15F) to 11 (above 40 F).|
|Light Req:||Full sun to partial shade.|
|Water Req:||Moderate. High drought tolerance (once established).|
|Soil Req:||Widely adaptable|
|Fruit:||Yes. Yellow, orange or brown. Not toxic. Not edible.|
|Propagation:||Seeds, germinating in 2-3 months; possibly division|
European Fan Palm Appearance
The Chamaerops humilis grows in multiple trunk clumps that tend to lean outward from the center, creating nice tropical look. Growing from the base sucklings, give this palm a shrubby look. The trunks reach about 8-9 inches in diameter and are generally covered win brownish fibers from old leaf bases.
It usually grows to about max of 10 ft. The slow growing rate allows this palm to be grown in large containers for many years.
It has triangular, palmate, or fan shaped, leaves that range from green to bluish green to silvery gray in color. They grow outward then upward reaching 25 inches in length 25 inches in width. Stems are covered with sharp thorns, so you need to be careful when pruning them.
European Fan Palm Flowers and Fruits
During late spring months the Mediterranean Fan Palm produces small yellow flowers. The flowers are monoecious, individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant.
Flowers are followed by green fruits that turn yellow, orange, red or brown when ripe. Fruits are around 0.5 inch in diameter and develop in fall. The fruits are not toxic, but are not tasty.
How to Care for European Fan Palm
European Fan Palm is a low maintenance plant once established. It’s not particular about soil requirements other than a good drainage. In the wild of the Mediterranean region it can be found growing on poor, rocky soils and thus is very adaptable to the wide rage of soil types in the landscape.
It likes full sun but can also grow in partial shade where it will grow a little slower. Its drought tolerance is excellent and its salt tolerance is very good. You should water it couple times a week depending on the weather conditions and the season.
This plant does not require much trimming and does not have any special nutrient needs nor disease problems.
This plant does best in full sun or light shade. It won’t retain its excellent appearance and will grow at a slower rate if planted in heavily shaded spot. Fronds of Chamaerops humilis that is not getting enough sunlight tend to grow slightly larger because they are trying to absorb as much light as possible.
Don’t forget to acclimate your newly purchased plant before planting it in full sun. Since at the nursery it was probably grown in a green house, give it some time to get used to higher light levels.
If you are planning on growing it indoors, make sure it receives at least three to four hours of full sun. During warm summer months, you can take it outdoors to provide it with more sunlight.
This tough palm is not picky about soil. It can adapt to wide range of different soil types including rocky or sandy soils as long as they are well-drained. It does not do well in wet conditions.
When planting a newly purchased plant, you don’t have to amend the soil of your garden unless it has poor drainage.
Newly planted palms require frequent watering while it’s getting used to the new spot and is getting established. Water it every day for the fist week and every other day for the second week.
Expert Tip: Deep watering (slow dripping water) woks the best for the newly planted palms. It allows for the soil to absorb all the moister and get it to the roots of the tree.
After that, you can switch to the regular watering schedule. Make sure it has well draining soil.
Since European Fan Palm is drought tolerant, allow for the soil to dry between waterings. Adding a few inches of mulch helps to keep the soil moist longer.
You can apply good quality palm fertilizer that has continuous release formula once a year during growing season. Ovoid fertilizing newly planted palm to decrease the stress.
Chamaerops humilis is one of the most cold tolerant palms in the world. Being native to Mediterranean coast of Europe it’s not unusual to see it covered completely with snow.
It grows best in the USDA Zones 8 (10 to 15 F) to 11 (above 40 F) but is known to tolerate cold down to about 5F without permanent damage. It will lose its foliage at about 15F but will quickly recover during next growing season.
With adequate cold protection, it can even survive cold temperatures with winter low of 9F without significant tissue damage. Because of it’s natural habitat, it does best in climates with dry winters and low humidity. Keep in mind, strong cold winds can do more damage than the cold temperatures.
One of the biggest advantages of having a European Fan Palm is the low maintenance. Unlike other palms, that require constant trimming to look their best, it can be left alone for many years.
As mentioned earlier, Chamaerops humilis forms clusters of trunks and also has suckers shooting from the base, which give it a bushy shape. After a while it becomes a wide clump.
Keep the trunk and sucker growth under control by pruning unwanted ones. If you want to keep it as a bush, just remove old dry leaves. If you are going for more elegant look and would like to expose its beautiful trunks, remove bottom fronds.
You will need to do two cuts for each branch. First, remove undesired frond with those sharp needles. Next, trim the leaf base that was left. Use sharp clean tools and gloves to protect yourself from those thorns.
Expert Tip: Remember, green palm leaves and fronds, are the palms sole source of food. So don’t over prune it. Never prune any leaves that are growing above horizontal!
Here is a great example of an over pruned Mediterranean Fan Palm. They took to many fronds off but left leaf bases that I would definitely remove to give the palm a cleaner look.
Cleaning those sharp fronds is a piece of cake if you put them on a large plastic cover. Just wrap them together and take them to the garbage.
It has a very few nutrient problems and diseases/pests are also rare. Also, it has been known to be resistant to lethal yellowing disease which could be a problem for many palms.
You can grow Mediterranean Fan Palm from the suckers or the seed. Suckers are straight shoots that grow upward from the root ball of the palm. You can remove them to make a new plant.
Propagation With Suckers Step-by-Step:
- Water the palm well to loosen the soil so the roots separate more easily.
- After loosening the clump, pull one sucker to see where the roots are.
- Cut it free as deep as possible from the main root by using a knife or shears.
- Plant the sucker into a pot with a moist potting soil.
- The newly planted palm will go through the transplant shock. Keep it at room temperature in a shady spot away from direct sunlight.
- Water frequently keeping the soil moist but not soggy until the new growth starts to emerge.
Propagation From Seeds Step-by-Step:
- Start with the ripe fruit. They will be yellow, orange or brown color. Immature green fruit will never germinate.
- Clean the fruit from the seeds. If it’s a recently cleaned seeds, you don’t need to soak them. If you’ve purchased dry seeds, you will need to soak them for 24 hours in clean chlorine free water.
- Place them into the plastic container filled with germinating mix. You will need at least 4 inches deep of soil so there is a place for the seeds to send their roots.
- They should be half submerged into the soil. Put the tub in a warm location (about 75F).
- The soil has to be always slightly damp to avoid seed from drying.
- On average, the seeds of the Mediterranean Fan Palm take 2 to 3 months to germinate.
- Wait for the palm to develop at least one leaf hat has hardened off before repotting it.
Landscaping With European Fan Palm
This palm becomes a sculptural element when it’s planted as a specimen. Because of its overall rounded shape, it also works as a formal element in a garden. Use it in large planters by buildings, walls or walkways, or combine it with succulents to create contrast.
I would keep it away from busy spots like play areas, driveways, or walkways since it’s stems are covered with sharp thorns.
Chamaerops humilis also makes a great container plant that could be placed at the entrance, patio, pool or courtyard.
Growing European Fan Palm Indoors
This is a great indoor plant because it easily adapts to wide range of conditions and can tolerate low humidity. If you live in a colder climate, keeping it in a container as a houseplant is a great solution.
You can always take it outside during warm summer months and keep them indoors to protect it from cold winter temperatures.
When watering indoor Chamaerops humilis, use filtered or distilled water because it is very sensitive to chemicals. The fluoride and chlorine which often can be found in tap water overtime create chemical buildup.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section I want to answer some of the most popular questions I get about this plant.
How Fast Does European Fan Palm Grow?
Mediterranean Fan Palm is a slow growing palm that grows about 5 inches a year reaching a full height of only 10-15 ft. It can take 10-15 years for it to achieve 7ft.
It will grow a little faster if planted in a full sun than in partial shade but not by much. Regular fertilizing could also help speed up the growth.
Is Chamaerops Humilis Fruit Edible?
Very young leaf buds are cooked as a vegetable. While the fruits are not poisonous (not toxic) they have very bitter taste so are not used as food. The chamaerops humilis fruits are also NOT poisonous to dogs, in case you worried about your dog eating them.
How to Protect European Fan Palm From Cold Weather?
The Chamaerops humilis is a very cold hardy palm that usually doesn’t require any protections. If you are growing it in the USDA Zones 8-10, there should be no problem.
It can tolerate cold down to 10F and even has been reported to survive temperatures as low as 3F without permanent damage. It might lose its foliage after such experience, but will completely recover by the next growing season.
If you are trying to grow this palm in Zone 7 or still want to add some cold protection there are a few things you can do.
- Covering it with landscape fabric works very well.
- You can also wrap Christmas lights around its trunks and stiff leaves.
- Apply a lot of mulch.
- Spray the crown with fungicide/bactericide spray.
Of course, you can go completely crazy and create a temporary green house around it. Usually it is small enough so you can do it, but make sure the green house is sturdy enough to withstand strong winds and heavy weight of the snow. For more ideas check out 10 Ways To Protect Palm Trees From Winter Freeze.