The European fan palm is an especially cold-hardy species of palm tree. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, European fan palms are frequently used to add tropical flair to temperate landscapes. They also grow well as houseplants, adapting easily to indoor conditions.
These palms can grow both as a shrub with multiple trunks or as a small tree with a single trunk. The light blue-green to silver-green, fan-shaped fronds stretch roughly 2 feet long and wide and feature 10 to 20 long, narrow leaflets. Clusters of bright yellow flowers bloom in the spring but they are not always visible because they are hidden behind the leaf stems. Small, round inedible fruits in yellow, orange, or brown follow the flowers.
European fan palms have a slow growth rate and are best planted in the spring.
|Common Names||European fan palm, Mediterranean fan palm, Mediterranean dwarf palm|
|Botanical Name||Chamaerops humilis|
|Plant Type||Tree, shrub|
|Mature Size||6–15 ft. tall, 6–20 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Loamy, moist, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral, alkaline|
|Hardiness Zones||8-11 (USDA)|
European Fan Palm Care
When planting multiple European fan palms outdoors, ensure that the palms are spaced at least 4 feet apart. Choose a location that is far away from high-traffic areas, as European fan palms have spines that run up and down their trunks that can be painful to the touch.
Furthermore, European fan palms do well when grown in containers, whether they are kept indoors as a houseplant or outdoors in a container garden. In colder regions, they can be kept outside during the warm summer months and overwintered indoors. When growing European fan palms in containers, ensure that their soil dries out thoroughly between waterings so the roots aren't waterlogged.
European fan palms thrive in full sun, but they can tolerate partial shade as well. Choose a location where your palm will receive at least four to six hours of direct sunlight on most days. Too much shade can cause the palm to get leggy.
European fan palms are not picky when it comes to soil except for the fact that they need excellent drainage. They are able to adapt to varying textures (loam, clay, or sand) and pH levels (slightly acidic to slightly alkaline).
Until the roots of a young European fan palm are established, it should be watered to maintain even soil moisture. In extreme heat, it might need to be watered weekly or more often to help roots establish. Mature European fan palms are moderately drought- tolerant. Allow the soil to dry out to a depth of about 2 inches between waterings, and then deeply water the palm. However, ensure that the palm is not sitting in soggy soil, which can cause root rot.
Temperature and Humidity
Warm, sunny days and cool nights are the ideal conditions for European fan palms. However, as one of the most adaptable species of palms, they can withstand both extreme heat and extreme cold. Moreover, European fan palms are happy in average outdoor humidity levels, but they might require extra humidity when grown indoors. Setting the pot on a tray filled with water and pebbles can raise humidity around the plant.
European fan palms appreciate regular fertilizing throughout the growing season. Use a slow-release fertilizer meant for palms from spring to fall, following label instructions.
Types of European Fan Palm
There are a few varieties of European fan palms, including:
- Chamaerops humilis ‘Vulcano’: This cultivar is more compact than the main species, and it’s known for its lack of spines.
- Chamaerops humilis var. argentea: Also known as the Atlas mountain palm, this variety has silvery-green leaves.
- Chamaerops humilis ‘Stella’: This cultivar also is known for its silvery foliage.
The palm's pruning needs aren't excessive if you let it grow in its natural multi-trunk form. Just remove any dead, damaged, or diseased fronds as they arise. However, if you would like to train the palm to grow with a single trunk, you will have to regularly remove the suckers that grow from the base of the main trunk.
Propagating European Fan Palm
European fan palms can be propagated from seed and by removing and separating suckers. Note that seeds that you have collected from a cultivar will not produce a palm tree that is true to the parent, therefore it is usually better to use suckers for propagation, which is also the fastest method:
- Gently separate suckers from a mature plant, keeping as many roots intact as possible.
- Plant the sections in a container filled with well-draining potting mix, or directly in a garden location with well-draining soil.
- Keep the soil evenly moist until you see new growth, which indicates that the suckers have established a root system.
How to Grow European Fan Palm From Seed
To grow European fan palm from seed, sow the seeds in the spring after any danger of frost has passed in 4-inch pots filled with potting mix. Lightly cover the seeds with soil and keep them consistently moist until they germinate, which can take several weeks up to a couple of months.
Potting and Repotting European Fan Palm
When growing this palm in a container, choose a pot that is slightly larger than its root ball. The pot should have large drainage holes. Use a fast-draining potting mix, often sold as cactus, palm, and citrus potting mix. European fan palm is a slow grower so you only have to replant it when the roots fill the container and grow out of the drainage holes, every two to three years. Upgrade to a slightly larger container, and use fresh potting mix.
Although European fan palms are quite hardy (in freezing temperatures, their foliage gets damaged but the trunk survives and the foliage regrows in the spring), it is best to overwinter the tree indoors if you are located below USDA zone 9. In warm climates, the plant does not require winter protection.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
European fan palms are not prone to any serious pest or disease issues. However, keep an eye out for common plant pests, including mealybugs, scale, and spider mites. Treat problems as soon as you spot them with an insecticidal soap.
How fast does a European fan palm grow?
It is a slow grower so don't be surprised if your palm only grows five inches per year. It grows even slower in partial shade.
Is the European fan palm salt-tolerant?
That's actually one of the palm's downsides, it is only moderately salt-tolerant.
Is the European fan palm invasive?
It is not known to be invasive, in fact, it is listed in the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program but of course the landscape value of the plant depends on the individual location.
European Fan Palm. University of Florida.
Chamaerops humilis. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.