European Fan Palm Plant Profile

This palm tree can tolerate freezing temperatures

Bright leaves of European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) in backlight. Soft focus on photo.

 Ksana_uk / Getty Images

Northern gardeners rejoice, this fan palm can tolerate freezing temperatures! The European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis), also known as the Mediterranean fan palm or the Mediterranean dwarf palm, is the most cold-hardy species of palm tree, tolerating temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (or -12 degrees Celsius). For this reason, European fan palms are frequently used to add a tropical flair to temperature landscapes. They also grow well as houseplants, adapting easily to indoor conditions.

Botanical Name Chamaerops humilis
Common Name European fan palm, Mediterranean fan palm, Mediterranean dwarf palm
Plant Type Palm, shrub
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Rich, moist, well-drained
Soil pH 6.1 - 7.8
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 9 - 11
Native Area Western and central Mediterranean region
Group of European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) trees in the Zingaro Nature Reserve.
 tella_db / Getty Images

How to Grow European Fan Palms

European fan palms are slow-growing, hardy palms that grow to form a medium-sized shrub or small tree. They are characterized by large (up to 18-24 in. long), blue-green fan-shaped leaves that are divided into as many as 10-20 narrow, stiff segments. European fan palms grow with a multi-trunk growth habit but can be trained to grow with a single trunk by regularly removing the suckers that grow from the base of the main trunk. Other than this optional maintenance, European fan palms are fairly self-sufficient and require no regular pruning.

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. They also have exceptional wind and drought tolerance. In regions with harsh winter conditions, European fan palms can be easily overwintered indoors. As to be expected, European fan palms thrive in coastal conditions.

Light

European fan palms thrive in full sun, but can tolerate part shade as well. Ensure you choose a location where your European fan palm receives at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight every day.

Soil

European fan palms are not picky when it comes to soil. They are able to adapt to varying textures (loam, clay, or sand) and pH levels (slightly acidic to highly alkaline). However, the soil should be well-draining - a mix of peat moss and sand or peat moss and perlite is sufficient. European fan palms also tolerate poor soils well.

Water

Until the roots of a European fan palm are well-established, it should be watered regularly. In extreme heat, it may need to be watered as often as once a week to help roots establish. Once an extensive root system has been established, European fan palms are moderately drought tolerant and watering can be reduced. Allow the soil to dry between waterings and then soak thoroughly. Regular watering in the summer helps to encourage growth.

Temperature and Humidity

This European native thrives in sunny, warm daytime temperatures and cool evening temperatures. European fan palms are happy in average outdoor humidity but may require extra humidity when grown indoors. 

Fertilizer

European fan palms appreciate regular fertilizing throughout the year. Amend the soil in the spring, summer, and fall with a slow-release fertilizer meant for palms. 

Potting and Repotting

When planting European fan palms outdoors, ensure that the palms are spaced at least 3-4 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 which can be painful to the touch. If you are growing a European fan palm as a houseplant, keep repotting to a minimum - every 2-3 years should be sufficient.

Propagating European Fan Palms

European fan palms can be propagated by seed and by removing and separating suckers. A healthy European fan palm readily produces suckers which can be separated from the main plant and potted in their own containers. To grow from seed, sow the seeds in the spring (after the last frost for gardeners in colder regions) about 1 centimeter deep. Keep the seeds consistently moist until they germinate, which can take several weeks.

Being Grown in Containers

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 they dry out thoroughly between waterings.

Common Pests/Diseases

European fan palms are not prone to any serious pests or diseases. However, keep an eye out for common pests and diseases like mealy bugs, scale, spider mites, and leaf spot.