How to Grow the European Fan Palm

European fan palm

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In This Article

The European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis), also known as the Mediterranean fan palm or the Mediterranean dwarf 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. Small, round fruits in yellow, orange, or brown follow the flowers. European fan palms have a slow growth rate and are best planted in the spring.

Botanical Name Chamaerops humilis
Common Names European fan palm, Mediterranean fan palm, Mediterranean dwarf palm
Plant Type Shrub, tree
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
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 9–11 (USDA)
Native Area Mediterranean
European fan palm fronds

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European fan palm base

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European fan palm frond

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European Fan Palm Care

European fan palms are hardy and fairly easy to care for. They 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. Other than that, regular watering and feeding will be your main maintenance tasks with this palm.

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.

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.

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.

Light

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.

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 slightly alkaline). However, no matter what, the soil should have sharp drainage.

Water

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 around 2 inches down 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.  

Fertilizer

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. 

European Fan Palm Varieties

There are some varieties of European fan palms, including:

  • Chamaerops humilis ‘Vulcano’: This cultivar is more compact than the main species plant, and it’s known for its lack of spines.
  • Chamaerops humilis var. argentea: Also known as the Atlas mountain plant, this palm features silvery-green leaves. 
  • Chamaerops humilis ‘Stella’: This cultivar also is known for its silvery foliage. 

Propagating European Fan Palms

European fan palms can be propagated by seed and by removing and separating suckers. To grow from seed, sow the seeds in the spring (after any danger of frost has passed), lightly covering them in soil. Keep the seeds consistently moist until they germinate, which can take several weeks. To grow from suckers, gently separate suckers from a mature plant, keeping as many roots intact as possible. Plant them in a container or directly in the ground, maintaining even soil moisture until they establish a root system.

Potting and Repotting European Fan Palms

When growing this palm in a container, choose a pot that is slightly larger than its root ball. The pot should have ample drainage holes. Use a potting mix made for palms, which should be well-draining. You'll likely have to repot every two to three years as your palm grows. Upgrade to a slightly larger container, and use fresh potting mix.