Chinese fan palms (Livistona chinensis) are popular landscape plants in warm, humid climates and are very suitable as indoor potted palms. These palms are also known by the common name fountain palm due to the way their fronds arch up and then spill downward like water from a fountain. Each frond can grow 40 to 60 inches long.
It is best to plant Chinese fan palms in the spring. These slow-growing palms have a bushy appearance when they are young. But in roughly a decade, their single, slender, grayish-brown trunk will have grown tall enough enough to be classified as a tree. Fan palms can live for approximately 40 years.
|Botanical Name||Livistona chinensis|
|Common Names||Chinese fan palm, fountain palm|
|Mature Size||30-50 feet tall, 10–12 foot spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full to partial sun|
|Soil Type||Loamy, moist, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Hardiness Zones||9–11 (USDA)|
Chinese Fan Palm Care
Chinese fan palms are fairly hardy and are not overly particular about their growing conditions, which makes them a good choice for beginner gardeners. Still, providing the right amount of light, warmth, and water is a must for growing a healthy plant. Whether you grow these palms in a container or in the ground, they require good soil drainage.
These plants generally don’t have any serious issues with pests or diseases. However, they are susceptible to scale insects and spider mites, which can damage the foliage and potentially kill a plant. An insecticidal soap or neem oil spray can be an effective treatment to treat infestations.
Chinese fan palms grow best in full sun to partial shade, meaning at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight on most days. Young palms prefer some shade, especially from the hot afternoon sun. Indoors, these palms do best located by a bright window with indirect light.
These palms can tolerate a variety of soil types, including sandy and clay, if there is good drainage. They thrive in a rich loamy soil with a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH. For container-grown plants, use a quality potting mix made especially for palms.
Lightly moist but not soggy soil is ideal for Chinese fan palms. Overwatering can cause root rot and other diseases, which can ultimately kill the plant. Established Chinese fan palms do have some drought tolerance, but you must water them during dry spells and/or very hot weather. During the winter months, allow the soil to dry out for container-grown plants because the palm isn’t actively growing. Increase water during the spring, summer, and fall.
Temperature and Humidity
Unlike many other palm species, Chinese fan palms actually have some resistance to cold and frost. They can survive temperatures as low as 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, though this will likely damage some foliage. They thrive in warm, humid weather. To raise humidity and prevent foliage from drying out, regularly mist the palm. Indoors, protect your palm from drafts as well as airflow from heating and air-conditioning vents.
Fertile soil will promote faster and healthier growth on these palms. Apply a palm fertilizer from late winter to early fall, following label instructions.
Fan Palm Varieties
Here are several other plants that also use the common name of fan palm:
- European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis): A native of Europe, this palm is known for being quite hardy with fairly good cold tolerance.
- California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera): Also known as the desert fan palm, this plant can grow 40 to 60 feet tall and is the largest native palm in the United States.
- Real fan palm (Hyphaene petersiana): Also known as the makalani palm, this palm is native to subtropical regions in Africa and is used as a source of food and materials by both the people and wildlife in the area.
Chinese fan palms typically don’t require much pruning. They will develop their cascading shape on their own. However, to keep your palm looking tidy, it’s a good idea to prune off the dead fronds at the bottom of the crown once a year or as often as you wish. Wait until the fronds have fully turned brown before removing them because fronds that are in the process of depreciating are still providing nutrients to the plant.
Potting and Repotting Chinese Fan Palms
If you want to grow your Chinese fan palm in a container, select a pot that is slightly larger than the plant's root ball. The pot also should have ample drainage holes. An unglazed clay container is ideal because it will allow excess moisture to escape through its walls and drainage holes.
You won't need to re-pot these slow-growing palms often, which is ideal because their roots are fragile and can easily be damaged in the process. You’ll know it’s time for a larger container when you see roots growing out of the drainage holes and up above the soil line. When this occurs, select a larger pot that provides more space for the root ball. Gently ease the palm’s root ball out of its old container, and plant it at the same depth in the new one. Fill around it with fresh palm potting mix, and firm up the soil. Then, water the palm thoroughly.