How to Grow and Care for Mexican Fan Palm

mexican fan palm

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Are you looking for a low-maintenance palm tree that adds eye-catching beauty and fills a space with its height? f you live in a desert climate and have a large yard, Washingtonia robusta, commonly known as the Mexican fan palm, is a good choice. This fast-growing, towering palm tree can reach up to 100 feet tall and is characterized by its large, fanning fronds that rest atop a slim, straight trunk. 

In the summer, this outdoor palm tree variety produces drooping clusters of cream-colored flowers that give way to black fruits. The round trunks range from reddish-brown to gray as they age, adding a lovely, colored backdrop for its green foliage. As fronds die back, they droop to create a dense skirt around the base of the fronds, further adding to this palm’s attractive profile. This palm is considered invasive in Florida, California, and Hawaii.  

Common Name Mexican Fan Palm, Skyduster
Botanical Name Washingtonia robusta
Family Arecaceae
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 50-100 ft. tall, 8-10 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Loamy, Sandy, Silt, Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, Neutral
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Yellow, White
Hardiness Zones 9-11, USA
Native Area Central America

Mexican Fan Palm Care

The Mexican fan palm offers huge amounts of beauty in exchange for minimal maintenance. In fact, these palm trees require only occasional watering and trimming while they are young before maturing into a self-sustaining tree. They require full sun and well-draining, fertile soil. It is best to give them a wide berth of space since they grow a large root structure. Keeping them at least 10 feet away from buildings is best.

These palms are disease and pest-resistant, though spider mites may occasionally be a problem. They are prone to potassium deficiency, making fertilizer a key to healthy trees.  

Warning

It is important to note that Mexican fan palms are considered invasive in Florida, California, and Hawaii. Be sure to check your local area before deciding to plant this palm. If it is considered invasive in your area, it is best to look for a native alternative so as not to disrupt the surrounding flora and fauna.

Light

Like most desert plants, the Mexican fan palm grows best in full sun. It can withstand partial shade, though full sun is ideal. You should plant this tree in a location that receives 6 to 8 hours of sun each day.

Soil

Mexican fan palms prefer loamy, sandy soil that is well-draining. They are drought tolerant and do best when the soil is allowed to dry out between waterings. Acidic to neutral pH levels are best. They are tolerant of salty soil, which makes them a viable option for coastal areas. 

Water

The Mexican fan palm thrives where water is easily accessible which includes areas with a high water table. Though they are desert plants and are drought-tolerant, they do not do well in overly dry conditions. It is best to let the soil dry out between waterings to ensure the plants don’t receive too much water. Once the soil is dry, water thoroughly. 

Temperature and Humidity

Grown in warm desert regions, it follows that the Mexican fan palm is heat-tolerant. What may be surprising is that these trees are also considered to be cold-weather tolerant palms. They can withstand temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Across all temperature ranges, they prefer moderately humid conditions.  

Fertilizer

These tall palms are very fast growers and appreciate slow-release fertilizer monthly during the growing season. For the best results, choose a high-quality fertilizer specifically formulated for palms. As with other rapid growing plants, potassium deficiency can be an issue, so a palm-specific fertilizer is essential for good health.  

Pruning

The large fan-shaped fronds droop and collect around the base of the trees as they age. This creates a large skirt around the palm. Although these begin to fall away with aging, spent fronds should be removed to keep the palm clean and to prevent fire hazard. A professional arborist might be needed if the palm is very large.   

How to Grow Mexican Fan Palm From Seed

Unlike other palms, the Mexican fan palm does not produce suckers. This means that to propagate this palm, it must be started from seed. This a great way to multiply your palm trees since they grow well from seed. You will need small pots, moist, well-draining soil, and a heating tray. Then follow these instructions: 

  1. Some seeds require soaking in order to germinate. Check your package for details. If they require soaking, place the seeds in water and let them soak for 24 hours. 
  2. Once the seeds have soaked, plant them in small pots with moist, well-draining soil. 
  3. Place the pots in a warm environment. Setting the pots on top of a heating tray will help keep the seeds warm and encourage germination. This is especially helpful if you do not have a warm environment to start them in.  
  4. Keep the soil moist. Germination should occur in 14 days. 

Potting and Repotting Mexican Fan Palm 

Despite their extremely tall mature size, young Mexican fan palms grow very well in containers. This is a great way to enjoy these palms even if you do not have the space needed for a mature tree. Keep them in sturdy, well-draining containers. Keep in mind that potted palms will need more frequent watering than those planted in the ground, so it is important for water to drain through. 

If the palm outgrows the container and you want it to grow larger, you will need to repot it. Tip the pot onto its side and gently tap the pot to loosen the roots. Slide the palm out and plant it into a container that is several inches larger. Fill it with well-draining, fertile soil.

Overwintering

Because these palms grow in areas with warm winters, no extra care is needed to overwinter Mexican fan palms. Simply withhold fertilizer and slow down on watering. 

How to Get Mexican Fan Palm to Bloom

These towering palms produce eye-catching clusters of drooping, creamy white flowers that can grow to 10 feet long. The flowers give way to small, black, edible fruits. 

To encourage flowering, give the palm plenty of sunshine and feed monthly during the growing season. This will ensure it receives the nutrition needed to produce its flowers.  

Common Problems With Mexican Fan Palm

Mexican fan palms are quite hardy and do not usually present the gardener with problems. However, even hardy plants run into trouble every once in a while.

Discolored Leaves, Leaf Tip Necrosis, and Dying Leaves

All these signs point to a common problem that can easily be remedied: potassium deficiency. If this occurs, do not cut away the damaged leaves. Simply give more palm-specific fertilizer and be patient as the plant recovers. 

FAQ
  • How fast do Mexican fan palms grow?

    Mexican fan palms are very fast growers and can grow up to 3 feet per year. At their mature height, these palms can reach up to 100 feet tall. 

  • How long can Mexican fan palms live?

    Mexican fan palms can live hundreds of years. In fact, some have been known to live up to 500 years. 

  • What’s the difference between Mexican fan palms and California fan palms?

    These palms can be differentiated based on their size. Mexican fan palms reach up to 100 feet tall while their trunks measure only 2 feet wide at their widest point, and can taper down to 8 inches at their thinnest point. The California fan palm reaches up to 50 feet tall with a trunk up to 3 feet wide.

Article Sources
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  1. Washingtonia robusta. (2018, November 17). Plant Pono. https://plantpono.org/high-risk-plants/washingtonia-robusta/