How to Grow Windmill Palm

Windmill palm plant outside in sunlight

The Spruce / Almar Creative

The windmill palm is one of the hardiest palm trees available, allowing you to add a splash of tropical flavor to your temperate garden. It is one of the few palms that can survive freezing temperatures (down to 10 Fahrenheit). This slow-to-moderate growing evergreen can successfully grow as far north as the Pacific Northwest on the West Coast, or New York state in the east. Frequently seen in Britain and France, windmill palm reaches 10-20 feet tall is a recipient of the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

The botanical name for this palm tree is Trachycarpus fortunei, and it belongs to the Arecaceae (palm) family. The species name was given in honor of Robert Fortune, a horticulturist from Scotland.

The windmill palm has fan-shaped leaves that are 3-feet in length, and which give the tree its name. The leaf shafts produce fibers that cover the trunk and can be made into ropes, mats, brushes, brooms, or even hats. The leaves are also sometimes used in thatched roofs. Plant your windmill palm in the spring.

Botanical Name Trachycarpus fortunei
Common Name Windmill palm, Chusan Palm, hemp palm, Nepalese fan palm, and Chinese windmill palm
Plant Type Evergreen
Mature Size 10-40 ft. tall, 6-10 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Partial shade
Soil type Well-draining
Soil pH 5.5-7.5
Bloom time June-July
Flower Color Yellow, cream, or green
Hardiness Zones 8a-11 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
Toxicity Non-toxic to humans and animals

Windmill Palm Care

Windmill palm is dioecious (trees have either male or female flowers) and you will need at least one male and female tree if you want fruit production. The flowers are cream or yellow—sometimes greenish, on a female tree—and will perfume the air around them. After they're pollinated, clusters of purple drupes (stone fruit) are formed in the summer.

Windmill palm grows well near the ocean since it tolerates salt. It is a good choice for containers, although they need to have adequate drainage holes. In outdoor environments, windmill palms are perfect for sheltering a patio. If you do not want to deal with fallen fruit, look for a male tree. 

Light

Windmill palm prefers a semi-shade or shady location, but will tolerate full sun in more northern climates.

Soil

As long as there is good drainage, the windmill palm will grow in most soil conditions and pH levels. It does not like to have wet feet. The leaves are somewhat delicate, so a location somewhat sheltered from harsh winds is best as strong winds may shred the leaves. 

Water

Newly planted windmill palms should be watered every few days. Established plants should be watered once or twice weekly.

Temperature and Humidity

Windmill palms are cold-hardy, tropical plants. They can survive down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit, and thrive in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8a-11.

Fertilizer

Windmill palm needs a slow-release fertilizer twice a year: first in the spring, then again in summer or fall.

Windmill palm is non-toxic to pets and humans, but other palms are. If you have any questions about palm trees you or your pet have eaten, call your doctor or veterinarian immediately.

Pruning

There are no pruning requirements for this tree except for the standard advice to prune away any parts that have become dead, damaged, or diseased.

How to Grow Windmill Palm From Seed

The best way to propagate windmill palm is to use palm seeds to propagate new trees.

To do so, remove the fleshy seed-coat and soak the seeds in water for several days. Plant seeds, as deep as they are wide, in rich, potting medium mixed with peat moss. Water regularly, and keep in bright sunlight. Patience, grasshopper, seeds may take one to seven months to germinate. When the seedling's first leaf is over 2-inches long, it can be replanted in the soil outdoors.

Potting and Repotting Windmill Palm

Windmill palm can also be grown indoors in pots; it grows slow enough that it will be many years before it outgrows the space. 

Overwintering

Windmill palm are hardy, but it never hurts to give yours some protection during the winter months. You can cover the crown and base with either a frost blanket, or a layer of mulch.

Common Pests/Diseases

Windmill palm is relatively free of problems, especially in cooler climates. Further south, it sometimes experiences problems from scale insects and palm aphids. Diseases are rare, though leaf spots and yellowing disease sometimes occur. If the soil is not well-drained, root rot may be a problem.

Windmill palm leaves and stem closeup

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Windmill palm outdoors closeup of trunk and stems

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Windmill palm leaves from above in sunlight closeup

The Spruce / Almar Creative