Mediterranean Fan Palm Information:
The Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaeropodium gigas) is one of the most popular palms in cultivation today. It is native to the Mediterranean region and grows well in a wide range of soil types, from sandy loam soils to clayey soils. However it prefers moist, fertile soil with good drainage and shade during hot summer months.
The Mediterranean fan palm is often grown as a houseplant because of its large size and attractive foliage. It produces small, white flowers in late spring or early summer followed by long, slender fruits which ripen into black seeds in fall. These seeds are very useful for germinating other plants such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.
In some parts of the world the Mediterranean fan palm is known as the “golden” palm due to its beautiful leaves and golden fruit. The Mediterranean fan palm is a member of the family Chamaedoreaeaceae, which includes the banana family. They have been cultivated since ancient times.
There are two species of Mediterranean fan palms:
Both species grow best in full sun to partial shade conditions and prefer rich, moist soil with good drainage. The leaves are 4-5 feet long and split into around 50 leaflets. The root systems are large and sturdy with fibrous roots that spread out over a large area of several feet.
The plants prefer average temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and around 60 degrees at night. They do not like cold wet conditions and will drop their leaves if exposed to frost.
The plants are quite tolerant of drought but will produce smaller leaves with fewer leaflets in dry conditions. They tolerate average humidity and do not require regular watering, but will produce sweeter and larger leaves in higher humidity. The plants are tolerant of low humidity if grown in large enough pots to hold plenty of water for the roots.
The plants are slow growing and no pruning is required or recommended except to remove dead or diseased fronds. They can be propagated from seeds, cuttings, or division of root systems.
If you want to grow fan palm trees indoors, be sure to choose a variety that does not grow too large for the average home. The most popular varieties are Chamaerops humilis and the Dwarf Italian Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis).
Chamaerops humilis is a small size palm that grows slowly to around 8-10 feet tall. It is native to North Africa, the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean region.
Dwarf Italian fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) can grow up to 25 feet tall but rarely grows taller than 15 feet. It is one of the hardiest of all palms and will withstand temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a native of northern Africa but is widely cultivated in southern Europe, New Zealand and southern California.
How to care for your fan palm:
Fan palms are tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions but will not tolerate standing water or remain healthy in consistently wet soil. They also need good drainage to avoid root rot.
They prefer full sun, however can adapt to partial shade. The leaves will turn a golden yellow color in areas of extreme heat and sunlight. The leaves also produce a sweet sap that can be poisonous if ingested.
The plants are extremely cold sensitive and will usually turn black and die if exposed to temperatures below 17 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water thoroughly when soil is dry about an inch deep, do not over water.
If grown in a container, it is best to put a cinder block, brick or other heavy object at the base of the trunk to ensure that the roots are kept in the pot. This keeps the palm from creeping into the ground and making a mess of your yard.
Note: in areas with high humidity, fan palms are susceptible to lethal yellowing. This is a viral disease that will kill the tree and there is no known treatment or cure.
Fan palms can be grown from seed but it is difficult to germinate and grow them successfully. They are commonly propagated by seed, division of offsets or by tissue culture.
The seed of most fan palms is dormant and they do not germinate well if at all unless subjected to a process called stratification. This consists of storing the seeds in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 months before sowing. This process makes the seeds able to germinate more quickly when planted.
Sow the seeds in pots or tubs containing a mixture of 1/3 sand, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 garden soil. Keep the pots in a covered but ventilated container in a warm place outdoors. Do not put them in direct sunlight. Water sparingly once seeds have sprouted.
The best kind of offsets to use are the ones that have been grown from tubers and these can be planted directly into the soil once the roots have been trimmed and any damaged or dead parts removed. Plant the offset with the bud that grew from the tuber pointing up and just cover it with soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy and keep in a shady location until established.
In areas with a climate that does not support the growth of palms, you can take tissue cultured plants and grow them indoors in pots until they are large enough to transplant.
You should check the palm regularly for insects and disease and treat when necessary. Pests include mealybugs, spider mites, scale insects and aphids. Diseases include root rot, yellowing, mosaic virus, anthracnose and wilt.
Check your plants regularly for pests and diseases and either eliminate them or remove the plant from your property.
Aphids are a small soft-bodied insect that comes in a variety of colors. They can multiply rapidly under the right conditions and will spread disease as they feed on your plant. They also excrete a sweet liquid called honeydew as they feed.
This liquid can act as a growth medium for mold and fungus.
Mealybugs are slow-moving insects that look like little bumps ranging in color from white to grey to black. They excrete a sticky wax that protects them from predators and moulds. They feed on the plant by sucking sap from the leaves, stems and fruit, which causes the affected parts to either fall off or become deformed.
Sources & references used in this article:
Washingtonia robusta: Mexican Fan Palm by TK Broschat – EDIS, 2013 – journals.flvc.org
Palm seed germination by AW Meerow, TK Broschat – 1991 – growables.org
Palm Family (Arecaceae) by J Glimn-Lacy, PB Kaufman – … to Plants, Major Groups, Flowering Plant …, 2006 – Springer
Arizona Landscape Palms by E Davison, J Begeman – 2000 – repository.arizona.edu