Mexican Fan Palm Facts:
Native to Mexico, these palms are native to the state of Oaxaca. They grow up to 20 feet tall and have a trunk diameter of 3 feet. Their branches reach 15 inches in length and they produce flowers from April through June. These plants require full sun but do well under partial shade or even some light rain during dry periods.
There are several varieties available including the “Sierra de la Laguna” variety which produces yellow flowers. The “El Rosario” variety produces red flowers and the “Puerto del Sol” variety produces white flowers.
They are considered drought tolerant so long as they get enough water, but they will not survive without it. They need to be watered regularly throughout the year because their roots absorb moisture from the soil and release it back into the air when they prune off new growth. If left unattended, the plant may die due to lack of water.
The Mexican fan palm is a slow growing tropical evergreen tree with glossy green foliage that bears small, round, dark purple fruits. They are edible and very popular in Mexico where they are known as “mexican treats”. The fruit is large (about the size of a grapefruit) and contains seeds similar to those found in oranges.
When to Prune a Mexican Fan Palm:
One of the most common mistakes made by beginner gardeners is overpruning their mexican fan palms. These plants are often kept small because people prune off most of the new growth. If someone wants a tree to grow larger, they should only prune off dead or dying wood. Pruning off live branches will cause the plant to grow bushier and produce more leaves but will do nothing for its size.
How to Winterize a Mexican Fan Palm:
When winter comes around, a lot of plants begin to prepare for dormancy. This is a built in survival mechanism that helps them preserve energy over the cold months when they wouldn’t be able to grow anyhow. As long as mexican fan palms get enough water throughout the winter, they will be able to endure the cold temperatures just fine. The soil should not be watered or even soaked, just damp.
This will prevent the plant from being damaged by freezing soil.
When it begins to warm up in the spring, the plant will start to grow again on its own. Until then, no additional water should be provided and any fallen leaves should remain undisturbed so they do not decay and rot under the plant. Fertilizer should not be used at this time either.
Why Mexican Fan Palms Are More Hardy than Other Palms:
Unlike some other trees, mexican fan palms can withstand low temperatures without dying. They are even known to grow in areas that experience frost. This enables them to grow in climates that other tropical plants cannot. It also means that they can be grown successfully further north than other palm species.
Pests and Diseases:
Like all plants, mexican fan palms are susceptible to pests and diseases. If they become infected, the damage can vary from minor to terminal. These problems are often caused by people because they interfere with the natural habitat of the plant.
Here are some of the pests and diseases to watch out for:
Scale insects: These small bugs suck the sap out of a plant and can cause yellowing and death if not treated quickly. They aren’t usually fatal but they should still be removed by hand or with a spray.
Mealybugs: Mealybugs are another type of sap sucking insect that is covered with a white, wooly substance. They also excrete a white powdery substance called “honeydew” which can lead to an unattractive black mold.
Mites: Mites are even smaller than insects and can be hard to notice without the assistance of a magnifying glass. These creatures can cause yellowing of the leaves and even death.
Fungi: There are numerous types of fungi that affect palms. They range in severity from simply degrading the appearance to causing total organ failure. Most can be treated with fungicide but they often return if the environment is still favorable to them.
How to Care For A Mexican Fan Palm:
The large mexican fan palms can grow quite tall and are very graceful. They can easily be pruned to keep their size under control but they shouldn’t be pruned after July because that is when they begin preparing for the winter dormancy period. It also helps if they have at least 5 or 6 other palms nearby so they are not as tempted to grow taller than the rest of their companions.
These trees appreciate an organic mulch around their base to keep in the moisture and prevent weeds from growing. It also helps to keep the ground around the tree from eroding.
They should be watered every 2 to 3 weeks unless there has been a rainfall in between. Any fertilizer or mulch should never be put near the base of the tree because it may cause too much moisture around the trunk which could lead to disease or rotting.
This plant is prone to infestation by both insects and diseases so it is important to inspect it on a weekly basis for problems. If anything is found, it should be removed immediately to prevent the problem from getting out of control.
MEXICAN FAN PALM CARE IN WINTER:
During the winter months (and in colder climates) these trees will go into a semi-dormant state and will not require as much water. It is best to keep the soil evenly moist and to only water the tree when the top inch or two of soil is dry.
If you live in an area that gets heavy frost and snow it is best to wrap Young Trees (up to about 6ft) in burlap to prevent frost damage to the trunk. Mature palms (6ft and over) are usually thick enough that they will not suffer damage in most cases.
**NEW SHRUBS, TREES AND FLOWERING PERENNIALS HAVE A TENDENCY TO MOLT WHEN IT GETS COLD. THIS IS NORMAL AND THE PLANT WILL RESUME ITS NORMAL LOOK AND GROWTH PATTERN IN SPRING.
ALL PLANTS SHOULD BE KEPT WATERED REGULARLY (1X/MONTH) DURING THIS PERIOD TO KEEP THE SOIL FROM DRIING OUT ENTIRELY.
If you have any problems with these plants between the months of October and March then feel free to contact us and we will try to help you over the phone.
Leaves turning brown and dropping off.
–Not enough water
–Soil is too sandy (add compost or organic matter to help retain moisture and suppport root structure)
–Too much water (only water when soil dries out)
–Underground pest – usually looks like hundreds of pinhead sized holes in the leaves. Usually not a problem unless it gets out of control.
–Underground fungus – Brown splotches on the leaves. usually starts at the base of the plant. (Remove affected leaves, keep mulch away from trunk, make sure soil is well drained).
–Underground insect – Looks like fine sawdust underneath the plant. Usually finds its way into the plant through the roots. (There are products at garden centers that can be used to kill these insects. Follow directions on the package).
Leaves yellow, dropping off.
–Under watering – (Make sure it is in a large enough container to hold enough water for the plant to absorb. If in a small container or rootbound, repot in a larger container)
–Poor Drainage – (make sure soil drains well and does not stay soggy for long periods of time).
–Too much Water – (not usually a problem. Make sure it is not sitting in water for long periods of time).
–Insufficient light – (these plants are sun lovers, if you are keeping indoors or under lights, move them to a brighter location)
These plants like to grow tall. Unless you have a very large house you will need to keep this plant pruned regularly. Also make sure you fertilize it every couple of months.
These plants are fairly heat tolerant. When night temperatures dip into the 50’s or 60’s (F) they will start to show signs of leaf damage and incomplete growth. If you live in an area that freezes, consider treating this plant as a annual and replant each fall.
This is a flowering plant. It will not produce fruit unless it is pollinated. Syngoniums are often sold without flowers and were probably from seed. If you leave the plant alone, the flowers will appear on their own after about a year or two along with new leaves.
Some people report that exposing the plant to cold (but not freezing) temperatures 4-6 weeks before you expect blooming will cause it to bloom.
The plant can be divided or cuttings can be taken. Division is done by digging up the entire plant and separating the clumps. Cuttings can be taken any time during the year if you keep the cut ends from drying out. Rooting hormones can be used on cuttings to increase success.
New plants should be treated as seedlings and not planted directly into soil. They should be potted up and grown until established before planting outside.
Atropa Belladonna, or deadly nightshade is a poisonous plant that contains tropane alkaloids, including scopolamine, hyoscyamine and atropine. These are toxic to the central nervous system and can cause hallucinations, delirium and drymouth among other things. While it has legitimate medical uses, it can be abused.
The deadly nightshade has berries that are red and it flowers with white petals. They can either be short or vine-like plants. They do contain poison so keep out of reach of children and pets.
The root is a perennial plant that can be dug up and divided in the fall. While it can be grown from seed, it takes about 3 years for the plant to bloom and produce berries. The seeds should be planted shallowly and kept warm, but not allowed to dry out. Transplant the young plant when it grows its first set of leaves.
This is a poisonous plant and should be handled carefully. Keep out of reach of children and pets.
The deadly nightshade is a very toxic plant that can harm or kill people and animals. When ingested the berries cause delirium, confusion, hallucinations, dry mouth and paralysis.
Sources & references used in this article:
Seedling date palms (Phoenix dactylifera L.) as genetic resources by DV Johnson, JM Al-Khayri, SM Jain – Emirates Journal of Food and …, 2013 – ejfa.me
Date palm status and perspective in Mexico by N Ortiz-Uribe, R Salomón-Torres, R Krueger – Agriculture, 2019 – mdpi.com
Red palm mite situation in the Caribbean and Florida by A Roda, A Dowling, C Welbourn, J Pena… – 2008 – ageconsearch.umn.edu
Pests of landscape trees and shrubs: an integrated pest management guide by SH Dreistadt – 2016 – books.google.com
Best plants for New Mexico gardens and landscapes: keyed to cities and regions in New Mexico and adjacent areas by BH Morrow – 2016 – books.google.com
… and extrinsic hydraulic factors in varying sizes of two Amazonian palm species (Iriartea deltoidea and Mauritia flexuosa) differing in development and growing … by HJ Renninger, N Phillips – American journal of botany, 2010 – Wiley Online Library