I’m a Fan of Fan Palm Trees

Bonnie Nowicki

Many of us Quail Creek gardeners already grow palm trees in our landscapes. They’re definitely a worthwhile addition. In my yard, I enjoy three lovely, rounded, 8- to 10-foot mature Mediterranean fan palms (Chamaerops humilis). These evergreen, low-litter specimens, provide a dramatic tropical accent plus desirable screening. Fan palms are tough and well-behaved. They’re great for poolsides with intense heat and are also hardy to 12 degrees. Usually slow growing (six inches a year), a bit of fertilizer and extra water will encourage them to grow faster. Palm trees can be planted anytime from containers.

Fan palm trees are native to southern Europe and North Africa. The palm fronds vary in color from deep green to grayish green. The leaf petioles (stems) are thorny and have a lot of fiber at the base of the trunk. Wear gloves when pruning stems. As the palm matures, side trunks grow, leaning outward. Of course, you can remove these side trunks for a single trunk palm. Prune out the discolored or dead fronds no higher than 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. Removing too many living fronds may starve the tree, causing it to weaken. Palm trees only grow from one terminal bud at the crown. If the terminal bud is destroyed, the palm will stop producing new leaves and eventually die.

Cream-colored summer flowers are unobtrusive. On female trees, below the stems, fruit clusters appear. They look like shiny, maroon-black beads and are a great food source for the birds. This fruit can be removed without damaging the palm. I have kept my palms as multi-trunked with the fruit intact. All in all, I hope you’ll seriously consider growing a good-looking fan palm. Besides being attractive, palm trees provide texture and a bold accent for your landscape and protection for the birds. Happy gardening!