How to Grow the Chinese Fan Palm

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Chinese fan palms are popular landscape plants in warm, humid climates and are very suitable as indoor potted palms. They're also known by the common name fountain palm due to how their fronds arch up and then spill downward like water from a mountain.

So if you're looking for a plant that can take over your garden during warm, humid climates and won't mind the indoor life in your sunroom, you might want to try growing Chinese fan palms.

Not only are Chinese fan palms beautiful plants, but they're also very easy to grow if you know what you're doing. Follow these simple steps, and you'll be able to grow your Chinese fan palm in no time.

About the Chinese Fan Palm

The Chinese fan palm is also known as Livistona Chinensis or the Fountain palm. Fan palm Livistona Chinensis is a member of the Arecaceae family of plants and hails from east Asia. The rich foliage which adorns the sleek trunk gives this tree a very royal appearance, earning it the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

The palm's crown is very dense, and it overshadows nearby plants. Chinese fan palm can be quite aggressive in some environments, so you need to be careful where you plant it in your garden. It's particularly invasive in Florida, where it's listed as a category II invasive plant. This means that it can disrupt native ecosystems.

Despite its native environment, the Chinese fan palm is commonly found in Mediterranean gardens, where it complements well with its European natives. It also gets along well with other palm species, such as the California Fan Palm, the Mexican Blue Palm, or the Canary Island Date Palm.

It's a slow-growing plant with a single, upright trunk, and its bright green leaves can span up to 6 feet in length. It's highly decorative and can be grown in pots where it likes to spread.

Palm Livistona Chinensis Care

The Chinese fan palm loves heat but needs to be protected from bright, direct sunlight, which can cause it to burn. However, it's still important to provide it with the right amount of light, warmth and water to grow a healthy plant. Whether growing these palms in a container or the ground requires good soil drainage.

Palm Livistona Chinensis Care
Image credit: https://www.petalrepublic.com/

Size and Growth

The Chinese fan palm is slow-growing and very hardy. In its native tropical setting, the Chinese fan palm can attain a height of 50 feet tall. The trunk of the Chinese fan palm is single and straight, and its fonds are approximately 6 feet long.

The leaves droop from the crown, giving it the common name, fountain palm. Individual leaves on the fond are mountain-like and tapered, coming to a graceful, curved point at the ends. Fountain palm leaves form a circular, fan-like formation. Coloring may range from very dark green to dark blue green.

Flowering and Fragrance

Chinese fan palms produce large, white flowers in the right growing conditions in early summer. The flowers transition into small, bluish-black fruits like black olives.

Light

Chinese fan palms grow best in full sun to partial shade, meaning at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight on most days. Young palms prefer some shade, especially from the hot afternoon sun. Indoors, Livistona Chinensis do best located by a bright window with indirect light.

Temperature and Humidity

Fountain palm is fairly cold hardy and can thrive outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11. These palms grow best in temperatures between 15 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees celsius. Unlike other palm species, Chinese fan palms have resistance to cold and frost.

They thrive in warm, humid weather. To raise humidity and prevent foliage from drying out, regularly mist the palm. Indoors, protect your palm from drafts and airflow from heating and air conditioning vents.

Fertilizer and Compost

This plant is slow-growing, so you don't want to fertilize regularly. However, fertile soil will promote faster and healthier growth on these palms. Applying a slow-release fertilizer from late winter to early fall will ensure the palm gets a balanced dose of potassium and other nutrients throughout the growing season.

After applying fertilizer, give the soil a thorough soak to help disperse it and allow it to soak in fully and encourage your plant to reach down, thus strengthening its root base. You can also make compost if you don’t have the funds to purchase the fertilizer or just want to go the natural way.

Watering

Lightly moist but not soggy soil is ideal for Chinese fan palms. Watering these plants frequently is not only counterproductive but unsafe for the plant's health – rot and fungal infections may occur if the soil is too wet. Chinese fan palm is quite drought tolerant, but it will appreciate a good dose of water, especially during dry spells or hot weather.

Whether grown indoors or outdoors, it's vital that it's in well drained soil. During the winter months, allow the soil to dry out for the container-grown plants because the palm isn't actively growing. Increase water during the spring, summer and fall.

After drying between watering sessions, use either rain or distilled water to prevent hard water deposits from building up on the leaves. Avoid using tap water because it may contain fluoride, chlorine or other chemicals that damage palms.

Soil

These palms can tolerate a variety of soil types, including sandy, loam and clay, if there is good drainage. They thrive in rich loamy soil with a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH. So make sure you learn how to test soil pH to make your palm tree thrive. For container-grown plants, use a quality potting mix made especially for palms. 

Fan Palm Varieties

European Fan Palm

A native of Europe, this palm is known for being quite hardy with fairly cold tolerance.

European Fan Palm
Image credit: https://www.florida-palm-trees.com/

Real Fan Palm

Also known as the makalani palm is native to subtropical regions in Africa and is used as a source of food and materials by both the people and wildlife in the area.

Real Fan Palm
Image credit: https://www.palmpedia.net/

California Fan Palm

Also known as the desert fan palm, this palm hails from California and has a smooth trunk. It's the largest native palm in the United States, growing from 40 to 60 feet tall.

California Fan Palm
Image credit: https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/

Pruning Liviston Chinensis

These plants don't require much pruning because they'll develop their cascading shape on their own. However, to keep your palm looking tidy, it's a good idea to prune off the dead or older fronds at the bottom of the crown once a year.

Wait until the fonds turn brown then grab the dead frond and twist and pull to remove it.

Potting and Repotting Chinese Fan Palms

If you're planting your palm in a container, choose a pot that's slightly larger than the plant's root ball. The pot should also have ample drainage holes. An unglazed container is ideal because it will allow excess moisture to escape through its walls and drainage holes.

Select a larger pot that provides more space for the root ball when you see roots growing out of the drainage holes and above the soil line. Gently ease the plant's root ball out of its old container and plant it at the same depth in the new one. Fill around it with fresh palm potting mix, and firm up the soil.

Common Problems with Chinese Fan Palms

Like most palms, the Chinese fan palm is susceptible to a common infestation if grown indoors. The most common of these are scale, mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites. You can remedy these with regular inspecting and cleaning the leaves as part of your maintenance schedule. Learn how to clean household leaves to control pests.

You can also treat small infestations with rubbing alcohol, while larger infestations may require the application of an insecticide. The palm can also be affected by lethal yellowing. This is a phytoplasma disease transmitted via planthoppers as they move between plants.

Cleaning the leaves regularly will help prevent the planthoppers from settling on the palm. However, if you notice that they are present, remove them immediately with soapy water or rubbing alcohol.

If your palm leaves have changed color, gotten smaller or have brown tips, this could also be a sign of lethal yellowing, so it is important to seek help from experienced palm care professional.

FAQs on How to Grow the Chinese Fan Palm

Why is my Chinese fan plant drooping?

It may be drooping because of too much water. These plants are drought tolerant that would rather have little water than too much.

Final Thought on How to Grow the Chinese Fan Palm

As you can see, the Chinese fan plant requires little care and can do well indoors as a houseplant. It is a good idea to have these around your place if you want a green decoration that requires minimal attention.

 

Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is a stay-at-home-mom and an expert chef. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her writing about her favorite kitchen appliances on Kitchen Infinity blog.

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