152 Chamaerops humilisCommon Names: European fan palm Family: Arecacea (palm Family)
The attractive little European fan palm has become very popular in recent years, mostly due to its cold hardiness. Severe freezes in the mid-eighties decimated many other more tender palm species then being grown in central and northern Florida. Millions of dollars worth of landscape plants were killed, creating a demand for more cold resistant varieties that could withstand the occasional cold snap. This small fan leafed palm fit the bill. Not only can it resist temperatures below 20°F (-6° C) but it is fairly fast growing and drought resistant too!
The European fan palm forms clumps than can grow up to 15 ft (4.5 m) in height. The triangular, fan shaped leaves grow to about 20-24 in (50-60 cm) long by 24 in (60 cm) wide. They are deeply divided into multiple segments that are themselves split at the tip and they are supported on 3-4 ft (90-120 cm) stems. This is an extremely variable plant both in color (the leaves range from blue green to gray green to yellow green) and in shape. Some plants form suckers more freely than others to become very shrubby plants that may reach 15 ft (4.5 m) in width. Other individuals can be seen that are almost dwarf growing just 5 ft (1.5 m) tall by 4 ft (1.2 m) wide. These days it is popular to remove all but a few of the suckers and to prune the leaves to form a cluster of clear trunked "mini" palms (see photo).
Small, bright yellow flowers held close to the trunk are hidden behind the leaf stems which are armed with very sharp teeth. The flowers are followed in the fall by fruits which are dark yellow, orange or brown, and about 0.5 in (1 cm) in diameter.
Chamaerops humilis is native to the hot dry hills and mountains of the Mediterranean Sea basin. Its native range extends from Africa's Atlas Mountains in Morocco to Spain and France and eastward to Turkey.
CultureThe European Fan palm is very adaptable to many kinds of well drained soils. Light: European fan palm prefers bright sunny locations, but it also does well in part shade with some direct sunlight. It will survive in rather heavy shade but "stretches" to lose its compact shape. Moisture: Provide adequate moisture for fastest growth. This palm is very drought tolerant once established. It dislikes soggy soils. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. European fan palm is hardy throughout Florida. It can survive temperatures down to 10° F (-12° C). It even survives the occasional snowfall in its native habitat! Propagation: European fan palm is usually propagated from seed. It can also be propagated by dividing clumps or removing suckers, methods that require superhuman effort. I once spent a weekend dividing a clump. The effort left me a sweaty, sore, bloody mess (from the sharp teeth on the leaf stems!) Believe me, seeds are the way to go! Better yet, reasonably priced specimens are readily available from nurseries and discount stores.
Chamaerops humilis is as versatile as it is beautiful! With the leaves trimmed up to show off the trunk, it makes a beautiful specimen plant - a delightful natural sculpture to grace your patio or entryway. Unpruned, they assume an attractive shrubby form. Use one as a screen or plant several side by side to form a barrier. Planted in groupings, they will accent that hard-to-garden, bare corner of your yard.
The European fan palm is excellent in containers and urns. And thanks to its drought resistance and durability to heat it can thrive in harsh urban conditions. This palm is somewhat salt resistant and may be grown near the ocean if given some protection (behind a dune, building, etc.)
Beauty, ruggedness, versatility, cold hardiness and drought resistance add up to make Chamaerops humilis a winner. If that isn't enough, the European fan palm is also fairly fast growing when supplied with adequate moisture and fertilizer.