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A Floridata Plant Profile #510 Livistona chinensis
Common Names: Chinese fan palm, Chinese fountain palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
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Palm  Drought Tolerant Can be Grown in Containers Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage

Chinese fan palm
This Chinese fan palm is actually a clump of three plants clustered together. Jack planted them 20 years ago beneath a live oak tree. They may be the dwarf Livistona chinensis subglobosa or perhaps they are stunted from growing in such close proximity to one another. Either way they make a beautiful backdrop for adjacent azaleas and sasanqua camellias.
In my opinion, immature specimens of this fan palm are as attractive as the mature plants. Evidently others share this view. It is becoming common to see young Chinese fan palms used in masses as ground cover in both outdoor landscapes and interiorscapes - especially in shopping malls. A dwarf variety, Livistona chinensis subglobosa, is available and is used just for that purpose.

This is not to say that mature specimens are unattractive, just the opposite. The large bright green fan-shaped leaves are deeply divided into about 75 segments that droop downward to give a gracefully fountain-like aspect inspiring its common name Chinese fountain palm. These leaves may grow up to 5 ft (1.5 m) in diameter and form a dense canopy on a solitary brown trunk that bleaches to gray on older specimens. Trunks grow to about 18 in (46 cm) in diameter and are wider at the base. This palm is occasionally seen in Florida, slowly growing to a height of 30 ft (9 m). This Livistona can grow to 50 feet in its native habitat but is more commonly seen at heights of from 15 to 25 ft (4.6-7.6 m). Flowers are borne on 6 ft (1.8 m) inflorescences hidden within the crown and are followed by oval or round seeds that turn dark blue to blue-gray when ripe.

Livistona chinensis, the Chinese fan palm, is native to southern Japan, Taiwan and several islands in the South China Sea. This palm is increasingly popular for use in landscapes in Florida, California and other warm temperate climates.

Chinese fan palm
This mature Chinese fan palm is growing in full sun which results in less "stretching" of the leaf stems creating a more compact crown.

Chinese fan palm is not particular about soil. Fertilize twice a year in spring and summer with a good quality slow release fertilizer that contains micro-nutrients.
Light: Likes direct sun and bright situations. Young plants look better when grown in part shade.
Moisture: This palm forms a long tap root and can survive extended periods of drought. Provide adequate moisture for more rapid growth.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9-11. This palm may be hardier than Zone 8 where I have grown several for more than 20 years. Sheltered under live oak trees, these specimens routinely survive temperatures in the mid twenties with no ill effect. They have survived temperatures as low as 15 degrees which burnt the leaves but they recovered and all are still flourishing! They also seem resistant to the fungus diseases that attacked other "semi-hardy" palms after sustaining cold damage.
Propagation:By seed. If kept warm they will germinate in about 2 months time.

Small specimens look great in pots and planters. Chinese fan palm is a good palm for small yards. Young palms work great as understory plants - I plant them among camellias and gingers under large live oak trees. They are tough enough to survive hot city conditions and can be used in median plantings and along freeways with limited care.

Readily available, this is an inexpensive and easy to grow medium-sized cold-hardy palm that works well in many situations.

Jack Scheper 6/20/98; updated 1/18/09

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