Care for a Chinese Fan Palm

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Livistona chinensis, commonly referred to as the Chinese fan palm or fountain palm, features fan-shaped, bright green leaves that grow up to five feet in diameter and cascade downward. Originating in Japan, Taiwan and islands in the South China Sea, the Chinese fan palm is frequently grown in Florida and California, where the climate provides the warm temperatures necessary for successful palm tree growth. Although often reaching heights of 50 feet in its native environment, when grown in gardens, it typically grows only 15 to 25 feet tall.

Growing Conditions

  • In USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11, Chinese fan palms perform well outdoors. Choose a spot for the Chinese fan palm that receives bright, direct sunlight. This palm will also tolerate partial shade, and young trees often perform better if slightly shaded. The Chinese fan palm tolerates most soil types, including clay, loam and sand, but requires well-drained soil. If you're planting multiple trees in a yard, space the plants at least 10 feet apart. This will allow room for growth while still creating a closed canopy.

    Chinese fan palms often tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Planting under larger trees may help protect the palms during especially cold weather in winter months. Providing a layer of mulch around the trunk will also help protect the tree.

    In cooler climates, grow the Chinese fan palm indoors in a container and place it in bright light. Make sure the pot has a hole in the bottom for drainage and that it is large enough to allow the roots to grow. Container-grown palms will enjoy being set outside for the summer. Although sometimes tolerant of cold temperatures, the palm will perform best if brought inside before the first frost.

Watering and Fertilizing

  • Although Chinese fan palms produce a long taproot that allows them to survive excessively dry periods, keeping the soil evenly moist encourages rapid growth. Feed Chinese fan palms with a slow-release fertilizer in the early spring and again in the summer.

Pests and Disease

  • The Chinese fan palm has few problems with pests. If signs of pests appear, apply horticultural oils or sprays to the tree. Always follow the directions on the product to prevent damage to the tree.

    As with many palms, the Chinese fan palm is susceptible to lethal yellowing disease. The planthopper insect that feeds on the sap of palm trees spreads this bacterial disease. If your tree prematurely drops its fruit and the bottom leaves begin to turn yellow, it may be infected. An antibiotic injection must be applied to the trunk to fight this disease.

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