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Also called the Mediterranean dwarf palm or Mediterranean Fan palm or chamaerops humilis in scientific terms, the European Fan palm is a super cold-hardy palm tree species. It can withstand low temperatures down to 10°F, which is why it’s often used to create a tropical feel in temperate landscapes. It also thrives as a houseplant, adapting seamlessly to indoor conditions.
European Fan palms can grow as small trees with one trunk or as shrubs with several trunks. The silver-green to light blue-green, fan-shaped fronds extend approximately 2 feet wide and long and feature 10-20 narrow, long leaflets.
In the spring, groups of light yellow flowers bloom, which are followed by small round orange, yellow, or brown fruits. European Fan palms are ideally planted in the spring and they grow very slowly.
Our Bottom Line Upfront:
The plant grows very slowly and reaches about 8 to 15 feet high and 6 to 10 feet wide. As one of the hardiest palm species around, it can withstand extreme cold and heat and makes an elegant accent for various homes, especially those with a Mediterranean or Spanish flair.
Understanding the European Fan Palm
The European Fan palm, aka Mediterranean Fan palm or Mediterranean dwarf palm, is a clumping, slow-growing palm tree that grows up to 8-15 feet tall and expands 6-10 feet wide. It’s the only palm that originates in Europe and is more resilient than many other palm trees.
This palm’s fine-textured fronds make it stand out from the rest of the plants in a landscape. The shade of leaves ranges from magnificent silver to charming light eco-friendly, while the fronds grow on short, curved trunks.
Tiny bunches of light yellow flowers bloom during the spring, followed by small inconspicuous fruits. Whether young or mature, the European Fan palm is a stunning sculptural feature in a patio area pot or yard.
The European Fan palm is a very small, silver-green to light blue-green palm that grows with one trunk or multiple trunks. It doesn’t grow in a small area and makes a stylish accent for different kinds of homes, especially those featuring a Mediterranean or Spanish style.
This palm typically has an environment-friendly color with a silvery tone, but no two European Fan palms have the same form or shade. Each stem is lined with sharp teeth (“spines”), which is why the palm should be grown away from areas that endure heavy foot traffic.
Due to the European Fan palm’s tolerance for heat and drought, it can grow well in tough conditions. While it grows best in full sunlight, it can grow well in partial shade with a bit of sunlight.
The European Fan palm also thrives in cold environments and can withstand sub-zero temperatures as well. It has a fiber husk on the trunk that guards against winter damage. In fact, it’s not uncommon for this palm to withstand low temperatures down to 15°C without suffering damage.
European Fan Palm Species
The European Fan palm is available in several varieties, including:
- Chamaerops humilis “Stella” is a cultivar that produces silvery foliage.
- Chamaerops humilis “Vulcano” is a more compact cultivar than the main plant species and is characterized by a lack of spines.
- Chamaerops humilis var. argentea is also called the Atlas mountain plant and has silvery-green leaves.
Growing the European Fan Palm Outdoors
The European Fan palm grows best in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11. In these zones, you can grow the palm outdoors in partial shade to full sun. The plant needs at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight every day. It also needs well-drained soil with a pH range of 6.1 to 7.8.
You should regularly water newly planted palms for up to 12 months. Between watering sessions, allow the plants to dry out. Once these palms are established, they can tolerate drought. In the spring, make sure to apply a slow-release fertilizer specifically formulated for palm trees like Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub Fertilizer.
If you’re growing several European Fan palms, space them 3 to 4 feet away from your house and 3 to 4 feet apart. Plant them in areas that are a safe distance away from high traffic areas like driveways and sidewalks. These palms have sharp spines on the leaves and stems, which can be very painful if you happen to brush against them.
Growing the European Fan Palm Indoors
The European Fan palm grows very slowly, so it’s well-adapted to growing in pots. With a little bit of care, you can grow them as houseplants indoors.
You should grow these palms in a sunlit room and let them dry out between watering periods. If your potting soil doesn’t already have a fertilizer, apply a slow-release variety in the spring. These days, some potting soils come with a slow-release fertilizer.
Thanks to the slow-growing nature of the European Fan palm, you’ll simply need to repot this palm every 2 to 3 years. After your last frost in the spring, you can move this palm tree outdoors. Prior to the first frost in the fall, you can take it back inside.
Growing the European Fan Palm from Seed
If you’re patient enough, you can grow the European Fan palm from seed. Sow your seeds after the last frost during the spring, either indoors or outdoors in USDA hardiness zone 8 or over.
Before planting, give the seeds an overnight soak to soften the tough seed coat. Sow them ¼-inch deep in moist conditions. The seeds will germinate within 2 to 3 weeks.
Uses of the European Fan Palm
The European Fan palm is ideally planted around a garden or yard but truly stands out as an attraction. The best part of this palm tree is that it doesn’t grow as tall as its cousins, so it’s an amazing option to grow in your back or front yard.
Since this palm tree grows sucklings, these give it volume and you don’t need smaller-sized plants to adorn the plant. Another way to beautify your landscape is to use a mulch bed that stands out from your back or front yard.
Placing a compost bed is a better way to not only enhance your landscape, but also keep various weeds and pests away from your yard.
Caring for the European Fan Palm
The European Fan palm is fairly easy to look after. It’s not susceptible to any serious disease or pest problems. However, beware of common pests like spider mites, mealy bugs, and scales. Treat pest problems on the spot with a pesticide-based soap. Apart from that, the European Fan palm will require regular feeding and watering.
When planting many European Fan palms outside, make sure to space them a minimum of 4 feet apart. Pick a spot that’s a safe distance away from heavy foot traffic since these trees have spines all over their stem that can hurt you.
The European Fan palm doesn’t need much pruning if you allow it to grow naturally with multiple trunks. Simply remove any damaged, diseased, or dead fronds when they appear. However, if you wish to train this palm to have one trunk, you’ll need to regularly get rid of the suckers that form at the bottom of the major trunk.
Moreover, European Fan palms flourish when growing in pots, whether they’re kept outdoors in a garden or inside as houseplants. In colder climates, they can stay outdoors during the warmer months and be kept indoors during the winter.
When growing the European Fan palm in a container, make sure that its soil dries out completely between watering sessions so their roots aren’t waterlogged.
The European Fan palm can do well in any soil. It can adapt to various textures (loam, sand, or clay) and pH values (slightly alkaline to slightly acidic). However, the soil should be well-drained no matter its texture.
Until your European Fan palm establishes its roots, you should water it to regulate its soil moisture. In severe heat, you might need to water it weekly or more frequently to help establish its roots.
When mature, the European Fan palm is fairly drought-resistant. Let the soil dry out about 2 inches deep between watering sessions and then water the palm deeply. However, make sure that the soil is not waterlogged as this may cause root rot.
The European Fan palm responds well to regular fertilization throughout the growing period. Be sure to apply a slow-release fertilizer formulated for fertilizers such as the Milorganite Slow-Release 6-4-0 All-purpose Organic Fertilizer, from the spring to the fall.
The European Fan palm flourishes in full sun conditions, but it can withstand partial shade, too. Pick a location where the palm will receive a minimum of 4-6 hours of direct sunshine on most days. Excessive shade can make the palm get leggy.
Temperature and Humidity
The European Fan palm grows best on warm, sunny days as well as cool nights. As one of the hardiest palm species around, they can tolerate both extreme cold and heat.
Moreover, the palm tree thrives in moderate humidity levels outdoors, but they might need additional humidity when kept indoors. You can increase humidity around the palm by placing the pot on a tray containing water and pebbles.
European Fan Palm Issues and Solutions
Brown leaf tips could be a symptom of an accumulation of chlorine or fluoride, dry air, or dry soil. Palms can’t withstand fluoride, chlorine, and other chemicals typically present in tap water, in addition to salts in softened water. Only use filtered or distilled water to prevent the accumulation of chemicals.
Prune off brown, old fronds. Outer fronds eventually wither and go brown. Use sharp, clean pruning shears to chop old fronds off the trunk.
Dust off fronds. Take your European Fan palm outside to a shade at least once per year and rinse it off with warm water to remove dust. If the palm is too large to move, use a damp, soft cloth to gently wipe the fronds off.
Remember, the trunks have sharp spines all over. While handling your European Fan palm, it’s best to wear thick gloves.
Get rid of bugs. Peaty potting soils that are moist can attract fungus gnats. Removing them can be as easy as letting the soil dry out.
Winter care. Decrease watering during the cold winter period when growth stalls due to decreased levels of light. Also fertilize only in the spring.
Dry air indoors is common during the winter and can attract spider mites. At first, you’ll notice fine webs between the palm fronds and stems. Treat any spider mite infestation immediately.
Yellow stripes on leaflets are caused by a lack of potassium or magnesium. Using a palm fertilizer that includes micronutrients can quickly revive your houseplant. Adding some Epsom salt to water will give your palm a shot of magnesium.
Answer: The European Fan palm is a clustering, slow-growing palm that grows 8-15 feet high and expands 6-10 feet wide. It’s the only palm tree that originates in Europe and is more resilient than most palm species.
Answer: When mature, the European Fan palm is relatively drought-resistant. Let the soil dry out about 2 inches down in between watering sessions, and then water the palm deeply. However, make sure that the soil isn’t waterlogged because this could cause root rot.
Answer: Since the European Fan palm is originally from Europe, it flourishes in temperate regions lacking a tropical climate, both indoors and outdoors.
Answer: The European Fan palm grows very slowly at around 5 inches annually, and reaches only 10-15 feet when mature. To reach 7 feet tall, it may take 10-15 years. The palm will grow slightly faster in full sun conditions instead of partial shade.
Answer: No, fan palms don’t have deep roots. Their roots penetrate almost 36 inches of surface soil and are spread all over like a mat. If the palm is growing in shallow soil, you can even notice its roots. Fan palms prefer sandy soil, making it easy to uproot them.
The Bottom Line on European Fan Palm
The European Fan palm, aka Mediterranean dwarf palm or Mediterranean Fan palm, naturally grows along the Atlantic coast of Portugal and Spain, making it a coastal palm. It’s a shrub-like palm with multiple trunks growing from the same base.
The European Fan palm grows very slowly but its growth rate will vary widely depending on the type of soil, temperature, sunlight, and so on. Before being shipped, some leaves are usually trimmed to reduce travel stress and transpiration.
The European Fan palm is easy to grow and take care of. They add an amazing accent to any patio, garden, or outdoor space. In cooler regions, potted palms can be moved indoors during the winter. They may require heavy mulching or indoor protection during the winter.
While European Fan palms are very easy to take care of, they’re susceptible to a few diseases and pests if they aren’t attended to. Common pests like scales and mites are certainly something to keep an eye out for while your palm grows.