The Q&A Archives: Fan Palm

Question: I was told mine was a Mediterrean Fan Palm. It didn't have a tag on it (happens a lot at Home Depot). It has triangular shaped leaves (no hair) and appears to be sprouting a new branch at the bottom (European? Fan Palm). This is the second one I've purchased. It looks very healthy. I would like to know if planting it in ground that has a lot of clay is troublesome? I dug out the clay and replaced it with good organic potting soil that feeds plants for three months. We've had too much rain lately. My previous plant is still alive but all the leaves have some yellow on them so I know it's slowly dying. Should I put some gravel in the bottom to make certain the new plant has good drainage? If so, how many inches should I have? What kind of fertilizer should I put on my older plant (I've taken it out of the ground and put it in a pot)? Any other recommendations for getting this plant to grow and the other one to get well will be greatly appreciated.

Answer: The Mediterranean fan palm trees form clumps than can grow up to 15' in height. The triangular, fan-shaped leaves grow to about 20-24" long by 24" wide. They are deeply divided into multiple segments that are themselves split at the tip and they are supported on 3-4' stems. Cold hardy California Fan palm trees are 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' in width.

Pruning palms is a natural part of the total care package for palms. If the frond is yellow, brown or broken prune it off. Remove loose petioles or boots by hand. If they don't pull off, leave them on. Remove flower and fruit stalks. The formation of fruit and seed takes strength away from the palm unnecessarily. When mature, fruits may provide food for pests such as rodents and birds. Some clumping palms may need to be thinned out or new growth pruned off if the palm is getting too big for the space in which it is growing.

This palm will adapt to growing in clay soil so I don't think you'll need gravel at the bottom of the planting hole. After planting, water deeply and then water once or twice a week (depending upon weather). Apply water slowly so it trickles down and wets the entire root mass.

Best wishes with your palms!

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