Chamaerops humilis, commonly known as the Mediterranean fan palm or European fan palm, is a single- to multiple-trunked evergreen palm with an upright irregular form that typically matures as a shrub or small tree growing to 6-15’ tall with a spread to 6-20’ wide. It often suckers from the base of the main trunk to form a clump of 8-10 trunks, but it can be easily trained to grow with a single trunk by regularly removing the suckers. It is the northernmost naturally occurring palm in the world, and the only palm that is native to Europe. It is native to rocky hills and mountains of the western Mediterranean Basin from Africa’s Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Algeria and Tunesia to Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.
Huge, distinctive, triangular, fine-textured, palmate-compound leaves are ornamentally attractive. Each leaf (to 24” long and as wide) has 10-20 narrow, finger-like, deeply divided leaflets which are arranged in the shape of a fan at the end of a spiny petiole (leaf stalk to 3-4’ long), hence the common name of fan palm. Leaves are variable in both color (light blue green to silver green) and shape (shrub to small tree). Bright yellow flowers bloom in spring, but are typically hidden from view behind the leaf stems. Flowers are followed by dark yellow, orange or brown fruits that ripen in fall. Trunks on mature palms are covered with a dark mat of fibers and old leaf bases.
Beautiful specimen plant. Unpruned, it grows in a nice shrubby form. Pruned (suckers removed), it will grow in single trunk tree form. Barrier. Group accent for corner of the landscape. Containers for patio, deck or foundation areas. May be grown indoors as a houseplant.
Winter hardy to USDA Zones 8b-11. Better winter hardiness than most other palms (tolerates brief temperature dips to 15-20 degrees F. in winter). Easily grown in rich, moist, well-drained soils. Best growth occurs in Mediterranean-type climates. Prefers a bright sunny location, but tolerates part shade. Loses compact shape in too much shade. Best with consistent moisture, but has some drought tolerance once established. Avoid overly moist soils. This palm is often propagated by seed. Dividing clumps or removing suckers can be difficult. Specimens purchased in pots from nurseries are often reasonably priced. In colder areas where plants are not winter hardy, they may be grown in containers which can be brought indoors and overwintered in cool, bright sunny locations.
- Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours.
- Warm stratify the seeds for 120 days.
- Sow the seeds ¼ inch deep. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. The germination tends to be slow. The germination is faster in warmer temperatures.