The Incredible Livistona Chinensis Palm (Chinese Fan Palm)

One of the easiest palms to grow in a variety of climate types would have to be the Livistona Chinensis palm.

If you aren’t familiar with this palm or you have always wanted to grow one, you will find that this is one of the more versatile cold hardy palms out there.

Whether growing outdoors, indoors, or even as a die back perennial, the Chinese Fan palm is ideal for many environments.

Let’s find out more about this incredible palm.

What Is It?

Native to eastern Asia, China, Japan and Taiwan, the Chinese Fan palm is a slow growing, drought tolerant palm.

It is commonly called the Chinese Fan palm or Chinese Fountain palm.

Livistona are a single trunking specimen with glossy emerald green costapalmate fan fronds.

When grown outdoors in their native climates, these palms can get approximately 30 feet in height or taller. When mature they max out around 15-20 feet, with the crown getting about 10-15 feet wide.

The fronds of these palms have leaf tips that droop down in older specimens. This is gives it a unique “fountain” look, hence the common label of Chinese Fountain palm.

Fronds will get up to about 3 feet wide and 6 feet long. Petioles contain spines that smooth out as the palm gets older.

The trunk is grey and smooth seldom retaining older petiole boots. Pruning of old fronds should only be done once they are mostly dead and at the lower part of the crown.

The yellow, cream colored flowers give way to dark blue fruit once ripe and is consumed by birds and other wildlife that disperse the seed.

This has made it an invasive species in many areas where germination rates are high.

Where Will It Grow?

Livistona Chinensis Palm

Where do I begin?

The Chinese Fan palm is a great choice for zones 8 and above in a variety of climate types. They will survive temperatures down to approximately 15F and possibly lower. However, frond damage can be severe at these temps.

They thrive their best in subtropical to tropical areas such as Florida, Hawaii, Bermuda and much of eastern Asia where they are native. They will also thrive in temperate and semi-arid climates with ample water.

In the U.S. you will find many of these palms growing successfully in parts of the southwest, the gulf coast and spreading east toward the Atlantic.

In moderately hot and dry landscapes, regular watering with part to full sun is best. Chinese fan palms will become quite drought tolerant once mature and established.

INDOOR APPLICATIONS:

One of the best features of the Chinese Fan palm is that it makes a great indoor specimen as well!

This is incredibly convenient if you live in a climate much colder than where it will normally survive outdoors year round.

For indoor situations, keep the palm in a bright area away from direct sunlight.

Chinese Fan palms will tolerate a variety of soils as long as it is well draining. Water regularly, but allow the soil to dry out briefly before watering again.

Keep away from drafty areas, such as heat and air vents. This can dry out the palm and damage the fronds.

If humidity levels in your house are at lower levels, you can mist the fronds occasionally to keep them looking their best. For indoors, 50-60% is an ideal humidity range for these palms with temperatures averaging 70-80F.

Since they are slow growing, repotting Chinese Fan palms will not be an ongoing issue. Overall, these palms are quite carefree for indoor use.

GROWING AS A DIE BACK PERENNIAL:

The Chinese Fan palm can make an ideal die back perennial when young before it develops a trunk.

There are a couple of things to consider if you want to try this method.

When growing as a die back perennial, one thing to keep in mind is that the palm will never be able to develop a trunk. The fronds will need to be completely cut back and heavy mulching will be required to keep it protected from severe cold.

In the spring, remove the mulch and the palm should start growing new fronds as the weather warms up!

Folks in areas such as Michigan and Illinois are having success using this as a way to grow the Chinese Fan palm in their garden.

This is an ideal method for anyone that doesn’t mind having a small palm as an understory beneath taller trees.

One drawback to this is that this palm is slow to grow, so it can take toward the end of the summer months for it to start looking satisfactory.

Who Are They For?

Livistona Chinensis Palm Fronds

If you live in zone 8 or above, the Chinese Fan palm is a great one to start with if you are new to growing palms.

They are for anyone who want a maintenance free palm for growing indoors or outdoors to achieve that tropical look and add ornamental value to just about any landscape.

Since the Chinese Fan palm is a slow grower and more medium-sized, this palm is one to definitely consider as a staple for entryways and around pools.

They are also an ideal choice for smaller yards where larger palms may cause a problem

Any Drawbacks?

While fairly easy to grow and maintain, the Chinese Fan palm can be susceptible to Lethal Yellowing Disease in certain tropical regions.

Areas of Florida, the Caribbean and South America are common, but usually only present in open fields and park-like settings. Something to consider if you live in an area where this disease is a regular occurrence with other palms.

When growing indoors, these palms can be subject to the usual risks of developing spider mites and fungus gnats. This can be prevented and maintained with common products like neem oil or a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water.

These methods are effective for killing any larvae left behind by these pests. Changing out old soil or letting the soil dry out a bit can also be a solution to avoid these insects.

The Wrap Up

If you are a beginner at growing palms, the Chinese Fan palm is an excellent choice to start off with.

Their versatility for being a great indoor or outdoor palm along with their tolerance of many types of climate ranges, this palm is definitely worth considering!

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