If you’re looking to add palm trees to your landscape without going broke, the Mexican Fan palm, aka Washingtonia Robusta, is one of the best choices you will make.
This low-cost, drought-tolerant, and versatile palm tree has been extremely popular in many yards and commercial areas for decades.
From Florida to California and many areas in between, Mexican Fan palm trees have proven to be one of the most adaptable palms out there.
They can thrive in a variety of climates. Some might even say it’s “weedy” with how easily the seeds sprout.
Let’s find out why Mexican Fan palms are so popular and if you should consider growing one of these cold hardy palm trees for yourself.
- Origin and Hybrids: Native to dry regions of Mexico and California. Hybridized with California Fan Palm to create a more cold-resistant “Filibusta” variant
- Height and Structure: Grows up to 100 feet, ideal for tall landscape elements.
- Adaptability: Tolerates various soil types and weather conditions, including low temperatures and humidity.
- Low Maintenance: Requires minimal upkeep once established, pest-resistant.
- Key Features:
- Tall, Slender Trunk: Up to 100 feet tall with a light gray, uniform appearance.
- Palmate Leaves: Fan-shaped, vibrant green leaves form a dense canopy, creating a tropical look.
- Heat Resistance: Ideal for hot, dry climates like Southern California and Arizona.
- Pricing: Ranges from $100 for young trees to several hundred dollars for mature ones. Grows about 3 feet per year.
- Pros and Cons:
- Pros: Architectural appeal, heat, and cold resistance, low maintenance.
- Cons: May be too tall for small yards, can be messy with falling leaves and seeds, invasive in some areas.
- Alternatives: Mediterranean Fan Palm, Blue Hesper Palm, Windmill Palm, Sabal Palm.
- Personal Experience: Keep in pots for size management. Easy for beginners. Will suffer from prolonged soggy conditions.
- Growing from Seed: Easy to find and germinate, not picky about soil type. Seedlings can become invasive if not cleaned up.
- Wrap-Up: A worthwhile investment for easy and inexpensive landscaping, though size and cleanup considerations are something to think about.
What is a Mexican Fan Palm?
The Mexican Fan palm, scientifically known as Washingtonia Robusta, is a slender, tall palm tree that is native to the desert regions of Mexico and California.
This palm tree has a simple yet unique and recognizable presence making it a distinctive feature in any landscape.
You will probably recognize these palms from TV shows set in Southern California as the tall, skinny palms lining the city streets.
It boasts a tall, slender trunk and a robust crown of palmate leaves.
Where Is the Mexican Fan Palm Native?
Mexican Fan palms originated from the dry, desert regions of Mexico and California, allowing them to develop a strong tolerance for prolonged dry heat and drought.
Today, horticulturists worldwide grow and hybridize it with its sibling the California Fan Palm (Washingtonia Filifera), increasing its versatility and resistance to pests.
This has created a hybridized version of the two called the “Filibusta”, taking traits from both palms.
Top Benefits of Mexican Fan Palms
- Height, Structure, and Growth Rate: One of the significant benefits of Mexican Fan palms is their height. The Mexican Fan palm grows up to 100 feet, making it a perfect choice for landscapes requiring a tall focal point. Grows FAST at about 3 feet per year.
- Adaptability: Mexican Fan palms grow in many types of soil types and weather conditions. It can withstand temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit (possibly lower) and thrive in dry and humid climates preferably in full sun. Compared to the California Fan palm, the Mexican Fan palm performs better in higher humidity but is less cold tolerant.
- Low Maintenance: Once established, Mexican Fan palms require little to no maintenance. It’s also resistant to most pests, ensuring a healthy and vibrant presence. Full sun, good drainage, and some minor upkeep and trimming will keep your Mexican Fan palm looking happy and healthy. Perfect if you want a “hands-off” palm that requires little maintenance.
Best Features of the Mexican Fan Palm
There are many unique traits of the Mexican Fan palm that make this tree recognizable.
Tall, Slender Trunk
The slender, light gray trunks on Mexican Fan palms can grow up to 100 feet tall while maintaining a slender, uniform look.
This feature creates a strong visual impact that can be seen for several miles in any direction.
The fan-shaped leaves of the Mexican Fan palm tree give it its common name.
These large, vibrant green leaves create a nice dense canopy, providing some shade and adding a tropical look, especially during light breezes.
As the fronds die off they create a dense skirt at the base of the crown commonly called the “petticoat”.
While unique in appearance, the dead fronds can create a fire hazard during hot dry periods, so you may want to keep your palm trimmed up.
Being a native of the desert, this palm can withstand high temperatures and prolonged dry conditions, making it an excellent choice for folks living in the desert southwest of the U.S.
You will find Mexican Fan palms all over Southern California, Southern Nevada, and lower elevations of Arizona where dry conditions can be torture.
Mexican Fan Palm Pricing
The price of a Mexican Fan palm can vary depending on the size, age and location of the tree.
Generally, expect to pay up to $100 for young Mexican Fan palms, on up to several hundred dollars for a mature specimen.
Since these palms are fast to germinate and grow, I mostly start them from seed to save some money. Plus it’s a fun process! I talk more about this a little later.
The Mexican Fan palm grows about 3 feet per year in ideal conditions, so if you decide to start one from seed, you can have a nearly 10-foot tall tree within a few years!
Mexican Fan Palm Pros
- Vertical Appeal: It brings an architectural element to your landscape making for an appealing landmark!
- Heat and Cold Resistance: It can withstand a wide range of temperatures and conditions, from cold & wet to dry & hot.
- Low Maintenance: Once established, it requires very little care.
Mexican Fan Palm Cons
- Size: Due to its height, it may not be suitable for small yards.
- Litter: It can produce a lot of litter from falling leaves and seeds.
- Weedy: These palms are considered an invasive species in some areas due to it’s ease of growth.
Mexican Fan Palm Alternatives
Here are a few alternatives to the Mexican Fan palm tree that you may want to consider if living in hardiness zone 8+:
My Experience Growing Mexican Fan Palms
I’ve personally grown quite a few Mexican Fan palms over the years.
The first few died when I was a kid as a result of not knowing how to properly care for them.
Surprisingly enough, had I left them alone, they probably would have survived!
Currently, I have several seedlings that I’ve personally started from seed and a Robusta that has been pot-grown for over 25 years!
TIP: If you want to keep your Mexican Fan palm tree small, keep it in a pot, slowly increasing the size over the following years. These palms work quite well as a potted palm tree and can also be protected indoors through the winter in a well-lit area.
Growing Mexican Fan Palms From Seed
I prefer to grow Mexican Fan palms from seed instead of purchasing one for three reasons:
- Easily available
- Easy to germinate
Mexican Fan palm seeds are easy to find and collect, plus they are a breeze to start.
During colder months you can start these seeds in a plastic ziploc back with some lightly moistened peat moss and perlite.
Keep the bag in a warm area where you should see some roots sprouting in a few weeks!
If you are in a warm climate or want to start these seeds during the warm season, throw a few seeds in a pot with sunlight and lightly moistened soil. You will have seedlings in no time!
Mexican Fan palm seeds need little maintenance to start.
If you are a beginner with palms and you want something easy to start and grow with little effort, then Mexican Fan palms are a perfect starting point.
The Wrap-Up: Should You Buy a Mexican Fan Palm?
Considering its unique features, benefits, and my personal experience with Mexican Fan palms, it is a worthwhile investment if you’re looking to add an easy and inexpensive collection of palm trees to your yard.
Keep in mind that it’s essential to consider the size of your landscape and your willingness to manage clean-up from falling fronds and seeds. They can get messy!
If these factors aren’t an issue, the Mexican Fan Palm tree will bring years of tropicalness to your yard!