Trachycarpus fortunei
Common Name: windmill palm 
Type: Palm or Cycad
Family: Arecaceae
Native Range: Central and eastern China
Zone: 7 to 10
Height: 8.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: High
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

In a protected location, this windmill palm is considered to be winter hardy to USDA Zone 7. It is not reliably winter hardy in the St. Louis area where it may not survive harsh winters. It is typically grown in organically rich, moderately fertile, evenly moist but well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best performance is in part shade. Site in protected locations that are sheltered from winter winds. Mature plants will usually survive 10 degree F. temperatures in winter (sometime colder). Of the arborescent (trunked) palms, windmill palm has the best winter hardiness. Of the non-arborescent (trunkless) palms, Rhapidophyllum hystrix and Sabal minor have slightly better winter hardiness. Plant crown may need protection (e.g. plastic sheet) when temperatures head toward single digits. Mulch around the base of the plant in winter. Plants may be propagated by seed, but male and female plants are required for seed production to occur.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Trachycarpus fortunei, commonly called windmill palm, is native to subtropical and temperate mountain forests of China where it typically grows to 20-40’ (sometimes to 60’) tall with a solitary trunk densely covered with hair-like fibers from old leaf sheaths. From the top of the trunk, large palmate fan-shaped dark green leaves (to 3’ wide) push outward in all directions on 2-3’ long petioles in a form purportedly resembling a windmill. Leaves are segmented about half way, with the segment tips often drooping. In cultivation in cold winter areas of USDA Zones 6-7, windmill palm will typically grow at most to 8-10’ tall. For a palm, it has excellent winter hardiness. Attractive yellowish flowers in drooping panicles (to 2’ long) bloom in summer. Female flowers (plants are dioecious) give way to dark blue drupes. In China, fibers from the trunks of mature trees are stripped for weaving into a decorative hemp-like rope or for making brooms, mats or cloth. Genus name is from Greek meaning rough (trachy) and fruit (carpus) in probable reference to fruit appearance.

Genus name comes from the Greek words trachys meaning rough and karpos meaning a fruit in reference to the fruit of some species.

Specific epithet honors Robert Fortune (1812-1880), Scottish horticulturist.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Winter hardiness is a problem for the St. Louis area.

Garden Uses

Brings tropical flair to the landscape. Specimen or small groups. Frame an entrance or doorway. Evergreen foliage is unique and attractive in winter. May be grown in large containers overwintered indoors.