Chamaerops humilis
Common Name: European fan palm 
Type: Palm or Cycad
Family: Arecaceae
Native Range: Western and central Mediterranean
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 6.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 20.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

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.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Chamaerops humilis, commonly known as 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. Notwithstanding its outdoor growth potential, it typically matures to only 5’ tall when grown indoors in containers. 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. Flowers and fruits are somewhat inconspicuous and not showy. Trunks on mature palms are covered with a dark mat of fibers and old leaf bases.

Var. humilis includes the type strain of the species.

Genus name comes from the Greek words chamai meaning dwarf and rhops meaning a bush.

Specific epithet from Latin means low-growing.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for mealy bugs, scale and spider mites.

Garden Uses

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.