How to Grow the California Fan Palm

The California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) can make a striking accent tree in your landscape, especially when the fronds are bare during the winter months. There are several reasons why this palm tree is so popular and sought after by gardeners across the country. The California fan palm makes an excellent shade tree, and its rugged foliage can withstand winds up to 60 miles per hour, making it ideal as a windbreak plant as well.

Palm trees in night view
Palm trees in night view

The Soil

While fan palms are fairly easy to grow, they do have some specific requirements in regard to the soil. The biggest concern with these trees is that they contain a large root system, which means they’ll need plenty of room. It’s also important that their soil drains well and doesn’t stay wet for long periods of time, as the roots can rot if submerged in standing water for extended periods of time.

While fan palms are native to coastal regions in Southern California and Baja, it is possible for them to be grown inland. These trees will not thrive in dry climates where there isn’t enough rainfall or irrigation (watering). They prefer light soils that are rich in sand and loam, but poor soils will work as well.

A good way to improve the fertility of your soil is by adding organic material like compost or manure, which you should mix into the top few inches of dirt before planting your tree. You should also add 1/4 inch gravel or coarse sand on top of the organic matter so it doesn’t wash away when watered.


The next step for a successful planting is to loosen and loosen the top five inches of soil with a rake. Take care not to bruise any tree roots when doing this. Then, use your hands or a garden fork to mix compost, soil, and/or fertilizer in with the loosened dirt from step one. Get these additions mixed in well before laying out the roots in their new home.

Spread them out evenly without pulling too hard on them and make sure they are spread out evenly with enough space between them so that each has room for growth (generally at least six inches of space).

Add more compost or soil over top the roots until it covers at least half of them up but not all of them. Tamp down on the ground gently, just enough to firm everything together. That’s it! You can now water your new palm tree thoroughly and then wait for its leaves to emerge about two weeks after planting.


A California fan palm can grow up to 20ft tall and have a bushy, compact crown. Although the palms are slow-growing, they require very little attention, making them an excellent choice for a larger garden space. They need no pruning other than removing dead fronds.

To make these palms thrive in pots and containers, grow them in moist soil with generous watering and fertilizing of acidic soil until their growth becomes vigorous before transplanting them into their desired location. If planted outdoors, be sure that the trunk is never exposed to surrounding objects. Fertilize every 2 months in spring and fall with a good quality palm fertilizer or use fish emulsion.


Water only when leaves show signs of drooping or edges turn brown. Keep soil evenly moist, but not soggy wet. Use a slow-release fertilizer every two months from spring through fall and twice per year in winter. Prune any dead, diseased, or damaged fronds as soon as possible and fertilize with palm fertilizer.


Best soil
Best soil

Many people often think of palm trees as a carefree plants. But this isn’t always true. Palms require regular fertilizer. There are many different kinds, but one of my favorites is soluble potash fertilizer, which you can purchase at most hardware stores. Be sure to follow the package directions and only use it according to your needs (i.e., once every month during spring and summer months or once every two months during fall and winter).

If the palms get too much fertilizer they will grow too quickly and die. The easiest way to fertilize is by placing the fertilizer around the base of each palm tree. It’s important not to fertilize too close because it could damage roots. Never fertilize in hot weather or when rain has recently fallen because both will cause bacteria growth in moist soil where fertilizer is applied; this could lead to root rot, leaf burn, and a slow decline in health for your tree.

Sunlight Requirements

Sunlight in forest
Sunlight in forest

California fan palms are tolerant of many different environmental conditions, so they can be grown in climates from zone 8 to zone 11. However, because they are semi-arid plants, they require more water than most palm species. This is especially important for California fan palms that live in drier climates. They need full sun but also considerable space for their tall, spindly trunks which can grow up to 25 feet or more without sufficient root room.

The key is providing both sunlight and moisture as well as plenty of time for their roots and leaves enough time to get established before attempting any trimming or other maintenance activities. Also, since these palms grow so tall with such long, thin trunks, it is important to provide them with ample amounts of space. In general, California fan palms thrive in warm climates near a water source where they can receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day and have plenty of room around them to reach their full height.


The common fan palm is a very desirable tree because of its versatility and beauty. The palm needs partial shade, hot summers, and just a little bit of rain or irrigation. They are not suitable for the full sun as this will scorch the tree and make it wilt. It has one main trunk that forks out at about 20-30 feet in height before branching into more narrow fronds which range from 8-10 feet in length.

The fan palms must be trimmed on a regular basis so they do not take over the entire yard by growing too close together. This plant should be watered twice daily during dry seasons when there is little rainfall due to extensive foliage. The tips of the leaves can be browned due to salt burn if it’s being irrigated with salty water.

Brown spots may also appear on the leaves and stems if it gets exposed to fluoride. These spots can usually be avoided if treated with special products or by installing an expensive water filtration system. The best time to buy this tree is late winter and early spring. Try watering it once a week during the summer months.


Fan palms can grow up to 50 feet in height and has a lifespan of 100-120 years. This palm is native to Central America, South America, and Southern California. If you plan on growing it indoors, keep the plant at least six feet away from windows for optimal light exposure. Be sure not t water the plant, this will cause rot that could kill your plant. The easiest way to propagate a fan palm is by dividing the current palm with shears into smaller pieces and repotting them into bigger pots.

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