Mastering the Art of Growing Washingtonia filifera (California Fan Palm)

California fan palms are popular for their low-maintenance landscaping due to their tall appearance, large rounded fronds and fan-shaped leaves. These palm trees reach up to 80 feet in height. The old fan-shaped leaves turn brown each year and droop. This creates a skirt that wraps around the thick trunk. Each frond on mature trees can be up to six feet wide. The fronds are heavily toothed, and the tips are covered in fiberous threads. Each leaf stalk is up to five feet long and covered in curved thorns.

Common NameCalifornia Fan Palm, Desert Fan Palm
Washingtonia filifera
Family Arecaceae
Plant TypeTree
Mature size 30 to 80 ft. high, 15 ft. across
Sun ExposureFull, Partial
Soil type Sandy, Loamy and Moist, but well-drained
Soil pHAcidic, Neutral, Alkaline
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 8-11 in the USA
Native AreaNorth America
California Fan Palm Care
The hardy desert tree is easy to maintain and care for. These trees thrive in arid climates, but can also withstand the occasional frost or snow. California fan palms are cold-weather-tolerant, but they do best with full sun, rich soil, and well-draining conditions.

The tree will look neat and tidy if you remove dead fronds. The tree should be sprayed down periodically to remove insects and dust. The palm is not usually affected by pests or diseases, but scale insects, spider mites or diamond scales can sometimes become a problem.
California Fan Palm Trees with large, fan-shaped fronds on a blue sky
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California fan palms prefer full sun for at least six to eight hours each day. Although they can tolerate partial shade, they do better with lots of sun.

This tree is hardy and can grow in many soil types. It also tolerates salt, which makes it an excellent choice for coastal regions. It prefers soils that are rich and well-draining. California fan palms prefer neutral to acidic pH soil levels, but can tolerate alkaline soil.

California fan palms are drought-tolerant plants once they have been established. Water a newly-planted tree until it produces new growth. Watering the tree every week with about an inch will keep it healthy. Once this tree is established, it does not require regular watering. It will continue to thrive if you give it a deep, occasional watering.

Temperature and Humidity
California fan palms thrive in semi-dry to dry climates. California palms are often not thought of as plants that grow in the north, but they can tolerate frost and snow. It can survive temperatures down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and is suitable for USDA hardiness zone 8-11.

These trees should be fertilized with palm-specific fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer to feed them during the growing season.

Every year, the old palm fronds turn brown and wilt. This creates a shaggy circle around the trunk. The skirted effect, which is caused by the dead fronds remaining on the tree, can add interest. It’s best to plant the tree far away from common areas and walkways, as falling leaves are a danger. The brown fronds must be removed yearly in order to keep the trunk clean and open.

California Fan Palm Seeds: How to grow them
California Fan Palm does not produce suckers, unlike other palm tree varieties. Growing this palm tree is best done from seeds. The seeds are easy to sprout, so this is a good option for propagation.

Each seed should be planted in its own pot, filled with rich, sandy soil that drains well. Cover the seed with very little soil.
Keep the pots between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep the soil moist. In four to six weeks, you should see germination.
Keep your seedlings in an area that is well-lit. Regularly water the seedlings until they are large enough to plant in your garden.
These seeds can also be planted directly into the garden in places with consistent warm temperatures.

Potting and repotting California Fan palm
Young trees should be kept in containers at first. Choose a large pot for growth. They prefer loose roots. They will eventually become stunted if they are in a pot. Then, you will need to plant them in the ground for more growth.

California fan palms are hardy and can survive temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. They do not need any extra care to survive winter if they are grown in their appropriate zones. If you have trees that are on the northernmost edge of their zones, the best way to protect them from the weather is by bringing potted plants indoors or mulching the base of the trees.

California Fan palm blooming
The California fan palm produces flowers in summer, despite its fan-shaped leaves and regal appearance. The flowers are tiny, white and creamy, and they are held up by eight to ten-foot long stalks. Later, these little flowers produce small black fruits. Fruits are small and sparse but edible.

It is not necessary to cut the flower stalks, but it can be done in order to prevent the formation of seeds and subsequent seedlings. For the palms to flower, provide them with plenty of water, sunlight and fertilizer.

California Fan Palm: Common Problems
California fan palms are hardy and pest-resistant trees that can tolerate a variety of soil conditions, as well as hot, dry climates. The California fan palm does not present many problems to a gardener. Even very hardy plants may encounter problems.

Yellowing or Browning leaves
A yellowing or browning of the leaves could be an indication of disease. Diamond scale is one of the causes. Diamond scale can be identified if you find tiny black spots, or shiny, diamond-shaped fungi on the leaves. If you want to treat it, make sure that your palms are getting all the nutrients and water they need. Make sure that the soil drains properly. This will ensure that the palm has enough health to fight off the fungus infection. By removing old leaves, you can keep your tree healthy. Use an anti-fungal to treat infected living fronds.

Leafs that are discolored, wilting and falling off
Overwatering is evident by pale, discolored and soggy fronds which wilt, or even fall from the tree. Hold back some water if this happens. Sand can be used as a soil additive to increase drainage.

How tall are California fan palms?
The palms’ height can range from 30 to 80 feet, depending on the environment and space available.

California Fan Palms Native Area
California fan palms originate from North America. The California fan palms are common throughout Mexico and in the southwest United States.

California Fan Palms Produce Fruit?
After flowering, the California fan palm produces black, small fruits that look like berries. The seeds are needed to reproduce these tall palms. Fruits can be used to make jelly, wine and other products. However, the trees do not produce many fruits.