Common Names: windmill palm, Chusan palm, Chinese windmill palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
Palm Drought Tolerant Easy to grow - great for beginners! Tolerant
of Shade and Low Light Conditions Can be Grown in Containers Has
evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage
This Chinese fan palm is growing in partial shade and is well
watered and fed giving it a luxuriant full crown.
Windmill palm is one of the most cold hardy palms available. It is
beautifully compact and grows to heights of 20-40 ft (6.1-12.2 m).
Windmill palm has a rather slender single stem that is 8-10 in
(20-25 cm) in diameter and is typically a bit narrower at the base
than at the top. Trunks are usually covered with a loose mat of
coarse gray or brown fiber. In older individuals the fiber sloughs
away to reveal a smooth ringed surface. Chusan palm, as it is also
commonly called, has light to dark green palmate leaves that are
lighter, almost silvery (glaucous), on the underside. They are held
on thin 3 ft (0.9 m) flattened stems that are finely toothed along
both edges. Leaves are circular, about 3 ft (0.9 m) in diameter and
segmented about halfway. They are flat with leaf segment tips held
stiffly, but occasionally you will see individuals with droopy tips.
Leaves are arranged into a symmetrical crown that is about 8-10 ft
(2.5-3 m) wide. Specimens grown in full sun and/or under poor
conditions may have much smaller, more compact crowns.
Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants (so this
palm is said to be dioecious). They are densely arranged on 2-3 ft
(0.6-0.9 m) long branched stalks called an inflorescence. The
windmill palm's bright yellow inflorescence erupts from a packetlike
bud in late winter and early spring and is held within the crown. On
female plants the flowers are followed in late summer by round or
oblong blue fruits that are about 1/2 in (1.3 cm) in diameter.
fan palm inflorescence
This Chinese fan palm inflorescence (flower bud) is just beginning
Chinese fan palm is native to temperate and subtropical mountainous
areas of Asia including southeastern China, Taiwan and the Chusan
Islands. It is commonly grown as a landscape specimen in central and
northern Florida, the southeastern U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts,
and in mild areas along the west coast. It has been sighted in
northerly latitudes from Charlotte, North Carolina to Atlanta,
Georgia to Vancouver, British Columbia. This picture perfect hardy
palm is an internationalist who decorates postcards from Lake Como
in Italy, the southern coasts of the British Isles and the Crimean
Windmill palm does best in well drained soils with above average
fertility but it will survive in almost anything except perpetually
soggy conditions. It is moderately salt tolerant and can be planted
behind the first line dunes or against a structure that will shield
it from direct exposure to sea breezes.
Light: Partial shade is best.
Moisture: Adequate moisture makes for rapid growth and best
appearance but it is amazingly drought tolerant as well (although
plants will appear stunted and growth rate dramatically slowed if
regular watering is withheld).
Hardiness: USDA Zones 7B-10. This is a hardy palm and can withstand
subfreezing temperatures. In its native habitat, this tough palm is
sometimes subjected to a cover of snow and ice. Note that this plant
should be planted in sheltered sites when grown in Zone 7. It is not
recommended for South Florida.
Propagation: Windmill palm seeds will germinate in 8 to 12 weeks
without a lot of fuss.
mature windmill palms behind Florida's hostoric capitol building
A quartet of oldster windmill palms guards the west portico of
Florida's historic capitol building in Tallahassee. Note the
supports needed by some to maintain their posture.
This palm makes a great accent which fits well into small areas like
courtyards and entries. It is a tough plant and survives in hot
urban landscapes and even thrives there if watered and fed. Chusan
palm is perfect for containers if care is taken that they are well
drained. It is very attractive planted in groves and groupings
especially when plants of different heights are staggered in
irregular patterns (plant the tallest palms in center of the groups
and shorter ones at the edges).
This Trachycarpus wagneranus grows at Floridune. It was planted ten
years ago as a seedling and it has since achieved an overall height
of six feet. This species closely resembles T. fortunei but seems to
grow slower - nearby T. fortunei palms are twice this height.
Chinese windmill palm is fast growing (if cared for), inexpensive
and readily available. There are about six species in the genus
Trachycarpus of which T. fortunei is the most familiar and most
often seen. However it appears that the windmill palms offered by
retail garden stores probably represent several different species
and hybrids among these species. I grow about two dozen of these
that I've purchased from various outlets. They show marked
variability in form, hardiness, and growth rate.
T. martianus has a more slender trunk than windmill palm (T.
fortunei) and grows slightly taller. Leaves are held more erect and
the crown is looser and more open. It is also seems to be less hardy
(I lost two of these to freezes in the past couple of years while my
other Trachycarpus species were unaffected). T. wagneranus has
slightly smaller leaves that are held in a more compact crown. T.
nanus is a dwarf whose stem forms underground. It is a very slow
grower. There are a couple other species but confusion exists over
whether these are distinct species or subspecies of T. fortunei.