How to Grow Chamaerops humilis Plants in your Garden

Chamaerops humilis is more commonly known as the Mediterranean dwarf palm or European fan palm. It belongs to the family Arecaceae and is currently the only completely accepted species of the genus Chamaerops.

One of the reasons people grow them is for landscaping. Its evergreen fan-shaped leaves provide an exotic focal point in the garden.

Chamaerops humilis Photograph

Chamaerops humilis photograph by Jacinta lluch valero.

It is known to be a cold-hardy palm, which means that it can tolerate temperature dips of down to 20°F (-7°C) during winter, making it ideal for temperate climates. These plants thrive in moist well-drained soils. Grow in a warm, sheltered area, for best results.

Chamaerops humilis Gardening Basics

  • What is the European Fan Palm?

    The European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) is a small palm tree or sub-shrub that is grown in the garden for ornamental and landscaping purposes. As it is tolerant of the cold it can be grown in many areas where palm trees would otherwise be an oddity. It's small size means that it can be grown in containers and brought indoors over winter in colder areas.

  • How do you care for Chamaerops humilis

    These palms are considered a medium maintenance plant. They should be watered regulary during their growing season, but do not let the soil get saturated - once they are established they are fairly drought tolerant. Ideally situate in a sunny area that has a climate similar to its native Mediterranean.

    Plants grown in the shade will require pruning to help them maintain a compact shape.

  • How to propagate and Grow from Seed

    Difficult. Seed germination is poor. Following imbibing of seed it is best to stratify the seeds in the warm for about 12 weeks. This will help to soften the seed coat. Sow the seeds at a depth of about 1/4 inch (6 mm). Finally add a mulch. Propagation from suckers or division is possible, but often unsuccessful.

  • When to plant Chamaerops humilis

    It may be best to purchase plants. Plant them outdoors in a sunny position after the last frost. In colder areas grow in containers and bring indoors from autumn to spring.

  • When does Chamaerops humilis bloom?

    They bloom from the end of spring and into summer. Flowers are a bright yellow.

  • How tall do Mediterranean Fan Palms get?

    Plants can reach heights of about 15 feet (4.5 m). Trunks are usually about 10 to 12 inches wide (25 to 30 cm).

  • What is the lifespan of a palm tree?

    Some palm trees are known to be over 100 years old. This species of fan palm may take up to 50 years to reach its full height.

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing European Fan Palm

The preferred time for planting/sowing is during spring. If possible, soak the seeds for 24 hours before sowing them and warm imbibe them too.

Chamaerops humilis can be grown in open soil in the garden, and because of their drought tolerance, they can also be grown in pots.

In open soil, choose a warm, drained, fresh spot sheltered from the wind and with semi-shade or full sunlight. Dig a hole that is thrice the size of the root ball and plant it without burying the base of the stem. Fill the soil well as you place it back in the earth. Don't mix the layers of the soil, and water it with at least two watering cans.

When growing in pots, place the root ball in a mixture of potting soil and loam with gravel at the bottom for proper drainage. Choose a large pot. The palm should be re-potted every two to three years. During this time, cut a third of the roots and replace a third of the soil. Use new potting soil or some compost to replace the top layer of soil.

Chamaerops humilis being grown in a container
Container grown Mediterranean Fan Palm photograph by Maja Dumat, CC.

Water the palms regularly during the first year after planting if planted directly in the garden. For the potted ones, do this as soon as the soil dries up since the previous watering, without soaking.

Pruning dead and damaged leaves may help to boost its growth rate and help to maintain shape if the plant is grown in a more shady area. Make sure you are fully prepared and wear protective gloves when you prune the plant, as the sharp thorns on its stalks can cause injury.

Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Chamaerops humilis
  • Common Name (s): European Fan Palm, Mediterranean Dwarf Palm, Dwarf Fan Palm, Zwergpalme.
  • Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): USDA Zones 8b to 11 / H4 - hardy to about -10°C (14°F).
    • Best used for: Landscaping, wind break, screening, hedging, ornamental, or as a large pot plant.

Plant Details

  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Evergreen medium sized shrub.
  • Plant Height: 8 to 15 feet (2.5 to to 4.5 m)
  • Plant Spread: 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 m)
  • Blooms: Late spring to early summer, Inconspicuous.
  • Flower Details: Bright yellow. Dense inflorescences. Trees are dioecious. Tri-ovulate female flowers.
  • Leaf Foliage: Evergreen, Fan-Palm shaped (laterally joined adjacent leaflets or segments). Leaves reach about 18 inches (45 cm) long.
  • Fruit: Autumn. Drupes are bright green ripening to yellow or brown. Approx. 0.5 to 1.5 inches (1.25 to 4 cm).

Growing Conditions and Location

  • Best Light Conditions: Full sun or partial shade
  • Suitable Soil Types: Loam, soil should be rich and fertile. Enrich with leaf mold.
  • Suitable Soil pH: Neutral to acidic.
  • Soil Soil Moisture: Medium, Good drainage

  • Sowing, planting, and Propagation: Best grown from seed, though germination is usually quite slow. Can also be (less successfully) propagated from suckers or by division of clumps. Imbibe seeds by soaking for 24 hours in warm water. Follow this up with a three month warm stratification at 60 to 68°F (15-20°C) to soften the seed coat. Seeds should then be sowed at a depth of 1/4 inch (8 mm) and pack down the soil. Then add a mulch.
  • Care: Plants are wind and drought tolerant and requires little watering. Top-dress with Palm fertilizer in the spring. Cut off leaves that develop leaf spot. Prune off suckers if single tree specimen required.
  • Growing in pots and containers: Often grown as an houseplant. Use a fertile loam (equal parts sand, silt, and clay. Likes a bright spot, but ideally use indirect sunlight. Regular watering in the growing season, less in the winter. Provide with a monthly feed using a balanced fertilizer (Nitrogen: Phosphorus pentoxide: diPotassium oxide , ratio of 4:1:5)
  • Cultivars: Nana, Vulcano (Thorn-less, Compact), Stella (Silvery)
  • Varieties: var. humilis (green leaves), var. argentea (dull grey-blue leaves, also known as the Atlas mountain palm).

Further Information

  • Miscellaneous: Its clumping habit differs it from members of the Trachycarpus genus (Fan palms). Has a medium growth rate of about one foot (30 cm) per year. One of the most winter hardy of the palms. Plants make full height after about 20 years. Beware that these plants are quite pointy, so use gloves when handling them.
  • Further Reading and References: Kew Gardens Plant Descriptions; SelecTree; ResearchGate.
  • Family: Arecaceae (Palm trees)
  • Closely Related Species: Trachycarpus fortunei (Chusan palm), Trachycarpus takil (Kumaon palm).

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Chamaerops humilis. You may also enjoy the following growing guides:

How to grow Desert Fan Palm and How to grow dagger plant.