How to Grow Washingtonia robusta Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Skyduster

Washingtonia robusta is commonly known as Skyduster or Mexican fan palm. It is grown as an ornamental tree in gardens and landscapes and can commonly be seen dotting the coastlines and streets of south-western U.S. cities.

The plant belongs to the Arecaceae family and gained the name Skyduster from its impressive height — Mexican fan palms can grow up to 80 feet tall (24.3 m).


Extraordinary adaptation to saline soil of this palm. photograph by sergio niebla.

Its trunk is normally about one foot (30 cm) in diameter, and its beautiful fan-like leaves can span three to five feet long (90 to 150 cm). This palm tree produces blooms of long strings of pale pink and white flowers. Small edible fruits appear from April to May.

The Mexican fan palm is native to the Baja California Sur and northwest Mexico, but can also be found in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, and Hawaii. It has also been naturalized in parts of Europe such as Italy, Spain, and the Canary Islands.

Mexican fan palm trees
Mexican fan palm trees photograph by Forest and Kim Starr; CC.

Washingtonia robusta Growing Guide

Washingtonia robusta can be planted directly in the ground or in a pot. Plant them in the spring or early summer and ensure that they have direct exposure to sunlight.

These plants thrive in either clay or sandy soil as long as there is good drainage. They do well in drought as well as cold temperatures, so long as they do not drop below 20°F (–29°C).

Unlike many other plants, the Mexican fan palm does not shed its decayed leaves; they hang in large, bulky skirts around the trunk.

Washingtonia robusta leaves of a sapling
Sapling Washingtonia robusta leaves, image by Forest and Kim Starr; CC.

These will need to be managed and removed, especially if the plant is grown indoors.

Mexican fan palms can be planted inside but may dry out quickly so keep an eye on soil moisture levels.

Washingtonia robusta Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Washingtonia robusta
  • Common Name: Skyduster
  • Growing Zone: USA: 8 to 11
  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Indoor Plant, Tree

Plant Details

  • Plant Height (Inches): 600 to 900
  • Plant Spread (Inches): 120 to 180
  • Time of Bloom: Late spring through mid-summer
  • Flower Details: White
  • Leaf Foliage: Green
  • Fruit:
  • Growth Form: Palm, Upright / erect

Ideal Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Partially shady to full sunlight
  • Rate of Growth: Quick
  • Suitable Soil Types: Acidic, Alkaline, Clay, Loamy, Neutral, Sandy, Slightly alkaline, Well drained
  • Soil Moisture: Moist

Caring Conditions

  • Care:
  • Level of Maintenance:
  • Propagation:
  • How to Prune:
  • Pests:
  • Diseases:

Further Information

  • Can Attract:
  • Tolerant of:
  • Best Garden Use: Container Garden, Areas requiring pest toleranance, Specimen, Large Garden and Street Tree
  • Family: Arecaceae
  • Closely Related Species: Palm Trees.

  • Miscellaneous: Attractive foliage, North American native, Is not a native plant of N. America, Attractive flowers / blooms
  • Genus Detail: Washingtonia
  • Further Reading and References: Here and Here

Skyduster tree
Skyduster plant photograph by Alejandro Bayer Tamayo; CC.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Washingtonia robusta. You may also enjoy the following Palm tree growing guides:

How to grow Desert Fan Palm and European Fan Palm.