Chinese Fan Palm (Livistona chinensis) Care

As the name implies, this fan palm is native to Asia, particularly in China and Japan. It is identifiable for its fan-shaped fronds, yellow-green foliage, and tall, slender stems. It can be grown outdoors as an accent plant and indoors as beautiful container plants to enliven the living room. Because it is easy to grow and take care of, it is no wonder that a lot of people are attracted to it. 

If you are thinking of taking care of one or planting one on your own, you must master the art of Chinese fan palm care and it starts with this guide here. So, if you are interested in Chinese fan palm care tips, read on. 

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Chinese fan palm: Quick Care Guide

This one is a popular indoor plant with an uncomplicated care scheme. It thrives in warm and humid locations, loves lots of sun, and fares well in loamy, moist, and well-draining soils. It does not need much water once its roots are established.

Fertilizing can be done year-round to encourage growth. It does not require pruning, but dead leaves should be nipped to avoid growth stunting and pave way for its creamy white blooms come spring. 

Chinese fan palm identification

The Chinese fan palm goes by the scientific name Livistona chinensis. It is also called the fountain palm because it is identifiable for its fronds with a drooping, arching nature. Each frond grows in between 40-60-inches. Its fan-shaped leaves are emerald colored, divided into narrow lobes and with arching tips. It has a coarse texture. 

Young Chinese fan palms tend to be bushy. They are slow growing palms but as they mature, their trunk becomes a bit thicker and becomes grayish brown in color. It grows between 30-50ft tall at maturity with a spread of 10-12ft. They also bloom tiny, cream-colored flowers during spring. 

They are hardy and can thrive in zones 9-11. 

Planting Chinese fan palm

The basic information that you must know about Chinese fan palms is when, where and how to plant it. If you are really set on planting and caring for one, you should know the following: 

When to plant?

The best time to plant a Chinese fan palm is still during spring. The natural moisture of the soil and the balanced temperature and humidity of the environment during this time makes it a good time to support the growth of Chinese fan palms. They can also be planted during summer, but it would mean more watering and at very short intervals. 

Where to plant?

Chinese fan palms must be planted in a strategic location where the plant can receive unfiltered sunlight for 6-8hrs every day and some shade in the afternoon. This should also be followed even when the plant is grown indoors. 

How to plant

In planting a Chinese fan palm, here are the steps that you should follow: 

  1. The first step is to choose the best location where it could get 6-8hrs of unfiltered sunlight and where it could enjoy afternoon shades. When grown indoors, choose the window where the sun rises. 
  2. Through all this time of looking for a good location, the root ball should be kept moist. Leave it where it could retain the moisture while you dig a hole that is twice the root ball size. Dig deep enough until the root ball sits an inch above the soil. 
  3. Place the root ball in the hole and fill it with the perfect potting mix for palms.
  4. For the next 2-3 weeks, water the newly planted Chinese fan palm. You can also wrap the plant with a soaker hose to keep it moist while saving water. Once the roots are established, lessen the watering interval to twice a month at a 15-minute duration. In winters, you should cut back on watering. 
  5. Apply fertilizer consistently. Choose a continuous release fertilizer which contains iron, magnesium, and manganese. This keeps the Chinese fan palm’s leaves from curling or yellowing. Apply it early during spring and every three months after that. Put 1-3-inches of fertilizer on the top soil and then water it thoroughly after. 

Caring for Chinese fan palm

Chinese fan palms are considered hardy and are not that picky when it comes to care tips and growing conditions. For you to be enlightened more about how to take care of them, here are the specifics in caring for a Chinese fan palm. 

Sun

Chinese fan palms thrive on full sun and partial shade. They need to receive 6-8hrs of sunlight daily to ensure growth and good health. Indoors, they must be placed in a location where they get bright, direct light.

Young Chinese fan palms, however, would love some shade in the afternoon so make sure that they are planted where they get ample shade too. 

Temperature and humidity

Like the European fan palm, the Chinese fan palm also has a level of resistance to cold temperatures and frost. It can survive temperatures of 15F but expect some foliage damage.

But overall, their desired temperature and humidity would be warm and highly humid conditions (70-80F in the day and 55-60F in the evening). Misting is recommended to raise humidity. Indoors, never allow draft air to enter the room where the Chinese fan palm is placed. 

Watering

Regular and short interval watering are only required for young Chinese fan palms. Once the roots are established, you can lessen the watering interval because they develop tolerance to drought.

However, in extreme heat, you must check the plant once in a while to see if the soil has dried out. It loves moist but not soggy soil so make sure that the soil has dried out first before watering again. 

Soil

Like other palm types, the Chinese fan palm is also not picky when it comes to soil conditions because all it needs is moist, well-draining soils. To that end, it can tolerate loam and clay but with a mixture of sand or perlite to make sure that it drains well.

It would also appreciate slightly acidic soils. For container Chinese fan palms, make sure that you buy the right potting mix for palms. 

Fertilizing

While it is not required since Chinese fan palms are quite hardy, they can benefit from fertilizing year-round to encourage growth and resistance to common palm diseases. As such, choose a slow-release palm fertilizer and apply it every first week of the beginning of each season except winter. 

Pruning

Like the other fan palms, Chinese fan palms develop their cascading look naturally on their own even without pruning. What is recommended though, would be regularly checking for dead leaves and fronds for it to look tidy and for them not to acquire palm diseases or the spread of fungi and others. 

Propagation

To propagate Chinese fan palms, sow the seeds in spring. The seeds should be barely covered with soil. Keep the seeds moist and warm using a heating blanket. A 75-80F temperature should be maintained to allow germination.

Like the other fan palms, it takes a while before you see germination. It takes at least two months before the roots come out so be patient. 

Transplanting

Chinese fan palms do not require repotting every 2-3 years compared to its other fan palm counterparts because they have a fragile root system. But when you notice that the roots are already branching out of the pot, you must carefully transfer the plant in a larger pot to ensure that the draining holes are not clogged by roots and for it to get sufficient air and nutrients to continue growing. 

Plant spacing

Chinese fan palms should be planted at least 5ft away from the house and 4ft away from each other to ensure that their fan-shaped fronds fan-out to their maximum spread.  

How to protect for Chinese fan palm from cold weather

If you are expecting harsh winters in your area, it is best to protect your Chinese fan palm from the damages brought in by the frost. Here are some tips on how to frost-proof your Chinese fan palms: 

  • Lessen watering intervals a week before and through winter to prevent over-moisture. 
  • If planted in containers, move indoors, and place it where the humidity can be controlled and can be adjusted to high humidity. 
  • Keep the Chinese fan palm away from AC vents and doorways during winter months. 
  • When grown outdoors, consider heating them up through wrapping them with blankets or using bulbs as heaters. 
  • Adding a thick layer of leaf mulch around the base of outdoor Chinese fan palms could also help in keeping the moisture in, paving the way for lessening the need for watering. 

Troubleshooting

The good thing about the Chinese fan palm is that it is not that prone to growth problems and diseases. While it is not 100% safe from common palm pests, issues on growth and the onset of diseases boil down to lapses in following the care tips for the Chinese fan palm. 

Growing Problems

  • Over-drooping fronds caused by overwatering. 
  • Browning leaves caused by dry soil and low humidity. 
  • Brown leaf spots due to chemical burn from too much fertilizer. 
  • Nutrient deficiency (potassium, manganese, magnesium, iron and nitrogen deficiency) causes stunted growth. 

Pests

Fan palms and all palm types for that matter, are susceptible to specific types of pests and insects. To know what to look out for, here are the following pests commonly attacking Chinese fan palms: 

  • Aphids
  • Caterpillars
  • Gnats
  • Mealy bugs
  • Palm butterfly
  • Palm weevil
  • Scales
  • Spider mites
  • Springtails

Diseases

On the other hand, these are the diseases that Chinese fan palms are most vulnerable to. These diseases can be amended by powerful insecticides so make sure that you know the following: 

  • Leaf spots caused by too much moisture. 
  • False smut due to very high humidity. 
  • Ganoderma root and butt rot caused by a specific fungus called Ganoderma zonatum. 
  • Bud rot due to various fungal pathogens. 

How much does a Chinese fan palm cost?

Chinese fan palms are more affordable than European fan palms. 2ft of this palm type costs $40 while a 4ft one costs $85. A 5ft one would be at $120 while a 7ft one costs $200. The Chinese fan palm can grow to up to 50ft, so you have these figures to make an estimate from. 

Related: How Much Do Palm Trees Cost?

FAQs

Other than these growth and care tips of Chinese fan palm, there are also useful FAQs that can guide you in properly maintaining one. So, sift through these because they would surely come in handy later. 

Where are Chinese fan palms found?

Chinese fan palms are native to Asia, particularly in China, Taiwan and Japan but they have been naturalized in tropical climates in the US such as Florida or anywhere within the USDA zones 9-11. 

How big does a Chinese fan palm get?

The Chinese fan palm is considered as a slow-growing fan palm that can grow in between 30-50ft in the wild but when cultivated for landscape and indoor planting, it is just in between 20-30ft. It has a spread of 10-12ft and a diameter of 3-6ft. 

Are Chinese fan palms poisonous to pets?

According to ASPCA, Chinese fan palms or fountain palms are not toxic to pets, horses, and humans. You would not worry about the pets nibbling on them when they get active during the day. This gives this palm type a major plus for any type of landscape and as an indoor plant too.

How long do Chinese fan palms live?

As slow-growing as they may be, these beautiful, bushy palm trees can live to up to 40 years. In its first ten years, their slender, grayish brown trunks will become thicker and browner in color. By that time, they are already considered as a tree. 

How cold hardy are Chinese fan palms?

Chinese fan palms are considered as cold hardy palms because of their ability to withstand low temperatures of up to 20F. Aside from this, they are also tolerant to drought and slight frost as well as to different types of soils. 

What are the landscape uses of Chinese fan palms? 

If you are wondering about the landscape uses of Chinese fan palms, here is how you should use them in the landscape: 

  • Lining a property’s fence line. 
  • Accent or corner plant. 
  • Anchor for a garden bed.
  • Indoor container palm. 
  • Focal point specimen tree. 

For these landscape uses of the Chinese fan palm, you could also choose from the following as companion plants for this palm type: 

  • Agapanthus
  • Croton
  • Dracaena
  • False aralia
  • Thryallis
  • Thunbergia
  • White fountain grass

Related: European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) Care

Conclusion

Chinese fan palms have this fancy look that always makes a standout appearance in a landscape. It is easy to plant, easy to grow and easy to take care of so you get that emerald green look in your landscape anytime.

It is rated perfect for newbies and advanced gardeners alike so with everything that you know now here, you are on your way into having your own Chinese fan palm anytime soon.

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