Garden Oracle / Drought and Heat Tolerant Gardening / Tucson - Phoenix - Arizona - California

Growing Washingtonia filifera:
California Fan Palm

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Form: Palm.
Lifespan: Up to 200 years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow.
Mature Size: 60' high and 12' wide.
Flowers: Branching, white and yellow flower clusters project out and often downward from the leaf crown.
Bloom: Mid to late spring.
Fruit: Oblong or round, red-black, edible dates, each about 1/2" in diameter. They contain a single seed, approximately 1/4" in diameter. The fruit can be eaten raw, or cooked, or dried and ground up with the seed and cooked.
Leaves: Gray-green, fan-shaped, each 3-6 ft across, with threads hanging from the margins of each finger. The fans spread out to form an open crown. Dead leaves remain on the trunk, hanging upside down, in a display called a petticoat. Removing the petticoat does not harm the palm.
Stems: The leaf stems of mature palms have curved thorns along the margins. The leaf stems of young palms are largely without thorns.
Roots: An extensive, fleshy and strong root system penetrates deeply in search of water.
Wildlife: The dead leaves of the palm provides a habitat for birds, mammals, bats, small reptiles, and insects such as bees and wasps. Coyotes, rodents and a few bird species eat the fruit.
Toxic / Danger: Thorns on older palm leaf stems become a danger when pruned. The petticoat of dead leaves on the trunk is a fire hazard as well as hosting pests such as rats and scorpions. They should be removed every year.
Origin: Arizona, Nevada, California, and Baja California.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 8b-11.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun.
Water once established: Deep water once every month or two. Too much water results in root rot. This palm is sensitive to the water table level, and it may need deep watering monthly if the water table lowers. Shallow watering results in a shallow root system.
Soil: Well-drained, pH 6.1-9.2 (slightly acidic to highly alkaline).
Prune: Remove dead leaf fronds. They can be used as a habitat by rats while hanging from the trunk.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Seed.
Pests: The Giant Palm Borer, Dinapate wrightii.
Uses: Accent plant.

This plant is a member of the Palm family (Arecaceae). It is similar to the Mexican Fan Palm, Washingtonia robusta, which has a slimmer trunk, grows to 100' high, and is considered invasive in California.

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Washingtonia filifera: California Fan Palm - flowers

Washingtonia filifera: California Fan Palm

Latest update: October, 2021
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