Fan palms are known for their hardwood trunks, beautiful branching leaf fronds and island aesthetic.
They are beautiful and diverse trees with many varieties that grow in all different types of sizes, colors and with varying characteristics. They can be grown outside in the garden or around the yard (in tropical climates), or planted in large containers to be grown indoors.
Keep on reading to learn about some of the more interesting types of these plants to grow and figure out which would be best for your intended usage and local growing conditions.
Ready to start growing your own gorgeous houseplants? Here are some of the best kinds of fan palms to grow.
1. Alexander Palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae)
The Alexander Palm is native to the Central and Northern Queensland rainforest of Australia, and is named after Princess Alexandra. In the wild, it is found low down in tropical wetlands and in altitudes up to 4,000 feet above sea level. This palm tree is a thirsty species. It requires a high level of watering. It is happiest in partial or full sun.
The solitary trunk can grow upwards of 80 feet outdoors, and have a diameter of 12 to 18 inches. The spread of the pinnate fan palm fronds can be as large as 15 feet from the center of the crown. It is a self-pollinating tree and produces red oval-shaped fruits that eventually bloom into purple flowers along a cream-colored inflorescence stalk.
2. Areca Palm (Areca triandra)
The Areca Palm is a clustering species that is native to India and other parts throughout southwest Asia. Unlike other fan palms that enjoy full sun, the Areca Palm grows the best in partial shade. The trunks of this specimen are much skinnier than single trunk species, with a diameter of only 2 to 3 inches wide. When outdoors, they can grow to be 15 feet tall. But when grown in containers, they tend to be the perfect size indoors.
They are a thirsty species, so it’s best to keep these palms well hydrated. The leaves of this palm tree are a pretty green color, and the flowers bloom yellow with green stalks. The fruits begin green, and change to orange as they ripen.
3. Bismarck Palm (Bismarckia nobilis)
The Bismarck Palm is native to Madagascar. It loves to be planted in locations that receive full sun. Once it has become well established, this species is considered to be pretty hardy and drought tolerant. It does not require a massive amount of hydration. It can grow to be about 60 feet tall, and has a wide spread of 20 feet.
The fan palms of this tree have a pretty, silver-blue color to them. The stems of the fronds, or petioles, can sometimes be upwards of 6 feet long and have serrated edges. It produces red, branching inflorescences with oval-shaped fruit. It is named after Germany’s first chancellor, Otto von Bismarck.
4. Chinese Fan Palm (Livistona chinensis)
The Chinese Fan Palm is native to countries like Japan, Taiwan, and several islands off the coast of China. When this pan palm is mature, it prefers full sun. However, when its younger and still establishing itself, providing this tree with some shade is a good idea. This tree is one of the smaller varieties of single trunk trees, with an average height of 15 to 20 feet, and a spread of 8 to 10 feet.
It has a shorter gray-brown trunk, with a smooth texture, and a fuzzy crown where the remnants of old fronds can still be seen. The seed pendants can grow to be 3 feet long, and produce pale yellow flowers. Due to its smaller size, this variety is often found indoors growing in containers.
5. Christmas Palm (Veitchia merillii)
The Christmas Palm Tree is unique looking. The base of the trunk is a grayish-white, and about halfway, the trunk changes to a light green. This tree is native to the Philippines. It enjoys partial shade, and is considered to be a thirsty tree. It is one of the skinner single trunk species, with an average trunk diameter coming in around 8 to 10 inches wide.
The leaves that develop from the crown are pinnate, and can be as large as 7 feet long. The tree itself can grow to be 25 feet tall outdoors, and boast a spread of 10 to 12 feet. This plant is monoecious, meaning that it has both male and female flowers on the same plant.
6. Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis)
The Fishtail Palm tree is known for its unique, bi-pinnate leaves. This means that the leaves have two (instead of one) main veins. The way the leaves grow roughly resembles the tails of fish, hence the name. Unlike other trees that love full sun, the Fishtail Palm actually does best in partial shade.
This species is clustering, meaning that multiple trunks will grow in a single cluster. The clustered trunks of this tree are much skinnier than single-trunk species of palms. This often means that Fishtail Palms are smaller in size. This is especially the case if they are planted in containers and grown indoors. However, outdoors, they can get up to 15 feet tall.
7. Foxtail Palm (Wodyetia bifurcata)
The Foxtail Palm tree is native to various parts of Australia, and is named after an Australian bushman, Wodyeti, who was the last in his line of Aborigines. The trunk of this tree is ringed with stripes, and is smooth in texture. From the base of the tree towards the top, the trunk transitions from a grayish color to light green.
It is a single trunk tree that grows to be about 25 feet tall when left alone outside with the optimal conditions. It has pale green pinnate leaves that can spread outwards 15 to 20 feet. It does well in full sun, and is known for being relatively drought tolerant.
8. Lipstick Palm (Cyrtostachys renda)
The Lipstick Palm gets its name from its bright red colored stems. Before becoming known as the Lipstick Palm, it was previously known as the Sealing Wax Palm because its color was reminiscent of the sealing waxes used in the Medieval era.
This plant is a clustering species with multiple trunks and is often grown as an indoor houseplant.
When grown outdoors, this species can be as tall as 50 feet. It tends to be low maintenance, and requires an average amount of water. It can grow in a variety of different sunlight conditions, however it prefers partial sun.
9. Majestic Palm (Ravenea rivularis)
The Majesty Palm gets its name because, well, it’s majestic looking! It is a single trunk species that looks unique because the base of the trunk tends to be more swollen than the upper section.
The trunk is smooth to the touch and ringed with old leaf scars. The pinnate leaf fronds can be upwards of 18 feet long, and cast a spread of 25 feet. Outdoors, they can grow to be about 60 feet tall. If that isn’t majestic, then we don’t know what is!
Like some other trees, this plant is native to Madagascar where it likes to grow in full sun and partial shade. The white flowers of this tree are beautiful and form along slender, branching inflorescences.
10. Mediterranean Dwarf Palm (Chamaerops humilis)
This species is a slow, and short-growing tree. It is a clustering tree that sometimes looks more like a shrub than a tree. The Mediterranean Dwarf Palm is ideal for outdoor gardens in tropical climates. Outdoors, it can grow to be 1o to 20 feet tall. However, when grown indoors, it tends to be much smaller.
This plant is heralded for its cold hardiness. It has been known to survive temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Its frost tolerance makes it the ideal candidate for gardens that still sometimes get more temperate weather.
11. Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
The parlor palm plant is native to Mexico, and is considered to be one of the most popular indoor palms trees. When grown in containers indoors, this tree normally only gets to about 4 feet tall. It is a clustering tree, with delicate, green arching fronds.
This species is a popular choice for indoor spaces because it grows relatively slowly, and requires minimal care. Plus, it tends to tolerate a wide spectrum of light conditions which helps the plant be versatile in a variety of indoor locations.
12. Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
This plant is native to the rainforests of Laos and southeast Asia. It is one of the smallest varieties of fan palm. If grown outdoors, it will only grow to be 10, maybe 15 feet tall. The spread of this tree is also relatively small, at only 7 to 8 feet. For these reasons, this plant is good for growing indoors in containers.
It is a single trunk tree, however, it is often seen growing in clusters. The trunks of these plants are rough and patterned with the scars of old leaves. It has long, slender pinnate leaves that have spiny petioles. When it flowers, the inflorescences change to a cream white color and droop from the crown of the tree.
13. Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor)
The Dwarf Palmetto is an interesting specimen. It gets its name from its small stature. It normally only grows to be 5 feet tall, and that’s on the tall side of things. Other Dwarf Palmettos can be as short as 2 feet tall. Interestingly, their leaf spread is actually larger than they are tall. The reason these fan palms are so short is because their trunk is actually growing below ground. Dwarf Palmetto trunks can sometimes be 5 feet long while growing underground.
This species is native to the southeastern United States. For that reason, it tends to be hardier and more frost tolerant than other species. It is also low maintenance when it comes to watering, and is known for being drought tolerant.
14. Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto)
This species is native to the southeastern United States, Cuba, the Bahamas, and Venezuela. It likes to grow in full sun conditions, but can also tolerate partial shade. It is a single trunk tree that boasts a unique-looking trunk.
The trunk of this tree is smooth in texture, but has a lattice-like patterning to it. And interestingly, as the tree ages, more of the trunk becomes revealed.
This houseplant has creamy white flowers that grow on inflorescences that can grow to be 6 feet long. The leaf fronds can be 5 to 6 feet across. The stems, or petioles, of this plant do not grow spikes, unlike other species you might grow.
15. Triangle Palm (Dypsis decaryi)
This species is unique compared to other varieties because its trunk remains short, while its fronds grow upwards and outwards.
In other words, the leaf spread of this tree can sometimes be as wide as wide as the tree is tall. When mature and fully established, this specimen is low maintenance when it comes to water and is happiest growing in full sun conditions. It can also tolerate partial shade.
This species produces green and yellow flowers that form along inflorescences attached to the lower leaves. The fruit starts off green, and darken in color as they ripen.
These Plants Make Any Space Beautiful and Tropical
Despite growing in remote and tropical climates around the world, fan palms have increasingly become more commonplace, especially when it comes to ornamental outdoor plants, and decorative indoor accents.
Between their beautiful look and relatively low maintenance requirements, it’s no wonder they’ve become so popular as houseplants.
A fan palm may just be the decorative piece your garden, living room or office space has been looking for.