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How to Take Care of a Mexican Fan Palm

Three palms and clear sky. image by Lars Christensen from

Mexican fan palm, (Washingtonia robusta), is an arrow-straight palm tree that can grow to heights of 40 to 50 feet, and in some cases, will reach a majestic 80 feet tall. Mexican fan palm is a fast-growing evergreen palm that can grow up to 6 feet per year for the first few years. Mexican fan palm can survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees F for short periods of time, but extended cold will kill even mature trees. The Mexican fan palm, also known as "Washington palm," is tolerant of poor soil and drought, and does well in hot, dry urban environments, where its grand height stands out against the city skyline.

Plant Mexican fan palm in full sunlight and well-drained soil. Although Mexican fan palm will grow in partial shade, full sunlight will bring out the tree's best growth. Allow plenty of space, and don't plant Mexican fan palm near buildings or power lines.

Spread a 3-inch layer of organic mulch such as bark chips around the base of the Mexican fan palm, but leave a 6-inch ring uncovered around the trunk. If mulch piles up against the trunk, it can collect excessive moisture and attract pests. Non-organic mulch such as gravel can also be used.

Keep the Mexican fan palm damp for the first three months. Water the palm by allowing a garden hose to drip at the base of the tree. After the first three months, water sparingly and only during hot, dry periods, as Mexican fan palm is susceptible to rot.

Fertilize the Mexican fan palm in spring, using a slow-release fertilizer for palm trees. Fertilize the tree again in mid-summer. Apply the fertilizer strictly according to the instructions included with the fertilizer.

Remove any fronds that are dead, damaged, brown or yellowing. However, if they don't pull off easily by hand, leave them alone. If you suspect your Mexican fan palm needs to be pruned, contact a professional. The palm can easily be damaged by improper pruning, and most damaged areas won't grow back.

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