Posts Tagged ‘Chamaerops excelsa’

Trachycarpus fortunei

Common name: Chusan Palm, Windmill Palm, Chinese Windmill Palm

Family: Arecaceae

Synonymous:  Chamaerops excelsa
Chamaerops fortunei
Trachycarpus caespitosus
Trachycarpus wagnerianus

Trachycarpus fortunei

Trachycarpus fortunei

Distribution and habitat: Trachycarpus fortune is a palm native to central China, south to northern Burma and northern India, growing at altitudes of 100 to 2400m (328–7874 feet). It is one of the hardiest palms growing in the mountains of southern China. This brings it into a climate not only with cold winters, but also cool, moist summers.
Today, being widely cultivated throughout China, Japan and SE Asia for the fibres within the leaf stalk and it is rarely found in forests.

Trachycarpus fortunei is cultivated as a trunking palm in gardens and parks throughout the world in warm temperate and subtropical climates. Its tolerance of cool summers and cold winters makes it highly valued by palm enthusiasts, landscape designers and gardeners. It can be grown successfully in such cool and damp but relatively winter-mild locales as Scotland and British Columbia Canada, as well as in warm temperate climates in parts of the United States, Europe, New Zealand and Asia. It does not grow well in very hot climates.

Description: Trachycarpus fortunei has a slender stem that bears fan shaped leaves with finely toothed stalks a metre (3 feet) or so long. In wild Trachycarpus fortunei grows about 12m (40 feet) tall, but growth indoors is slow and plants are unlikely to reach a height of more than 2.5m (8 feet) in the home. When young, the leaves are pleated and they are covered with fine short grey or light brown hair. As the leaves ages, this woody covering disappears and the pleats divide almost to the base into many stout but pliant segments, each up to 30cm (12 inch) long and 2-3cm (1 inch) wide. Individual segments are sometimes pleated into two or three fronds. The mature leaves are up to 60cm (24 inch) wide and dark green above, bluish green below. The main stem which does not normally branch, becomes covered with a coarse brown fibre.
Eventually the leaves turn from green to yellow to brown, but they do not fall off. They should be gently pulled away or cut off when they become unsightly. The tips of the leaf segments, in particular, become discoloured with age and are liable to split along about 2cm (0.8 inch) or more of their length. This is natural and is not necessary a sign of illness. An affected tip can be cut off without detriment to the rest of the leaf.

The flowers and fruits which are produced by mature Trachycarpus fortunei palms are not normally found on indoor specimens. Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants (dioecious). The flowers are densely arranged on 0.5-1m (2-3 feet) long branched stalks called an inflorescence. The Trachycarpus fortunei palm’s bright yellow inflorescence erupts from a packet-like bud in late winter and early spring and is held within the crown. On female plants the flowers are followed in late summer by round or oblong blue fruits that are about 1.5cm (0.5 inch) in diameter.

Houseplant care: Trachycarpus fortunei is the only species from its genus grown as an indoor plant.

Stand these palms when are not kept outdoor in the milder months in gentle rain or wash them carefully under cold shower in order to free them of the accumulation of dirt and dust that collects on the leaves.

Light: Throughout the year, Trachycarpus fortunei palms need bright light with three or four hours a day of direct sunlight. New growth will be limited if palms receive insufficient light.

Temperature: These plants not only grow well in normally warm room temperatures, but are also completely unharmed by temperatures down to 7°C (45°F). If possible stand the Trachycarpus fortunei palms outdoors in a sheltered but sunny position from late spring to about mid-autumn. This will promote new growth and encourage the development of stiff, healthy leaves.

Watering: Water actively growing palms moderately, giving enough water to make the potting mixture thoroughly moist, but allowing the top centimetre (0.4 inch) or so of the potting mixture to dry out before watering again. In a normally warm room temperature Trachycarpus fortunei will not have a regular rest period, but its growth will slow down or even stop whenever the temperature drops 12°C (54°F). At such times, it is best to water only once a month and sparingly – just enough to make the potting mixture barely moist throughout.

Feeding: Apply standard liquid fertiliser to actively growing plants about once every two weeks.

Potting and repotting: Use a soil based potting mixture. Move small Trachycarpus fortunei palms into pots one or, at the most, two sizes larger every second or third spring until the maximum convenient size is reached (likely to be 25-30cm – 10-12 inch). Thereafter, it should suffice to top-dress these palms with fresh potting mixture.

Gardening: Trachycarpus fortunei palm prefers cooler, temperate areas and although it will grow in the sub-tropics, but it will struggle in the tropics. This is a hardy palm and can withstand subfreezing temperatures. In its native habitat, this tough palm is sometimes subjected to a cover of snow and ice. This palm should be planted in sheltered sites when grown in hardiness zone 7. Young plants are less hardy and can be damaged by only −8°C (17°F). Very young plants should be given some protection during their first winter or two outdoors.

Location: Sunny sheltered position, especially from the cold drying winds of the north and east in temperate zones or partial shade in sub-tropical zones are best for Trachycarpus fortunei palms.
This palm is moderately salt tolerant and can be planted behind the first line dunes or against a structure that will shield it from direct exposure to sea breezes. Protection from harsh winds will minimize leaf tearing and will allow this palm look its best. Individual leaves live for about three years if they are not damaged by wind.

Soil: Trachycarpus fortunei does best in well drained soils with above average fertility but it will survive in almost anything except perpetually soggy conditions.
These palms usually have deep penetrating root systems and generally establish best when planted out at a young stage. In areas at the limit of their cold tolerance, therefore, it is prudent to grow the plants in containers for some years, giving them winter protection and only planting them into their permanent positions when sheer size dictates. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
These palms can also be transplanted even when very large. Although the thick fleshy roots are easily damaged and / or desiccated, new roots are generally freely produced.

Irrigation: Plants should be watered faithfully. Water the base of palms thoroughly but do not keep wet. Form a small basin around palms to hold irrigation water longer. Mulches help keep shallow palm roots from drying out quickly. Trachycarpus fortunei has moderate drought tolerance.

Fertilising: Fertilize the palm regularly with granular fertilizer intended for palms and follow the label rates and directions.

Propagation: Trachycarpus fortunei are propagated by fresh seed sown in early spring. Seed takes up to a year to germinate, however and the seedling are also slow growing – they may take several years to assume palm like characteristics. The best way to acquire Trachycarpus fortunei palms, therefore, is to purchase the young plants from nurseries or garden centres.

Scales and palm aphids are pests of Trachycarpus fortunei.
Treatment: Inspect the palm regularly for insects and use a suitable spray insecticide when necessary.

Trachycarpus fortunei may be infected by root rot, moderately susceptible to lethal yellowing disease and leaf spots caused by a number of fungal pathogens.
Treatment: Avoid over-watering the palm, as this leads to root rot and decay. There is to date no cure for lethal yellowing. Sanitation and water management are critical for leaf spot disease management. Avoid overhead irrigation. These fungal infections are difficult to treat and an accurate diagnosis is essential for proper treatment.

Note: The names Chamaerops excelsus and Trachycarpus excelsus have occasionally been misapplied to Trachycarpus fortunei; this is correctly a synonym of Rhapis excelsa, with the confusion arising due to a misunderstanding of Japanese vernacular names.

Usage and display: Trachycarpus fortunei palm makes a great accent which fits well into small areas like courtyards and entries. It is a tough plant and survives in hot urban landscapes and even thrives there if watered and fed. It is a perfect palm for containers. It is very attractive planted in groves and groupings especially when plants of different heights are staggered in irregular patterns (plant the tallest palms in center of the groups and shorter ones at the edges). These palms can be used successfully lining an entry walk to a large building. This adds a formal elegance to any structure, especially one with glass façade. Also, Mass plantings of Trachycarpus fortunei palms around a patio or sitting area will create an luxuriate atmosphere.
As indoor plant Trachycarpus fortunei palm makes a great plant to any home or office. It will fit into narrow spaces and bring a sense of tropics to any place. Because of its compact foliage and slow growth rate it will make a nice potted plant for a patio, deck or pool.


Foliage – green
Shape – bushy

Watering in rest period – sparingly
Watering in active growth period – moderately
Light – bright
Temperature in rest period – min 7°C max 24°C (45-75°F)
Temperature in active growth period – min 16°C max 24°C (61-75°F)
Humidity – low

Outdoors height: 12m (40 feet)
Outdoor spread: 3m (10 feet)
Indoor Height: 2.5m (8 feet)

Hardiness zone: 8a-11

Trachycarpus fortunei Trachycarpus fortunei multi-trunk Trachycarpus fortunei Trachycarpus fortunei in winter Trachycarpus fortunei inflorescence Trachycarpus fortunei fruits

Foliage Plants, Garden Plants, Indoor Plants, Palms , , , , , , ,

Rhapis excelsa

Common Names: Lady Palm, Little Lady Palm, Bamboo Palm, Broadleaf Lady Palm, Fern Rhapis, Ground Rattan, Miniature Fan Palm, Slender Lady Palm

Synonyms: Chamaerops excelsa
Trachycarpus excelsa
Rhapis flabelliformis

Family: Arecaceae

Rhapis excelsa

Rhapis excelsa

Distribution and habitat: Rhapis excelsa is probably native to southern China and Taiwan. These palms are not found in the wild; all known Rhapis excelsa varieties come from cultivated groups. More than 100 named cultivars are available, most of then with Asian names.

Description: Rhapis excelsa is unlikely to grow indoors more than 1.2m (4 feet) tall. It grows in multi-stemmed clumps with glossy, palmate leaves. The thin stems of Rhapis excelsa can reach 25cm (10 inch) in height and up to 2cm (0.8 inch) thick forming clusters of foliage. These stems are wrapped with mats of brown fiber. As the lower leaves fall off, they leave scars on the stems, creating an attractive bamboo-like appearance. New foliage emerges from a fibrous sheath which remains attached to the base. Fronds grow in a fan pattern and are held erect on 30 to 45cm (12-18 inch) stems, each frond consisting of deeply veined leaflets. Each leaflet is composed of five to eight blunt-tipped, tooth edged segments 22cm (8.5 inch) or so long and up to 5cm (2 inch) wide. This palm is usually dioecious which produces a small inflorescence at the top of the plant with spirally-arranged, fleshy flowers containing three petals fused at the base. Ripe fruit are fleshy and white.

Houseplant care: Its ability to handle low light intensities, low humidity, varying temperatures plus its suitability to container planting, small to moderate size and slow growth rate make Rhapis excelsa ideal indoor plant.

Trim off lower leaves as they age and become discolored.

Light: Grow these plants in bright filtered light. During the winter months, however, provide them with three to four hours of direct sunlight each day.

Temperature: Rhapis excelsa will do well not only in normal room temperatures, but also in cool conditions down to about 8°C (46°F). Under the cooler conditions they simply take a winter rest or grow more slowly.

Water: Water actively growing plants moderately, giving enough at each watering to make the potting mixture moist throughout, but allowing the top centimetre (0.4 inch) or so of the mixture to dry out before watering again. During the rest period, if applicable, water more sparingly, allowing the top 5cm (2 inch) to dry out between waterings.

Fertilising: Apply standard liquid fertiliser about once a month to actively growing Rhapis excelsa.

Potting and repotting: Use a soil based potting mixture. Do not move these palms into larger pots more often than once in two years. Grow them in pots that look a little too small for them. After reaching the maximum convenient pot size (probably about 30cm (12 inch)), give the plants a top-dressing with fresh potting mixture every spring.

Propagation: Rhapis excelsa produce suckers from the base of the plant and these can be used for propagation in spring. Cut off a basal sucker preferably one with some roots already attached to it and plant it in an 8-13cm (3-5 inch) pot size of the recommended potting mixture for these palms.

Place the pot in a warm position in medium light and water the sucker sparingly. Give it just enough at each watering to make the entire mixture barely moist and allow the top centimeter (0.4 inch) or so of the potting mixture to dry out before watering again. As soon as new growth becomes apparent, the young palm can be treated as mature.

These palms can also be propagated from seed, but it takes a great deal of time. The propagation through suckers is both quicker and surer, especially for the amateur gardener.

Gardening: Rhapis excelsa can be used for a tropical garden landscape. This palm is adaptable to soil types, although neutral to slightly acid soils with good drainage and organic matter is recommended for best results. Choose a partially shaded spot under trees or a pergola to place the Rhapis excelsa. It can be grown in full sun as long as the soil have good moisture-retentive properties  and the palm receive plenty of water. The leaves, however, will lose their deep green colouring when exposed to full sunlight, becoming yellowish green and on the hotter days will probably burn.

Temperatures as low as -5°C (23°F) are tolerated by Rhapis excelsa as it is quite cold hardy, particularly when grown under shelter. It also grows in climates where it may be exposed to prolonged periods of cold weather. Very hot weather, particularly when the air is very dry, may cause damage which can be prevented by adequate watering, mulching and growing under other plants or pergolas. Occasional hosing of foliage with a fine spray or mist can also help to maintain a higher relative humidity.

When grown outdoors these palm can rich to a maximum height of between 3-4m (10-13 feet), each stem or cane is slender ranging from 1-3cm (0.4-1.2 inch) in diameter.

Problems: Rhapis excelsa has very few pests or diseases to trouble it.

The only major pests are scale and mealybug.
Treatment: Scale can be easily controlled by physical removal, wash off with high pressure jet of water or scrape off with cotton wool buds or by chemical control with appropriate insecticide.
Mealybug can be removed physically but it usually requires chemical control. For total control use a suitable insecticide and apply it as a soil drench as mealybug often invades the roots of a plant.

Root rots can be avoided through proper cultural practices such as choosing healthy plants in the first place and watering only when necessary. Provide good drainage so that water does not build up and stay around the roots of the palms.

But if, despite great care, root rot symptoms do develop, such as wilting, excessive browning of leaf tips and loss of vigour, can be caused by root fungus.
Treatment: Firstly remove the plant from the soil it is in, wash roots bare of soil, inspect roots for fungus problems, remove black roots or reddish brown roots and replant into a raised bed of well drained soils. In the case of potted plants do the same but plant into a clean well drained potting mix and, finally, drench the soil with a systemic fungicide.

Brown or black fungal spot is usually caused by poor cultural practices.
Treatment: To prevent the disease, buy only good quality plants and do not crowd plants too much so as to allow unimpeded air flow to reduce conditions ideal for the fungus. If leaf spot does occur remove and burn the affected leaves. Thin out plants or space potted plants to improve ventilation and finally spray all affected plants with a preventative fungicide.

Brown leaftips are often caused by an excessive accumulation of fertiliser salts in the potting mix.
Treatment: Thorough leaching will overcome this problem. Soak the palm roots in water for a couple of hours to leach out accumulated salts, toxins and to carry oxygen to the roots. Refer to Fertilising section to prevent further fertilising excess.

Recommended varieties:
Rhapis excelsa Zuikonishiki has yellow markings on each of the segments and is rarely any taller than 60cm (24 inch).

Rhapis excelsa Koban is a popular cultivar with dark-green leaves.

Rhapis excelsa Gyokuhu is a dwarf variety. It slowly adds only a 5cm (2 inch) of height per year and produces numerous offshoots. This variety may only grow 1.2m (4 feet) of height after 30 or 40 years of age in outdoor plantation. Nicknamed the “bush baby”, this variety is excellent for collectors of dwarf specimens, bonsai gardens, or areas requiring small, very special ornamental palms. 

Rhapis excelsa Kodaruma is the smallest variety of Rhapis excelsa. This slow grower puts lots of energy into producing pups, so it grows out more than up. Small leaves on miniature canes personifies the word dwarf. This is another variety excellent for collectors of dwarf specimens, bonsai gardens, or areas requiring small, very special ornamental palms. 

Notes: May be confused with Serenoa repens or Licuala grandis, but both these palmate leaved species have spines on the petiole, unlike Rhapis excelsa which is unarmed.

Uses: Its low light and humidity requirements, dust, and drought tolerant make Rhapis excelsa a common feature in malls and offices.

This dwarf palm is commonly used as screen, border, mass planting, specimen plant, container or above-ground planter, naturalizing or accent plant.

They lend a rich tropical look to the landscape. Lady palms can be effective accents in a shrub border or near an entryway. Plant on 0.9 to 1.2m (3- 4 feet) centers to create a mass effect. Locate them in a low-growing ground cover such as Ophiopogon japonicus (Mondo Grass) or Liriope muscari (lily Turf) for a dramatic effect. This palm looks wonderful when it is lighted from below or silhouetted at night.

This exotic palm is one of the best plants for improving air quality indoors. It has one of the top removal rates of toxins such as formaldehyde and ammonia.


Foliage – green
Shape – bushy
Height: 1.2m (4 feet)

Watering in rest period – sparingly
Watering in active growth period – moderately
Light – bright filtered
Temperature in rest period – min 7°C max 16°C (45-61°F)
Temperature in active growth period – min 16°C max 24°C (61-75°F)
Humidity – low

Hardiness zone: 8b-11

Garden Plants, Indoor Plants, Palms, Top Anti-Pollutant Houseplants , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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