Trachycarpus fortunei [trak-ee-KAR-pus, for-TOO-nee-eye] is an evergreen perennial palm tree species of the family Arecaceae and native to temperate and subtropical mountain forests of China, and parts of Japan, India, and Mayanmar.
The plant has been cultivated in these regions for thousands of years, especially in Japan and China, which is why it is difficult to trace back its specific origin.
In addition to the botanical name, the palm species is known by the following common names:
- Windmill palm
- Chinese windmill palm
- Chusan palm
Trachycarpus Fortunei Care
Size & Growth
Featuring a solitary thick stem and long petioles with two rows of small spines and several leaflets arranged in a rounded fan shape, the windmill is a slow-growing, tall and hardy palm and can grow up to anywhere between 39’ to 66’ feet tall.
Due to the fan-shaped arrangement of its leaves, the palm species is also referred to as fan palm.
Each frond is about 55” to 75” inch long with several up to 35” inches long leaflets and 24” to 39” inch long petiole.
The leaf bases form coarse layers on the trunk giving it a very rough texture.
Chinese windmill is one of the hardiest known palm species and can easily tolerate a wide range of growing conditions.
Flowering and Fragrance
The palm species produces large, branched panicles of fragrant flowers in spring.
T. fortune is a dioecious plant, which means male and female flowers are produced on separate trees.
The male flowers are yellow whereas female flowers have a greenish color.
Sometimes, however, the male trees also produce a few hermaphroditic flowers (containing both male and female, pollen and ovule producing parts) on spadices.
These flowers look almost the same as the male flowers, but are slightly bigger in size.
On female trees, flowering is followed by the production of small kidney-shaped berry-like fruits (drupes) in the summer.
The fruits are yellow, but turn blue-black when they get ripened, in mid-fall.
Light & Temperature
From cool and moist summers to cold winters, this plant can tolerate a wide range of temperatures; thanks to its hardiness.
A cold hardy palm, mature fortunei trees can tolerate temperatures as low as – 4° degrees F (-15° C).
Young plants, however, are little less hardy and cannot tolerate temperatures below 20° degrees Fahrenheit (-7° C).
While the plants can easily tolerate varying temperatures, they need to be protected from the wind as it damages the palms by tearing the leaves apart.
The growth rate and the height of this palm species varies, depending on the sun exposure a plant is getting.
T. fortunei grows best in shade, forming a slender and taller trunk.
While it grows fine in full sun as well, it tends to be stouter and shorter.
When growing, the tree should ideally be planted in partial shade.
The plant is winter hardy to USDA zone 7 when grown in a protected location.
Watering and Feeding
Chusan palm prefers moist soil, so water your plants regularly to keep the soil consistently moist.
However, make sure to not over-water as the plant doesn’t like wet feet.
Also add mulch on the base to prevent the soil from drying out.
Soil & Transplanting
The windmill palm doesn’t have very specific soil demands and grows well in almost all soil types.
But, very chalky soil can cause yellowing of the green foliage.
For best results, grow in organically rich, moderately fertile, moist and well-draining soil.
Since the plant grows at a slow rate, it doesn’t need to be replanted to bigger containers for a very long time.
Grooming and Maintenance
While windmill palms are low-maintenance plants, grooming can make a big difference in their appearance.
To make your palm tree look better, remove the old yellow or brown leaves, old flowers, and the dead crown shafts (the hairy stuff on the trunk).
Other Palms For The Landscape:
How To Propagate Windmill Palm
Chinese windmill palms can easily be propagated by seeds (the trees usually also self-seed).
However, it requires patience because the seed can take up to two to three months to germinate.
For growing Trachycarpus palms from seeds, sow them in a small container in a very thin layer of soil and place it in a very warm and humid place.
Also, make sure it’s getting sufficient light.
Winter or early spring is the best time for growing palms from the seeds, move young plants outdoors in the summer.
However, do not transplant the young plants until they have developed proper root systems and three to four sets of leaves, at least.
This is to prevent the risk of root shock some plants may get from transplanting.
Windmill Palm Pest or Diseases
Windmill palm trees do not get affected by any serious pest or disease.
Occasionally, it can experience problems due to palm aphids and scale insects or develop leaf spots.
When planted in poorly draining soil, the windmill palm tree can develop root rot.
Trachycarpus Fortunei Uses
For centuries, windmill palms have been cultivated and used in China and Japan for their strong leaf sheath fiber, which is used for making sacks, ropes, strings, mats, brooms, and hats.
Apart from this, the palm trees are also widely cultivated in parks and gardens in subtropical and warm temperate regions of the world.
Due to their high tolerance for cool summers and cold winter weather, fortunei palm trees are also a popular choice of gardeners and landscape designers in the UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, and south Germany.
The cold hardy palm trees are also seen growing in many coastal areas in North America, such as in Mid-Atlantic and upper southern states, the United States (in Florida), as well as in the Pacific Northwestern areas.
Due to its high salt tolerance, windmill palm is also a good choice to grow near seas and oceans.
Lastly, its slow growth rate also makes it suitable for growing in containers; just make sure the container has drainage holes.