Chinese Fan Palm Care at Home (Livistona chinensis)

The Chinese fan palm (Livistona chinensis) is a graceful palm that adds beauty and intrigue to indoor areas. I love their large, fan-shaped leaves and they can grow to an impressive eight feet tall indoors. Fortunately, in my experience, this palm is easy to care for indoors. It grows well at normal indoor temperatures and lighting conditions. In this guide, I’ll run through my essential Chinese fan palm care tips, including best soil types, light exposures, watering frequencies, fertilizing needs, and environmental considerations for optimal growth at home.

Ultimate Guide to Chinese Fan Palm Care at Home

Chinese Fan Palm Care Essentials:

Botanical Name:Livistona chinensis
Also Known As:Chinese Fan Palm or Fountain Palm
Care Difficulty:Easy to Moderate. Suitable of beginners.
Light Requirements:Bright, indirect light throughout the majority of the day.
Temp & Humidity:Thrives in ambient temperatures ranging from 65 to 85F with moderate to high humidity.
Watering:Weekly in spring and summer and every 2 to 3 weeks in winter when the top two inches of soil are dry to the touch.
Soil:Well-draining, slightly acidic.
Feeding:An all-purpose, water-soluble palm fertilizer once a month from spring until mid-summer.
Growth Expectations:Slow grower, typically less than 1 ft per year. Typically will reach 6 to 8 ft indoors.
Toxicity:Non-toxic to humans and pets.

Growth Expectations

In my experience, when planted indoors, the Chinese fan palm generally maxes out at about eight feet tall. However, it may grow taller if you plant it in a bright location with tall ceilings.

The palm is relatively slow-growing and grows less than a foot per year.

What to Do Before Planting

Before adding a Chinese fan palm to your home, you’ll need to prepare for its arrival.

First, find a container large enough to contain your plant but not much bigger. Make sure the planter has drainage holes.

Next, find a suitable area for your palm. Since these plants can grow quite large, consider placing them on the floor. Another option is to put a planter on a short plant stand.

Along with ensuring your palm has enough room, ensure it has the proper growing conditions. You can read more about temperature and light requirements below.

Best Soil Types

My Chinese fan palms grow best in a well-draining soil mix that allows excess moisture to escape. However, the soil mix should also hold some moisture.

If you want to buy pre-mixed soil, look for one that is labeled specifically for palms.

Alternatively, you can make your own potting mix, which I find is a fun and cost-effective method at home. Here’s my preferred soil recipe for Chinese fan palms which works great:

  • 2 parts peat moss OR coco coir
  • 1 part perlite
  • 1 part sand

This soil mix will allow excess water to escape but hold enough for the plant to thrive.

How to Plant

Once you’ve found a good potting mix, it’s time to plant.

If you’re removing your palm from an old container and planting it in a new one, don’t size up too much. Choose a planter that is only a few inches larger in diameter.

When you plant, only cover the rootball of the palm.

Light Preferences and Suitable Locations

Long green fronds of a Chinese fan palm growing in the wild

In my experience, the ideal light for the Chinese fan palm is bright, indirect light. I position my Chinese fan palm a few feet away from a south-facing window which is protected by a sheer curtain.

East or west-facing aspects would also work. Again, just ensure you protect the plant from exposure to direct sunlight for extended periods.

The most important thing is to provide the plants with at least six hours of bright light each day. They will not do well in dark areas of your home.

Temperature and Humidity

While these palms are native to warm regions, they can handle a bit of cold. So, you don’t need to worry if your home occasionally dips to 50ºF.

However, they grow best at temperatures between 65-85ºF.

Like with most plants, you should avoid both hot and cold drafts. Therefore, I avoid placing these palms near an exterior door or heating vent.

Chinese fan palms are flexible when it comes to humidity. They prefer high humidity but will grow fine in moderate humidity.

If the air is very dry, use a humidifier to increase air moisture. Alternatively, I like to mist my palm with water every week.

Watering

Chinese fan palms do best in a potting mix that is moist but not wet. Small palms are not very tolerant of drought, yet they are susceptible to root rot.

A good rule I follow is to let the top two inches of the soil dry out in between waterings. To check the moisture level, I simply stick my finger in the soil near the middle of the planter.

When I water the palm, I slowly add water until the water runs out of the drainage holes. I then remove any water that has accumulated in a saucer below the planter.

The frequency you’ll need to water will depend on numerous factors. However, I find that I need to water every one to two weeks in the summer and every two to four weeks in the winter.

Dry air and bright light will increase the amount you need to water. You’ll also need to water more in the summer than you will in the winter.

Pruning

You don’t need to prune Chinese fan palms. However, in my experience, these plants will maintain a neater appearance if you do some basic pruning.

Older fronds will naturally die and fold down. You can remove these dead fronds using a sharp pair of shears.

You should also remove any fronds with signs of disease. This will help prevent the rest of the plant from becoming infected.

Propagating

The two main ways to propagate Chinese fan palms are by seeds and suckers.

In the wild, new plants easily sprout from seeds. However, I find getting seeds to germinate and grow indoors can be tricky. Propagation via seeds is best left to experienced growers.

Therefore, the best way to propagate fan palms indoors is by suckers.

Suckers, otherwise known as offshoots or pups, are small plants that form at the base of the palm. You can separate these small plants to form larger plants.

The first step to propagating is to find a sucker. This isn’t always possible since palms don’t always produce them.

Once you find a sucker, I use a sharp knife to carefully remove it. Maintain as much of the base of the sucker as possible.

Next, I place the sucker in a pot filled with a well-draining potting mix. I then water well until roots form.

It’s important to note that you cannot propagate palms via cuttings.

Fertilizing

My Chinese Fan Palms benefit from a little boost from a palm-specific fertilizer (via Amazon) during the early spring and summer months only. This helps to provide essential nutrients after the slow dormant winter period. 

Repotting

The Chinese fan palm is a slow-growing plant. Therefore, you don’t need to repot it very often.

Rather than repotting your palm on a set schedule, I keep an eye on its growth. When I see the plant’s roots busting out of the bottom or top of the container, it’s time to repot.

I choose a container that is an inch or two larger in diameter than the current pot. I fill the new pot with a few inches of potting soil. Then, remove the palm from its old pot and shake off any old soil. I find this is a good time to inspect the roots for any signs of root rot and trim away any unhealthy roots. 

Then, I place the rootball in the new pot and fill it with potting mix before watering the newly potted plant well.

Common Problems and How to Treat Them

I find that Chinese fan palms can suffer from problems caused by pests and an improper environment. Keep an eye out for the following issues.

Yellow Leaves

Numerous environmental problems can cause yellow leaves.

Both underwatering and overwatering can cause yellow leaves. Remember to water when the top two inches of soil is dry. Do not water more than this.

Cold temperatures can also lead to yellow leaves. Keep the air temperature above 60ºF.

One more cause of yellow leaves is not enough light. Ensure your palm receives at least six hours of bright light daily.

Root Rot

As you’ve read above, these palms don’t like constantly wet soil. If the roots are always moist, they may develop root rot.

Root rot is a generic name for a group of fungal diseases. These fungi cause the plant’s roots to turn soft and die.

Without healthy roots, plants cannot take up water or nutrients.

The signs of root rot include yellow or wilting leaves.

Plants are more susceptible to root rot when the soil is moist. Therefore, you must use a well-draining potting mix and a planter with drainage holes.

You should inspect the roots if you suspect your plant has root rot. Remove the plant from its container and check for any soft or discolored roots.

Trim away any unhealthy roots. Repot your plant with a fresh potting mix.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are small arachnids that suck plant juices. They aren’t spiders, but they form small webs on plants.

Since spider mites are so small, you might notice damage before you notice the mites themselves. The mites caused small yellow or brown dots on the leaves. Another sign of spider mites is a thin, silky web.

If left untreated, spider mites can kill a plant.

These pests rapidly multiply, so it’s important to treat them right away.

If you notice only a few spider mites, you can wipe them off with a wet rag. To treat larger infestations, spray the pests with neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Essential Tools

Now, let’s make sure you’re prepared with all of the tools for optimal Chinese fan palm plant care. Here’s a list of materials you will want to keep on hand.

  • Rich, well-draining potting mix
  • Well-draining container
  • Moisture meter or soil probe
  • Balanced liquid fertilizer suitable for palm plants.
  • Watering can
  • Pruning shears or sharp scissors

About Chinese Fan Palms (Livistona chinensis)

A mature Chinese Fan Palm (Livistona chinensis) growing in the wild

Native to East Asia, the Chinese fan palm has large fanlike fronds. People also refer to these plants as fountain palms.

They belong to the Livstona (fountain palm) genus, and their specific epithet chinensis refers to their Chinese origins.

Identification and Botanical Characteristics

The palm can reach 50 feet tall outdoors, but it typically maxes out at eight feet tall when grown indoors.

Small plants appear bushlike in appearance. Older plants vary in appearance depending on whether they are grown indoors or outdoors.

Palms grown indoors will shoot up numerous fronds from a low central point. These fronds have long petioles topped with fan-shaped lamina. The fronds droop down to forming a cascading form.

Outdoors, palms will still produce numerous fan-shaped fronds. However. the palm will grow a tall, thick trunk.

Are Chinese Fan Palms Toxic to Humans and Pets?

The Chinese fan palm is non-toxic to humans and pets.

However, the palm does have sharp spines on its petioles. Keep this in mind if you have small children at home.

Chinese Fan Palm Care FAQs:

Is a Chinese Fan Palm a Good Indoor Plant?

Yes, the Chinese fan palm makes a good houseplant. It does well indoors in normal conditions.

How Big Does a Chinese Fan Palm Get?

When grown outside, these palms can grow up to 50 feet tall. However, they rarely grow larger than eight feet tall indoors.

How Fast Do Chinese Fan Palm Trees Grow?

Chinese fan palms are slow-growing plants typically maxing out at around 1ft per year indoors.

Is Chinese Fan Palm Poisonous to Dogs and Other Pets?

No. The Chinese fan palm is non-toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets.

Can a Chinese Fan Palm Tolerate Low Light?

Chinese fan palms grow best with at least six hours of bright light daily. They can tolerate part shade, but they will suffer in extremely low levels of light.

Wrapping Up

Now that you know how to care for Chinese fan palms, go ahead and add one to your home. Their dramatic leaves and beautiful form will add intrigue to any area.

Further reading: Discover the best types of indoor palms to grow at home.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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