Chamaerops humilis (kam-AY-rops, HEW-mil-is) is a slow-growing evergreen flowering plant species from the Arecaceae or the palm family.
Native to the western and central Mediterranean regions, Europe and North Africa, the plant is currently the only universally accepted species in the genus Chamaerops.
It is also the only palm native to Europe.
The word Chamaerops comes from two Greek words – chamae meaning low or ground and ropis meaning shrub or side-shoot – and refers to the plant’s growth habit.
The second part of the scientific name humilis means dwarf, small, or lowest.
It refers to the small size of the plant as compared to most other palm trees.
Due to its small size and diverse native range, C. humilis has gained several common names, over the years.
- Dwarf fan palm
- European fan palm
- Mediterranean fan palm
- Mediterranean dwarf palm
- African hair palm
Chamaerops Humilis Care
Size & Growth
Featuring several brown, fibrous, and scaled stems and large triangular fan-shaped blue-green leaves, dwarf fan palm is a small evergreen bushy palm.
The plant grows at a slow rate and forms a medium-sized clumping, multi-trunk shrub with a strong root system.
The mature height of the plant doesn’t go beyond 5’ feet.
The leaves are cut into narrow, linear segments and typically grow up to 17” to 18” inches long.
The leaf stalks bear several small sharp thorns.
While the plant naturally has a very slow growth rate, it can speed up a bit by providing the right amount of water and fertilizer.
Flowering and Fragrance
Mature plants produce yellow flowers on short rigid panicles, which grow from the lower leaf axils.
The flowers are colorful but small and insignificant.
The blooming period is followed by the production of small, date-like fruits.
Light & Temperature
Chamaerops palm grows best in partial shade at a location where it receives bright indirect sunlight.
However, make sure it receives adequate light i.e. full sun for at least three to four hours as too little light can affect the growth.
It is one of the most cold-hardy palm species and can tolerate temperatures down to 5° degrees Fahrenheit (-15° C).
The plant is hardy to USDA zone or hardiness zones 8 to 11.
Watering and Feeding
The water needs of this palm species are not very high.
Water the plant moderately when it is actively growing, but only sparingly in the winter.
Make sure to not overwater as it can cause fungal spots on the old leaves.
Feed the Chamaerops palm with a balanced palm fertilizer 4 times per year.
Soil & Transplanting
Mediterranean dwarf palm prefers loamy and well-drained soil.
It is also drought-tolerant but appreciates slightly moist soil.
The plant can tolerate a wide range of soil pHs.
Grooming and Maintenance
The European fan palm is an easy-to-grow and low-maintenance plant.
Removing damaged and dead fronds may help improve the growth rate of this palm species.
Make sure to wear full clothes and wear protective gloves when pruning the Chamaerops plant because the sharp thorns on its stems and leaf stalks can cause an injury.
How to Propagate Mediterranean Fan Palm
Mediterranean fan palm is grown from seeds or propagated via suckers.
If growing from seeds:
- Sow them as soon as they get ripe as older seeds are slow and difficult to germinate.
- On average, the seeds take 3 to 4 months to generate.
- For best results, germinate the seeds and grow the plants for a couple of years in a warm greenhouse before planting them outdoors, to their permanent positions.
- Summer is the best time to plant this fan palm in the ground.
For propagation through suckers:
- Cut an 8” to 10” inch piece in spring.
- Leave some roots attached to the cutting and plant it in a pot with a moist soil-based potting mixture.
- Keep the newly planted sucker at room temperature in a place where it receives bright, but filtered sunlight.
- Water sparingly, just enough to keep the soil lightly moist, until the new growth starts to emerge.
Mediterranean Fan Palm Pest or Diseases
Being one of the hardiest palm species, dwarf fan palm trees aren’t highly susceptible to diseases and pests, they may sometimes get affected by false smut or glasshouse red spider mite (the latter can only occur when the plants are grown under glass).
Overwatering can lead to fungal spots on the old leaves, but the problem can easily be dealt with by using a fungicide and removing the affected leaves.
Chamaerops Humilis Uses
Due to their flower color, small size, undemanding nature, and evergreen foliage color, African hair palms are among the most popular landscape palms.
They make great displays in city gardens, coastal gardens, courtyards, as well as in patios.
They’re perfect palms for Arizona because of its love of sun and drought tolerance.
They also look good grown in large containers as in-house plants.
When grown under the right conditions, c. humilis exhibits a rare and unparalleled splendor and exoticness.