Windmill palm, blow those winter worries away!

Nice sun shining through a windmill palm leaf

Windmill palm, or Trachycarpus, is one of the palm trees that best resist the cold – perfect for our temperate climates!

Key facts to remember

Name – Trachycarpus fortunei
Formerly – Chamaerops excelsa
Type – tree, palm

Height – 30 to 35 feet in the ground, 6 to 9 feet in pots (10 to 12m and 2 to 3m)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – rich enough

Foliage – evergreen
FloweringMay to June

Clearly adapted to growing outdoors, both in pots and in the ground, you’ll find this one appealing for its beautiful foliage and ease of care.

Planting windmill palm

Planting directly in the ground:

Planting is simple while the tree is still smallIt’s most recommended to plant this palm tree in fall, so that it may have time to grow roots and prepare for spring.

This palm, like most others, loves having very well-draining soil. Make sure to increase drainage by adding sand, clay pebbles, or other similar amendments to your garden soil.

Growing in pots

Windmill palm grows fine in pots, but becomes topheavyGrowing windmill palm in pots is possible for smaller varieties, such as Trachycarpus wagnerianus.

  • Anticipate having to water regularly in summer so that the soil mix never gets completely dry.
  • Give the plant good light, but if you’re in warmer regions, it’s best to avoid scorching locations.

Caring for windmill palm

Pruning the windmill palm essentially means removing dead leavesOver the first year, a structural pruning is often recommended. The goal of this first pruning is to balance the palm tree out.

Luckily, most specimens purchased in garden centers won’t need any pruning at all.

  • After that, eliminate dead, dried out and yellow branches whenever you notice them.

Types of windmill palm

This is a hairy type of windmill palmThere are many names for this plant, but they nearly all refer to the same plant:

  • Nepalese fan palm
  • Chinese windmill palm
  • Chusa palm (from an island in China where it’s native to)
  • hemp palm (because of the strands on leaves)

Trachycarpus wagnerianus, the “Waggie”

A dwarf sub-variety of Trachycarpus fortunei is T. wagnerianus. It’s shorter and slower-growing than the original species. When comparing T. fortunei versus T. wagnerianus, the latter has stiffer leaves that are smaller in size, making it a better choice in windy locations and in smaller gardens.

Good to know about the windmill palm

Winter snow covering the palms of a windmill treeThe hardiest of all palm trees succeeds in resisting winters very well, even temperatures dropping to the 5 to 14 °F range (-15 to -10°C). It has even been reported to survive -5°F (-22°C)! Native to China, this palm tree grows gigantic leaves that reach to nearly 6 feet long (1.5 meters).

  • Growth is relatively slow at the beginning, but then it tends to speed up as years go by.

The advantage of this palm tree is that, overall, it grows rather fast.

Smart tip

Mulching in summer will help it retain the moisture it needs.