Blue Ribbon Palm of the Month:
Trachycarpus fortunei: Windmill Palm
Our January selection for Palm of the Month is the Windmill Palm. It has several attributes that make it a true versatile "winner!" Number One is its cold tolerance! It may be the most hardy "fan-type" palm of ANY species! A mature specimen can be expected to survive winter minimum ttemperatures of at least, 20 degrees F. (-20 C.) This palm is a familiar sight in temperate climates, like South-central Europe, the Southeast USA ( relatively inland sections, like Columbia, SC, Birmingham, AL, and Dallas, TX), and the Pacific Northwest Coastal Region, all the way to Vancouver, B.C.!.
Its Number Two attribute is its moderate size, (a maximum height of 10 Metres), that is perfect for the average sized home lot. Its rate of growth is moderate, achieving mature height within 7-10 years! It can be the centerpiece of a "tropical type" planting without fear of it succumbing to the normal cold of a Zone 8, or equivalent, winter garden. It truly lends itself to a "hint of the tropics" even festooned with snow! In its native China, it grows naturally in high- altitude forest at elevations to 2500 metres! The trachycarpus fortunei, (meaning literately ROUGH FRUIT, in Greek, was named by Robert Fortune, a palm collector in China.
It is readily recognised by the fan-shaped leaves, and slender trunk covered with dark brown fibre. Some of the Trachycarpus' older leaves often persist and clothe the trunk's upper part as a "skirt!" The plant is native to China where it grows in frigid mountainous regions. The Trachycarpus bears an inflorescence of yellow flowers, which are quite showy, indeed! Specimens that are solitary rarely produce seed. This incredibly hardy palm literally thrives in temperate regions, even in southern latitudes, including Tasmania and the south island of New Zealand, and in the northern latitudes, like Great Britain, and southern Germany & Switzerland, BUT it is very difficult to grow in the tropics due to its "chilling requirements." The high humidity in the tropics (including Southern Florida are also limiting factors), as is the region's calcareous soil (highly alkaline), in composition.
The Trachycarus Fortunei boasts very easy cultivation requirements (within its normal range of growth!) It demands little fertilisation, expect for twice a year with any good "Palm Special" formula fertiliser, complete with minor trace elements: manganese amd magnesium sulfates. These minor elements assure healthy root development, a vigourous plant and deep green fronds! Its water requirement is generally, just normal rainfall, which is rather high, as the mountains in China (its native home) receive abundant rainfall. My suggestion is watering ever other day, for the first three months, and weekly for the remainder of its FIRST YEAR, in your home garden. Thereafter, your Trachycarpus fortunei SHOULD thrive nicely on its own!
For all the reasons listed above, TWG recommends that Trachycarpus fortunei be selected the Palm-of-the-Month, for January, 2001!
Paul, "The Wise Gardener!"