Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: California Fan Palm
Washingtonia filifera

Family: Arecaceae (ar-ek-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Washingtonia (Washing-ton-ee-a) (Info)
Species: filifera (fil-LIF-er-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Brahea filamentosa
Synonym:Neowashingtonia filamentosa
Synonym:Neowashingtonia filifera
Synonym:Pritchardia filifera
Synonym:Washingtonia filamentosa

One vendor has this plant for sale.

16 members have or want this plant for trade.

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over 40 ft. (12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 50 photos.
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5 positives
3 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral Mojave_Sun On Jun 15, 2013, Mojave_Sun from Saint George, UT wrote:

This palm is very common in and around St. George, Utah. It has adapted well to the high desert climate of this southwestern Utah city in the northern Mojave Desert. This palm has easily endured record low temps., last winter of about 12 degrees F. for a brief period 2 nights in a row, without even suffering frost damage!

Mostly low maintenance, but will require some trimming and cleaning up in spring as some fronds will brown from freezing temps.

Neutral NorthSC On Feb 7, 2013, NorthSC from North, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

It's a matter of luck growing Washingtonia filifera (California Fan Palm) in the South East of the U.S. both in the ground and in pots. They get constantly killed by too much rain even in summer. Cold does not bother them even if it is 20F and small 2 ft. plants survive outside all winter as long as temps do not go below 20F but too much rain will eventually kill most of them. Yet some survive the rain, this is why I am growing a few, to make sure that one survives and becomes rain-tolerant.

Washingtonia filifera struggles to grow in pots, often dying for unknown reasons; perhaps slight overwatering or certain deficiencies kill them most easily. Those that survive to the height of 2-3 feet are doing quite well, but even those sometimes develop some deficiencies and take a very long time to recover. No wonder you can't find Washingtonia filifera anywhere in the South-East and the only popular palms are Sabals, Pindos, Trachys and Washingtonia robustas. Those W. filiferas that survive their seedling stage are very expensive to purchase, but are worth it as they do not brown in winter unlike W. robustas that brown easily under 26-28F. Even small 1 year old seedlings of W. filifera survive 20F perhaps 15F outdoors all year round unless rain kills them.

Washingtonia filibusta (hybrid) is a better choice for the South-east apart from the driest areas, perhaps in the Sandhills.

Washingtonia robusta is a good choice for the South East, but only the areas which never get below 17-20F. Mexican Fan Palms will turn all brown under around 20-24F depending on how long the cold will remain and how warm and sunny the next day will be. A snow and cold event even if 18F-22F may kill a W. robusta or severely damage it so it will die later.

Yet those Washingtonias that stayed in the ground for 3-5 years are considered established and will be able to withstand a degree or two less.

Washingtonia filifera and its hybrids are available at my nursery.

Positive longjonsilverz On Mar 30, 2012, longjonsilverz from Centreville, MD wrote:

I have been experimenting with these outside here in Eastern Maryland (zone 7)for a short time. I've been told that their cold tolerance is very good when they stay dry in the winter. So I have done my best to keep them dry. I had some success for two mild winters here with the palms completely defoliating but quickly recovering. They survived temperatures as low as about 14F at about 10 inches tall. Unfortunately I had to remove my palms for some new construction, so I will never know if they would have made it through the winter of 2013/14 which was the coldest here in decades.(I doubt it) I kept a few in a green house a few years back and they all died from the moisture. These palms grow so much faster than any other cold hardy palms, its a shame they have such a problem with being wet. Even though I did have some success, I wouldn't recommend these for the Mid Atlantic because its likely just a matter of time before they die from the moisture. Washingtonia Filiferas, are also very hard to find for purchase in this area.

Negative kinderegg On Feb 19, 2012, kinderegg from Las Vegas, NV wrote:

Although it can be pretty, this plant is a literal pain. I have shredded myself multiple times cleaning out these plants skirt. The skirt has wildlife benefits, but is a flammable nightmare. This plant is also invasive in the warmer areas of the Mojave like Moapa valley where it has displaced natives by changing the fire regime. Grows like a weed here in Las Vegas.

Positive Sandwichkatexan On Dec 6, 2011, Sandwichkatexan from Copperas Cove, TX wrote:

Have a 15 year old specimen . A lot of older ones around town they stay rather squat here and they are the only palms left after last winter killed all the mexican fan palms . Only other palms left after winter 2010 are these ,trachys, sabals and needle palms that is .

Positive SuburbanNinja80 On Oct 11, 2011, SuburbanNinja80 from Plainfield, IN (Zone 6a) wrote:

I Just got one today. Very sweet palm, Yea it does have shark like Thorns but, its from a Desert it will have Thorns to Protect its self Less its the Mazari palm. That one has Balls of steel. Moving onto the Native Palm of coolness(if that is a word) Am Very happy about this Palm.

Well... this insanity fast growing palm i may put it in the ground where it out grows its pot. Which should be next August lest i hope so. I have ways to protect this palm. Thank god for "palms can't grow here" and other myths" book.

Positive lsbillj On May 25, 2007, lsbillj from Lake Station, IN wrote:

I live in Chicago, and have had this Palm for 15 years, and of course, bring it in the house in the winter.(Gets -10 to- 15F here!) It's been repotted 3 times over the years, but it really is only about 7 feet tall, and about as wide even after 15 years.We use a dolly to move the pot! Usually it has 6 to 7 large fans in the summer. I noticed that the leaf tips get brown when it's out in the summer. I have read that our rain is acidic, and this could be the problem. But I wonder if I over water the palm. Overall, the palm looks very healthy, and people often comment about it. Can anyone comment about over watering, or the acid problem. Thanks

Positive palmbob On May 2, 2005, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is a very commonly grown palm in California, from the coast to far inland. It is native to the more inland areas, and the more inland it is grown, the better it tends to look. Those palms grown on the coast, where they get a lot more moisture than they should, often have pinched trunks and very small, sad looking crowns. Those growing in the desert have huge, beautiful crowns and nice, thick trunks.

Commonly confused with the even more common Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta), this one can be distinguished by the thicker, nearly always straight trunk-- the crown is also larger and relatively sparser. The leaves a more sea green, as opposed to the deep green of the Mexican fan palm. The petioles are always green--no red or brown in the petioles as there always is in the Mexican palms. It is a slower grower and seems to top out at around 60', while the Mexican palms can get up to 100' tall. Interspecies hybrids are extremely common, however (may even be the most common palms growing in southern California) and tend to have a bit of characteristics of both palms- thick trunks, but full heads and red on the petioles. Some palm researchers consider these two the same species, too.

It is also commonly confused with Brahea edulis, another common avenue palm in southern California. They both tend to have thick, naked trunks and pale green leaves, but the latter has a much denser crown of leaves that have many more pleats to them. Flowers a very different, with the Washingtonia flowers extending noticeably beyond the leaves. The bushier, yellow flowers of the Braheas are shorter than the leaves and tend to be located among the uppermost leaves (Washingtonia flowers stick out in all directions, top to bottom of crown). Seeds of Washingtonia are smaller than peas, while those of Braheas are larger than grapes.

Neutral angele On Apr 30, 2005, angele wrote:

Several of these are doing very well in a park across from my home. Zone 7b. These trees were brought in as huge $1,000 specimens many years ago.

Negative WalterT On Dec 6, 2004, WalterT from San Diego, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

The California Fan Palm is native to the desert canyons of the southernmost part of the state. Palm Springs, the famous desert resort town, derives it name from this tree. Said plant is very invasive here and the stems of the fronds are covered with very sharp, tough, shark-like teeth on both edges. See my image posted elsewhere of a "leaf" from one of many CFP plants that have invaded my garden from next door.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Mobile, Alabama
Phoenix, Arizona
Surprise, Arizona
Elk Grove, California
Fresno, California
Hayward, California
Menifee, California
Oceanside, California
Rancho Mirage, California
Redding, California
Redlands, California
San Diego, California
San Marino, California
Santa Barbara, California
Spring Valley, California
Meriden, Connecticut
Sarasota, Florida
Trenton, Florida
Brunswick, Georgia
Kurtistown, Hawaii
Chicago, Illinois
Plainfield, Indiana
Thibodaux, Louisiana
Vacherie, Louisiana
Youngsville, Louisiana
Las Vegas, Nevada
Albuquerque, New Mexico (3 reports)
Deming, New Mexico
Elephant Butte, New Mexico
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Roswell, New Mexico
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Massillon, Ohio
Ashland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania
Beaufort, South Carolina
Bluffton, South Carolina
Cayce, South Carolina
Hardeeville, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Islandton, South Carolina
Lexington, South Carolina
North, South Carolina
Austin, Texas
Copperas Cove, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Frisco, Texas
Galveston, Texas
Houston, Texas (2 reports)
San Antonio, Texas
Saint George, Utah
Shoreline, Washington
Vancouver, Washington

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