Washingtonia robusta

Mexican fan palm
California’s classic skyline palm. Fast-growing, tough, and versatile. Used extensively, and to great affect, when planted in multiples.
Washingtonia robustaWashingtonia robustaWashingtonia robustaWashingtonia robustaWashingtonia robusta
height 50–100ft
width 10–15ft
tolerates Drought, Deer , Heat, Moist Soil, Pots, Neglect, Salt, Wind
Low – Moderate
This palm should be watered deeply every week or two once it’s established. It prefers not to ever dry out completely. That said, we often see these growing (sometimes from spontaneous seedlings) in California, so clearly this palm can take drought.

We have one friend who has good drainage and has a constant drip on his Mexican fan palm and it grows like a rocket, over a foot a year without fertilizer. Since this palm naturally grows in wet desert draws this replicates its ideal habitat.
exposure Part Shade – Full Sun
drainage In Ground: Cactus Mix, In Pots: Cactus Mix, Tolerates Heavy Soil, Tolerates Sandy Soil
fertilizing All Purpose
origin Baja, MX

Sunset Zones Map

Outdoor Exposure Guide


Full Sun
Six or more hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Shade
Three to five hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Sun
One to two hours of sun beams directly landing on the plants leaves.

Full Shade
The plant is never fully lit by sun beams, but is in a bright spot or has dappled sunbeams playing over the leaves throughout the day.

Deep Shade
The plant never has dappled light on the leaves, and is in a place that feels dim, even on a nice sunny day.


Growing Notes

The hint to this palm is the species name ‘robusta’. This one tolerates just about anything. Pots? Sure. Heat? No problem. Poor soil (either too heavy or lean)? Not going to bother it. Salty seaside conditions? Right at home. Wet feet? Even better. Wind? Who cares.
Basically avoid areas where you have drizzly windy fog and coast COMBINED. Even then it will survive, just with a smaller tattered looking crown with few healthy green leaves. Growth will slow appreciably in cool weather. Also avoid extreme colds dropping below 20F.
Be sure to check the height on this one! It gets tall. The upside of this is you get a mature palm within a decade or two. The downside is that your grandkids neighbors three blocks over will have a better view of the palm than they do! This is also the reason we recommend planting this palm in groups. A single very tall palm can look a bit out of place, but a grouping of Mexican fan palms mature handsomely. Mass planting is also used in larger scale projects, such as lining boulevards. Such as the heirloom palms seen across California, from Santa Cruz’s Morrissey Boulevard to Robertson Boulevard Chowchilla and Adams Boulevard in LA. Many of these were planted in the 1800s!
This palm is quite resilient and fast growing once it gets going (even without fertilizer), but if you want to indulge it fertilize three times a year. Fertilizing at spring equinox, summer solstice and fall equinox will allow for a winter rest. Be sure to feed your palm with a fertilizer that contains micronutrients (especially including magnesium). Some gardeners choose to feed this palm until it develops a couple feet of trunk (to speed up the foliage feature stage) and then cut off fertilizer (to extend the time this palm is a pleasing small to mid scale palm).
This solitary palm will grow only one trunk during its lifetime. If you have a pot with multiple trunks in it, that’s because multiple separate palm trees were germinated in the pot. The good news is that you won’t need to thin out suckers over time to maintain the number of trunks you started out with.
This palm holds its leaves for a long time, creating a beard or skirt on the trunk. If you want, you can always prune off the beard for a cleaner look. If fire retardancy is a consideration the beard should be removed annually, though this palm is adapted to fire and will recover from burning. Fully removing your palms persistent beard will leave a glorious cinnamon colored, ringed trunk that will fade to grey over time (as in the photo for this plant). Alternatively, by pruning the petiole where it meets the trunk (but not removing the entire leaf sheath) your palm will develop a characteristic lattice pattern over time. Take care when pruning as this palm has sharp serrated petioles.
Growing this palm in pots will dwarf it.

Special Interest

You’ll occasionally see a palm offered that is a hybrid between W. robusta and W. filifera (the California fan palm). We call this one the filabusta!