The Buzz

The Chusan palm


We get a lot of plant questions while working in the gardens throughout the year, and it seems that each season there is a particular plant that really sparks visitors' interest. This season it's the Chusan or Chinese Windmill palm, Trachycarpus fortunei, a grove of which forms the basis of our Idea Garden design this year in My Big Backyard.

Visitors ask how we keep them alive through the winter and are astounded when we tell them that the Chusan palm is perfectly winter hardy throughout the mid-south. Although they appear to hail from tropical climates, these palms are native to mountain forests from central China south through northern Burma and India. In habitat, these tough palms regularly endure frosty winters and tolerate both warm and cool summers, mingling with deciduous hardwoods, conifers, understory shrubs, and a bewildering array of herbaceous plants.


In fact, Trachycarpus habitat is very similar to the Piedmont/Coastal Plain ecosystem of the southeastern states, minus the mountains, of course, and they seem to fit right in with almost any sort of mixed planting. In the Idea Garden, we are using them to create a beachy feel, combined with white sand and complementary coastal forest plants, but they would also be excellent in a formal planting with gardenias, azaleas, and liriope. Use them as you would any large shrub or small tree to create distinctive landscapes.

All they ask is to be sheltered from fierce winds, especially in winter. They really like rich, well drained soils, but will accept clay if planted a bit high and mulched well. Fertilize annually in spring with compost or a complete organic fertilizer and stand back. These long-lived palms are eager and easy to grow.


Posted by chris cosby at 4:00 PM


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