Growing Palms

Vancouver Island’s relatively mild climate permits growing of Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei, pronounced Track-ee-CAR-pus for-TUNE-ee-eye) with relative ease. The Windmill Palm has been successfully cultivated in our coastal area for over 30 years and it’s exotic statement is adding to it’s ever increasing popularity. The Windmill Palm is the most readily available and is also the most suitable for beginners. Here are some tips for planting and maintaining your palm.

How to Plant

Dig the hole twice as wide and one and a half times as the root mass. Work in several shovelfuls of organic matter (peat moss and/or manure) and bone meal and ensure there is loose soil at the bottom to allow for easy root growth. After planting, pack the soil firmly to avoid air pockets and water well.

Where to Plant

Choose any part of your garden and a sunny location is best. In cooler winter locations such as at the higher elevations avoid a windy exposure. Absolutely never plant this palm close to the house if you have an overhang because the plant can reach 30 feet.


Neutral to slightly acidic (which is typical in this area). Although these palms tolerate our high rainfall they will thrive in well draining soil.

Watering and Fertilizing:

Watering frequently during dry spells is crucial especially when newly planted. Fertilizing is necessary for lush palms. Any one of these three different methods will get you good results:

1.) A 6 or 9 month slow release, high nitrogen fertilizer (like osmocote) applied once during the growing season.

2.) Water soluble 20-20-20 and fish fertilizer mixed according to package directions and watered in every 10 days to 2 weeks.

3.) A slow release granular fertilizer designed for evergreens applied every two months during the growing season form April to November.

Winter Protection:

In ideal conditions, those close to the moderating influences of the ocean, protection is usually not necessary except for a good ground mulch. If your palm is in one of the more cold sensitive areas a burlap wrapping of the top 18” of the trunk and the newly emerging spear should suffice. The younger the palm the more protection it should have.

Other hardy palms that are worthy of experimenting with are European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis), Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis), Pindo Palm (Butia capitata), Date Palm (Pheonix canariensis) and the Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta). Please realize that these dramatic looking palms are not quite as hardy as the Trachycarpus Fortuei. You should make sure they get sufficient winter protection.