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Publication #ENH-524

Livistona chinensis: Chinese Fan Palm1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2


Able to reach 50 feet in height but usually seen at 30 feet with a 10 to 12-foot spread, Chinese Fan Palm has a single straight trunk and large, six-foot-long leaves which have drooping tips. The divided leaves have long, tapering, ribbon-like segments which gracefully sway beneath the leaves, creating an overall fountain-like effect. The petioles are armed with sharp spines. The inconspicuous flowers are hidden among the leaves and are followed by small, blue-black, olive-like fruits.

Figure 1. 

Middle-aged Livistona chinensis: Chinese Fan Palm


S. P. Perlman @ US National Herbarium, Department of Botany, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution

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General Information

Scientific name: Livistona chinensis
Pronunciation: liv-iss-TOE-nuh chih-NEN-sis
Common name(s): Chinese Fan Palm
Family: Arecaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 9B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Figure 2. 


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: According to the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas (IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group 2008), Livistona chinensis should be treated with caution in the central and south zone in Florida, may be recommended but managed to prevent escape. It is not considered a problem species and may be recommended in the north zone in Florida (counties listed by zone at:
Uses: indoors; street without sidewalk; deck or patio; specimen; parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100-200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; sidewalk cutout (tree pit); tree lawn 3-4 feet wide; tree lawn 4-6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; highway median
Availability: not native to North America


Height: 30 to 50 feet
Spread: 10 to 12 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: palm, upright/erect
Crown density: open
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: spiral (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: costapalmate
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: star-shaped
Leaf venation: palmate
Leaf type and persistence: broadleaf evergreen, evergreen
Leaf blade length: more than 36 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 


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Flower color: white/cream/gray
Flower characteristics: not showy


Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch, .5 to 1 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: blue, black
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Figure 4. 



R.A. Howard. ©Smithsonian Institution. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, Richard A. Howard Photograph Collection. United States, GA, Pine Mountain.

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Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; showy; typically one trunk; thorns
Pruning requirement: little required
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: not applicable
Current year twig thickness:
Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: none


Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant
Pest resistance: sensitive to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Although Chinese Fan Palm has long been used as a container palm, its neat leaf habit and interesting form make it ideal for further landscape uses, such as in staggered groupings or used as a freestanding specimen, or street tree. They form a closed canopy when planted about ten feet apart along a walk or street. They grow well in confined soil spaces. The palm is self-cleaning of old leaves and will require little or no pruning.

Tolerant of full sun, young specimens of Chinese Fan Palm should be partially shaded. Any reasonably fertile, well-drained soil, including alkaline, is suitable and Chinese Fan Palm should be fertilized two or three times during the year. Plants should be watered during dry spells and will benefit from an organic mulch.

Livistona chinensis subglobosa is a dwarf Chinese Fan Palm.

Propagation is by seed.




It is moderately susceptible to lethal yellowing disease.

Literature Cited

Fox, A.M., D.R. Gordon, J.A. Dusky, L. Tyson, and R.K. Stocker (2008) IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas: Status Assessment. Cited from the Internet (November 16, 2012),



This document is ENH-524, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date November 1993. Revised February 2013. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.