Washingtonia filifera

Washingtonia filifera

Washingtonia filifera or Californian Fan Palm is a very good species for beginners: fast growing, good frost resistance, easy to propagate.

It resists drought very well and isn’t picky about the kind of soil it grows in, even alkaline soil will do.

Want more? The fronds are extremely beautiful and fan like, ended with white filaments.
The old and dry fronds hang from the crown and form a petticoat around the trunk.
The inflorescence is spectacular and may be many meters long.

It’s a cousin of Washingtonia Robusta which grows faster but is less frost resistant.


Washingtonia affiliera grows up to 24 m high. The stipe measures 60-120 cm in diameter. It is covered with hanging dried leaves.

The crown is dense. The leaves are round, separated in 70-75 drooping segments. The segments are bare and have long white filaments at the margins and top. The petiole has yellow thorns at the edges in their lower portion.

The inflorescence appears from amidst the foliage, is longer than the leaves and overhanging. The flowers are small and inconspicuous.

The fruit is black and small, about 8 x 6 mm.


Grown as a solitary or bordering an avenue. Leaves were used for weaving and construction of roofs. Fruit are edible after boiling.


Common names:

California fan palm, Desert fan palm, American cotton palm, Cotton palm, Washington palm, Desert palm


Brahea dulcis, Brahea filamentosa, Brahea filifera, Brahea filifera, Livistona filamentosa, Neowashingtonia filamentosa, Neowashingtonia filifera, Pritchardia filamentosa, Pritchardia filifera, Washingtonia filamentosa, Washingtonia filifera var. microsperma


Washingtonia: in honor of George Washington (1732-1799), first president of the USA
Filifera: from the Latin filum (thread) and fero (bearing)


USA (California, Arizona) and Mexico (Baja California)


Desert in places where surface water is available


USDA zone 8-11, -10 °C during briuef periods (-12 °C for mature plants)



Any soil, well drained


Full sun


Drought resistant. Keep soil moist during growing season, let the growing medium dry out between waterings in winter.


Universal liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks during growing season, monthly in winter


  • as with most palms, growth may be slow the first years but then accelerates
  • you will have a cute little palm after 2-3 years
  • the leaf stems wear thorns, so be careful if you have children or pets
  • hybridizes easily with Washingtonia robusta which makes it difficult to distinguish them



Sowing instructions:

  • if the seeds are fresh, don’t bother soaking, if they are not fresh, soak for 1 or 2 days in lukewarm water
  • sow in light soil
  • humidify
  • keep at 25-30 °C
  • germination time: a couple of days if seeds are very fresh, 1 to 3 months otherwise
  • Repot: when the seedlings are big enough to handle, repot in individual pot

In my garden:

Washingtonia filifera, 2 months old seedling

2 Months old seedling, the second leaf appears. The pot is way too small which resulted in a slower growth rate compared to other seedling who were in a bigger pot.

Washingtonia filifera, 2 months old seedling before repotting

Before repotting.

Washingtonia filifera, 2 months old seedling after repotting

Repotted in a soda bottle which I’ve cut in 2.

Washingtonia filifera, 2 months old seedling in cheap mini greenhouse

Now place the upper half back on the lower half and you have a very cheap individual greenhouse.

This way, you can place the seedlings outdoors earlier, the bottle will heat quickly at the smallest ray of sunshine.

And you reduce the need to water dramatically. I check every couple of days.

You do get some water loss due to evaporation and subsequent condensation which then drips along the cut, out of the bottle. But not as fast as the water would evaporate from an open pot.