Connect with us

Thai Life

Gardening: Growing healthy fan palms in Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: When I was a boy I had to endure long waits on sooty railway stations – yes, it was the age of steam – whose walls were plastered with gaudy and incongruous posters of seaside resorts with azure seas, golden sands, bronzed maidens and palm trees. Of course, no beach in the UK actually looked remotely like that, and it was only years later that I glimpsed my first grove of real palms as I drove a rickety car across southern Spain.

With global warming, things have changed – there is now a licuala spinosa palm not a hundred yards from my London apartment. But palms remain quintessentially tropical trees, not only graceful additions to almost any Phuket garden, but among the easiest trees to grow. The range is simply vast. One collector in Thailand, I recently read, has no fewer than 90 different licuala palms.

And when you consider that the family of fan palms is only one genus – and that at least 15 of these are native to Thailand, you begin to appreciate the enormity of the task of classifying palms in general.

Fan palms are a good choice for the small garden since they rarely grow more than a few feet tall, and are neat and compact in habit. Mostly a lustrous shade of green, they boast huge, semi-circular leaves which are either divided into segments, or are pleated like the folds of a concertina. In the wild – and species are still being discovered – they are usually found around the margins of swamps or in rain forests. In cultivation they have great potential, not only as landscape subjects in the garden, but also as pot plants. Slow-growing, fan palms prefer part shade and a well-drained, friable, but moist soil.

You can try them indoors, but like all houseplants, they will need periodic relief from indoor conditions. Outdoors, they require a sheltered spot with protection from strong winds, which will play havoc with their sail-like leaves.

Spinosa, an Asian variety sometimes found growing wild near native river banks, is bigger than most, with large roundish leaves divided into square-ended segments, and attractive pendant clusters of red fruit. Grandis, also known as the ruffled fan palm, has pleated leaves on a single stem.

Johannesteijsmannia altifrons
– which must hold the record for the most unpronounceable plant name, is generally classified as a separate species, but it resembles a fan palm with its broadly diamond-shaped foliage and glossy, undivided leaves up to five feet across. It deserves to be better known, and it is gaining in popularity.

Much more mundane, but exceedingly useful is the rhapis or lady palm. Usually planted in clumps – although it can be purchased singly – it has slender trunks covered with fibrous hair, and distinctive fan-shaped leaves, divided into separate leaflets. Capable of enduring dense shade, rhapis will do well in most conditions provided it has adequate moisture at its roots. Deprived of water, some of the fronds will turn brown. Growing to about two meters, rhapis is useful both as a dense screening hedge and for providing lush green cover under taller shrubs and trees.

If you have gardening or environmental concerns, contact Patrick at drpaccampbell Many of his creative and academic publications can be found at his website: Green galoshes WordPress.

— Patrick Campbell


Want more Thailand news from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📝️ Join the conversation on Thaiger Talk - discuss news & life in our Thailand forums
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 hours ago

Nightlife businesses petition government to reopen, sell alcohol

Coronavirus (Covid-19)9 hours ago

Koh Larn 70% vaccinated as Pattaya eyes reopening

Economy11 hours ago

BMA extends permits for street vendors to 2 years for stability

Phuket Sandbox July 1st


Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Sponsored by image

Phuket12 hours ago

Expats in Phuket without a work permit can register for a Covid-19 vaccine

Environment12 hours ago

Tar balls wash ashore on several Phuket beaches

Thailand12 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Private vaccines, PM promises to re-open Thailand, Phuket Sandbox | June 17

Thailand13 hours ago

2 dead following truck crash

Thailand13 hours ago

Outbreaks at factories rise, operators ordered to file Covid risk assessment

Thailand13 hours ago

Prayut going to Phuket, see if it’s Sandbox ready

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

Chulabhorn Royal Academy details Sinopharm vaccine insurance

Thailand14 hours ago

Thai-English auto-translate down on Facebook due to “technical issues”

Best of14 hours ago

Top 8 Things to do in Phuket

Crime14 hours ago

Famous/infamous murder suspect out on bail wins lottery

Thailand15 hours ago

Police arrest 2 men for allegedly trying to extort 2 million baht from a man

Phuket15 hours ago

Electricty outages in Phuket today

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8