the hemppalme (Trachycarpus fortunei) or Chinese hemppalme counts botanically to the family of the palm-plants (Arecaceae). Its original spread-area stretches from Burma over China as far as to Japan. Occasionally, the hemp palm can also be found in the Himalayas, where it grows at altitudes of up to 2,400 metres. Because the robust plant copes as well with sea climate as with mountain air, Trachycarpus fortunei has meanwhile established itself in Europe and grows wild in Italy as well as in the mild coastal regions of England, Scotland and Ireland.
The hemp palm was introduced already in 1795 in France, less than 50 years later it arrived in the United States and England, where it immediately found enthusiastic followers due to its palm-like appearance and decorated numerous salons and winter gardens. In Asia, Trachycarpus fortunei is still of economic importance: the fibres are used to make wickerwork, ropes and mats, while wood is valued as a building material because of its high weather resistance. The German trivial name “Hanfpalme” also alludes to the firm fibres of the plant, which can be found at the base of the individual leaf fronds and represent a valuable natural raw material.
The hemp palm is an optically very appealing, evergreen fan palm. It grows upright with a slender, unbranched stem that is densely hairy and occupied by dead leaflets. At its end, the large, decorative leaf fronds of Trachycarpus fortunei sit and form an umbrella-shaped mop of hair. Depending on the climate, the hemp palm grows between four and twelve meters high. As a tub plant, it reaches an average height of two to four metres in our latitudes, increasing by about 15 centimeters annually in the initial period and forming six to eight new leaves.
The leaves of the hemp palm are 50 to 90 centimeters long and hand- or fan-shaped. The upper side of the leaf is dark green, while the underside is bluish-white and sometimes looks like stripes. The leaves are terminal on long, strong leaf stems, which are reinforced at the edges with tiny spines.
The 30 to 60 cm long flower panicles of Trachycarpus fortunei consist of small star-shaped individual flowers. They are conspicuously yellow and appear in large numbers from May to June.
Besides the flowers, the fruits of the hemp palm are also a real eye-catcher. These are blue-black, slightly bean-shaped berries. They grow to about 12 millimeters. The botanical name “Trachycarpus” refers to the fruit of the plant: The Greek “trachos” stands for rough and “karpos” for fruit.
The hemp palm prefers to stand bright all year round, but does not tolerate direct sunlight. From May to September it should be outdoors – on the terrace or a large balcony. Avoid exposing the plant too much to the wind: The long leaf stalks can bend easily. In addition, the tall and somewhat “top-heavy” hemp palm tends to tip over, which of course favours an exposed stand.
Trachycarpus fortunei develops best in a loamy-sandy substrate that is rich in humus but only moderately nutritious. It should also be loose and permeable and slightly acidic.
Always keep the root ball of the hemp palm evenly moist. In winter, watering is more economical, but the soil must never dry out completely. As a general rule, the hemp palm copes better with short periods of dryness than with stagnant moisture.
The hemp palm is only fertilized during the growing season, i.e. from March to October. Good results can be achieved with long-term fertilizers or you can add a small amount of low-dose liquid fertilizer to the watering water on a weekly basis.
About every four years the hemp palm is repotted. Since the roots of Trachycarpus fortunei grow very deep, a large plant pot is appropriate. It should also be solid and of sufficient weight to provide the potted plant with a secure footing.
You don’t have to cut your hemp palm, the impressive habitus it also forms completely without action. However, dried or bent leaf duster can be removed close to the trunk just to preserve the attractive appearance.
Since Trachycarpus fortunei remains in the same pot for a relatively long time, the top layer of soil should occasionally be replaced with fresh substrate in spring. Highly compacted substrate is loosened slightly. Attention: Be careful not to damage the roots.
If you have enough space (and a sack truck), the hibernation of the hemp palm is very uncomplicated. Basically, the pot plant feels at home in any frost-free location. The winter quarters can be both light and dark. After a dark hibernation, however, it is advisable to get accustomed to the light in parts, otherwise leaf burns may occur. As a rule, the hemp palm is only granted at the end of September/beginning of October. It can be returned to the open air from April/May. In mild regions Trachycarpus fortunei can actually be planted out. Here, however, one should provide from -6 degrees Celsius absolutely for a winter protection in the root area.
The propagation succeeds through sowing, however, lasts relatively long, since the seeds of the hemp palm have a germination-time between 2 and 4 months. Place the pots in a bright and warm location with temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius. Since the hemp palm only rarely fructifies with us, one must fall back on seeds from the trade as a rule thereby.
Diseases and pests
The hemp palm is very robust. Occasionally scale insects can appear. Extreme air dryness leads to dry leaf tips in the long run.
Whether potted plants such as oleanders or indoor plants such as orchids: The scale insect infests the most diverse plants. René Wadas, a herbalist, will give you his tips on pest prevention and control: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera: Fabian Primsch; Editing: Dennis Fuhro; Photo: Flora Press/Thomas Lohrer
Hemp palms in the our store-Shop
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.