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Cycas

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  • Indoor Plants
Japanese sago palm (Cycas revoluta)
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Josée Bouthot)

Onglets

Botany

Origin and description

Genus Cycas includes several species native to tropical and subtropical zones, mainly in Africa and Asia. Cycas revoluta is native to Japan. Cycas are known as “primitive” plants, with morphological features that have evolved very little since prehistory. This plant's shape resembles that of a small palm. Its pinnate leaves are composed of numerous straight, stiff, shiny, dark green leaflets and have very sharp tips. They can be up to 90 cm long. They are arranged in a rosette around a trunk marked with leaf scars that can grow up to 3 metres tall in the plant's natural habitat. Cycas is very slow growing. A young cycas produces one or two leaves a year, in spring, while an adult plant produces a whole row of leaves each year. They start out erect and then become arching. Although they resemble small palms, cycas belong to the gymnosperm group along with conifers. These are dioecious plants (either male or female) and they rarely produce cones when grown as houseplants.

Species, cultivars and related plants

There are several other cycas species, but they are rarely available on the market.

Toxicity

Careful! The seeds and leaves of this plant are toxic. In addition, the sharp tips of leaves can cause injuries. Keep this plant out of the reach of children and pets.

Common name

Cycas / Japanese sago palm

Latin name (genus)

Cycas revoluta

French common name

Botanical family

  • Cycadaceae
Horticulture

Growing conditions

Cycas does well in bright light or even direct sunlight if it is allowed to adapt gradually. It does best near a southwest-facing window. It is happy with normal room temperatures year round, but will also tolerate temperatures ranging from 16 to 27ºC. Although you can give it a cooler period in winter (12-15ºC), temperatures should never drop below 5ºC. Cycas requires good air circulation, but should not be exposed to cold drafts. It tolerates dry air, but prefers humidity, as can be obtained by placing the pot on a saucer filled with gravel and water. Mist the leaves regularly with tepid water in summer.

Easy to grow?

Cycas is fairly easy to grow provided that it has suitable lighting.

Watering and fertilizer

Cycas must not be allowed to dry out completely when new shoots are emerging in spring. Water regularly in summer, but never leave any water standing in the saucer. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. In winter, especially when days are at their shortest, water sparingly and allow the soil to dry out more thoroughly between waterings. If temperatures drop below 15 ºC in winter, keep the plant almost dry. Fertilize three or four times during the growing period, from March to October, with balanced indoor plant food or all-purpose fertilizer like 20-20-20.

Pruning and maintenance

Remove dried leaves at the base. Clean dusty plants under a tepid shower.

Repotting

Cycas is very slow growing and does not like to be repotted. Repot only once every three or four years. Repot before new shoots appear or once the new leaves are well developed. Use well-aerated, humus-rich potting soil, like a mixture containing two-thirds all-purpose potting soil and one-third perlite and coarse sand. For good drainage, place a layer of pebbles in the base of the pot.

See also

Pests and diseases
Physiological disorders

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