Growing cycads is a labor of love that takes a lot of patience, and failure is common. That is particularly true if try to grow species from around the world since they have a wide range of needs and tolerances. In my home garden here in southern Japan I grow species from the Americas, Africa, Australia and Asia. My success has been, not surprisingly, variable. I grow all of my collection in pots since my garden is quite small and I rent the house.
Here’s what’s going on in my cycad collection this summer, 2016.
Lepidozamia peroffskyana (right foreground), Encephalartos ferox (center), Dioon spinulosum (left back), and Zamia dressleri (pink flushed plant) – all of these plants have flushed new leaves this season except E. ferox. When growing cycads you get used to plants skipping a season for new frond growth.
Dioon spinulosum and Zamia dressleri – both plants have newly flushed growth. The Dioon has a lovely soft blue green color and the Zamia pink-bronze. Both will harden off and mature to dark green.
Zamia dressleri – his species has been really hard to keep here in southern Japan, mostly because of the colder winter conditions, even in the relative warmth of a grow room which occasionally goes down to 5 C – not to its liking. It is said this species also needs a particular mycorrhizal fungus to remain healthy long term. I can only guess this plant was inoculated with the fungus when I got it five years ago.
Zamia pseudoparasitica – probably my best growing Zamia species, tolerating fairly cold temperatures without a problem. In the wild they can be found at high elevation (up to 1000m), so that may be why they can handle cold better than most Zamia. This specimen is finally becoming a near adult.
Zamia integrifolia (AKA floridana) – the famous Florida coontie plant. I thought this species would do well in southern Japan, but it really hates the cold, wet conditions of winter. Even when brought inside they sulk until the real heat of summer hits. These are newly flushed fronds.
Ceratozamia robusta (left) – it is hard to see in this photo, but I have three plants that are very healthy. They tend to flush in late summer to even early winter for me. These are very vigorous and even somewhat cold tolerant, meaning temperatures between 0 and 10 C don’t negatively effect them. Not bad for a tropical species. Cycas debaoensis flushing (right) – this specimen of C. debaoensis is a seedling germinated in 2011. It is finally starting to form a fairly nice caudex (stem).
Cycas debaoensis – the famous multipinnate frond Cycas from southern China. I have found this species reliably hardy down to freezing and enduring long cold conditions quite well. They tend to only flush once a year for me and are therefore quite slow growing.
Cycas panzhihuaensis (left) – a native of southern Sichuan Province in south-central China, this species was hoped to rival C. revoluta for cold hardiness. I can tell you that it isn’t remotely as cold hardy however – those brown pinnae tips are due to a cold snap this past winter that didn’t effect any C. revoluta. Nevertheless, this is a strong growing Cycas with very distinct foliage and growth habit. Dioon edule (right) – the most cold hardy species in the genus and notoriously slow growing. These are newly flushed fronds of two plants from the same seed batch, probably from the San Luis Potosi region of northeast Mexico. Lovely plant, and if kept relatively dry, almost as cold hardy as Cycas revoluta.
Dioon edule (Palma Sola) – the famous relatively fast growing form of the species. These grow at a rate that is similar to Cycas revoluta. Lovely and elegant form, much different than Cycas species.
Encephalartos trispinosus – I got this plant a couple seasons ago, hoping it would be another “cold hardy” cycad for southern Japan. No way, this plant likes heat, like all cycads, and cannot take the combination of cold temperatures and wet conditions without risking fatal rot. I love its blue foliage, but one day had the disquieting realization that it looks terribly similar to an artichoke plant!
Cycas cairnsiana (left) and Encephalartos horridus (right) – two “blue cycads” from different continents, demonstrating the concept of coevolution nicely. The C. cairnsiana is lovely, but like the Encephalartos, it does not do well with wet, cold conditions, so I have to bring both in for winter and keep them dry. Both seed grown and around 4 years old now.
Cycas revoluta v. aurea – Amami Island is home to this famous yellow tipped form of the species. These are newly flushed fronds and already you can see the pinnae tips changing to gold. Some like this coloration, others think it just makes the plant look diseased. Personally, I like the effect.
Cycas revoluta v. variegata – this form has variegation in irregular patches throughout its fronds. Plants with a lot of variegation, particularly more golden in color, are most highly valued in Japan. The plant in this shot has very mild variegation patterns that is more white and therefore a less valuable plant.
Cycas revoluta v. alba – this form flushes brilliant yellow to white to lime green, with the fronds maturing to a bright apple green. This plant has newly flushed fronds, all which are more lime green than white or golden. I’ve noticed that fall flushes are more white in color by comparison, so I’m guessing their color is somehow temperature regulated. A rare form of this species and highly valued in Japan.