The cycas revoluta is a very ancient plant, we could say primitive, especially among those that reproduce by seed. It is also very widespread and popular because it is very ornamental.
It consists of a wrinkled trunk with a crown of plumage-like leaves at the top.
After long studies it has been included among the conifers and is considered closely related to the Ginko Biloba. It is believed that it was already present in the Mesozoic era. In fact it is usually classified as a “living fossil” and just examining the fossils it was established that the last 200 million years have changed it very little.
LE STAGIONI DELLE CYCAS
From autumn to spring
From spring to summer
Planting in the garden
End of winter-early spring
End of winter
Twice a year, from spring to autumn
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The cycas revoluta they love sunny, or slightly shady, locations; usually they can bear temperatures a few degrees below zero, for not too long periods. In the central and southern regions they can be grown in the garden, while in the north they are container plants and during the winter they can be sheltered in an apartment or in a cold greenhouse. Also in apartments we try to place the plant in a cold and very bright place.
Specimens exposed to the winter cold can lose their aerial part due to exceptionally cold temperatures: usually with the arrival of spring the plant produces new leaves.
The ideal exposure is undoubtedly the full sun. However, they also fit well indoors, but well-lit. It must receive a good amount of light for at least four hours, in the morning or afternoon.
As the dwarf palm grows, shows more of its natural deportment. A trunk with a diameter from 3 to 35 cm in diameter develops, depending on the age, surmounted by a crown of very elegant leaves, which may recall the shape of large feathers. The leaves are not produced continuously, but during the year there are flows of growth and stoppage.
Watering cycas fertilization
The plants of dwarf palm can withstand even long periods of drought, to avoid however that the leaves get damaged or the growth is stunted is advisable to water regularly, from March to October, when the soil is well dry, specimens grown in apartment should be watered even during the winter, but sporadically, remembering to wait for the soil to dry up perfectly between one watering and the other.
During the vegetative period, fertilize every 20-30 days with balanced fertilizer; at the beginning of spring, provide an iron-based fertilization.
The more the specimen is well exposed, the more it will have water and feeding needs. The best way to proceed is when the substrate is almost completely dry. After several years they can be considered autonomous and therefore we can avoid to intervene.
Instead, you must be particularly careful with those in the container, especially to avoid exaggerating. Let’s wait for the substrate to be completely dry and then give water very slowly. Usually, during the summer season, we should proceed weekly. In winter, however, it can be sufficient even once a month.
Fertilization is necessary from spring to early autumn. We can give an average dose of slow release granular fertilizer twice a year, remembering however that it is better to give less than too much. If the plant is little exposed or kept in an apartment will be sufficient ¼ of this amount.
The Cycas revoluta or dwarf palm is a plant that grows in well drained soils and hates waterlogging. For this reason, it is recommended to add draining material (pumice, agri-perlite, sand, expanded clay or similar) to the growing medium. The soil must also be well rich in humus and soft.
The best time for planting and repotting is in spring. This last operation must be carried out every 2 or 3 years. It is advisable not to use excessively large pots and to increase the diameter progressively.
It must be well drained and rich in organic matter. In the garden it will be better to insert the collar slightly above the ground, creating a mountain, so as to avoid that water accumulates causing any rottenness in that delicate area.
The propagation is quite simple and can be done in different ways, mainly by seed or by taking suckers.
It occurs mainly through the division of the suckers emitted by the plant, in early spring or early autumn. Once rooted, the plants will be potted in small containers of about 10 cm in diameter. Sowing is another method of reproduction.
It is carried out in springtime. However, as the germinability of the seeds is rather low, this type of propagation is little used.
First of all, we must point out that it is a dioecious plant. This means that there are male and female specimens. In order to be able to carry out the reproduction by seed, therefore, it is necessary to have both of them to make sure that the pollination takes place. Unfortunately, in Italy this is difficult to do because the vast majority of plants, resulting from vegetative division, are female.
It should also be noted that before seeing the cycas bloom you have to wait several years and have the right soil and climate conditions.
In any case, the production of female flowers and male cones takes place at the beginning of summer, depending on the climate of our geographical area. The seeds are then developed during the summer and autumn are ready to be picked in January-February. They must then be left for several days in water to remove the red skin. Instead, the hard, white skin should be left. They can be planted immediately or stored in a cool, dry place until March-April.
They should be placed in a well-drained compound, letting the eye out. We keep the whole thing moist, but not soaked. Usually twinning takes place within 3-9 months. To reach an acceptable size, however, may take up to three years of growth.
These are produced at the base or along the crown of leaves. They are an excellent source for new plants. They should be removed at the beginning of spring or from the end of autumn to winter using a shovel or a sharp knife to remove them from the trunk. All leaves and roots are then removed. They should then be left to dry for about 10 days. Then they will be placed in a container with light and well drained soil with at least half of the trunk buried.
Let’s irrigate constantly, but with moderation. Ideally, wait until it is dry before proceeding again. The specimens should be kept in an area protected from strong light or inside. The roots will slowly begin to develop and the leaves will only appear several months later. At that time we can give a mild dose of fertilizer for green plants and start to irrigate more. Let’s wait for the root system to be well formed before repotting or finally planting it in the ground.
Cycas Pests and Diseases
The most common drawback is undoubtedly the appearance of yellow leaves.
Generally, if these were the old ones the cause is excessive irrigation or too much fertilizer. These same causes can also cause the new foliage to turn yellow, but also possibly a soil that is too poor. In any case, it is advisable to eliminate them by cutting at the base with sterilized scissors.
It often happens that the leaves of the cycas yellow irreparably, this phenomenon may be due to nutritional or water deficiencies, or to the attack by the cochineals, which should be clearly visible under the leaves. Yellowing due to nutritional deficiencies is generally widespread in large areas throughout the leaf, while yellowing due to cochineal causes the characteristic punctuation.
The cycas can be attacked by a cotton cochineal or shield. In this case, a specific insecticide and mineral oil are used.
Dwarf palm origins
Cycas are widespread in many parts of the world, but Cycas revoluta is native to the Far East where it is traditionally used as a pot plant or for landscaping.
It can be said that the cycas is one of the easiest plants to grow both inside and outside, and can be taken into account by both experienced and novice gardener.
This is because it adapts to a wide range of temperatures (it has no problems from -10 to over 40°C). It is also very tolerant of exposure. It lives well in full sun or half shade and can develop well inside even with artificial lighting.
In addition, they are all rather long-lived and do not require regular care.
They even bear transplants very well: a few years ago, a specimen of more than 200 years of age, present at the Kew Gardens of London, was moved without being particularly affected by it.
How does the cycas plant grow?
The new leaves all emerge together creating a crown. In the first weeks they are very thin and fragile. In that period it is strongly advised not to proceed with repotting or other maneuvers. Let’s make sure that the specimen receives the right amount of light. A poorly-lit exposure leads to the formation of short leaves of a slightly pleasant light green.
If the light comes from a window, it is a good idea to rotate the pot often so that all parts of the plant can enjoy the same amount of light and grow, consequently, in a balanced way. Let’s keep the soil always moist during this period because the new foliage is very sensitive to drought and could react by drying or withering.
Cycas slow growth
Does it grow fast? No, the cycas grow very slowly. At most (under ideal conditions) they can produce three new crowns of leaves per year and grow about 3 cm tall. The diameter of the trunk also increases by a maximum of 3 cm per year. The specimens kept in containers, however, are even slower. For this reason, they are very often used to be transformed into beautiful bonsai.
On the other hand, this slow growth gives the tree the possibility of being very long-lived and resistant.
As we have said, it is a very adaptable plant. It can withstand temperatures as low as -10°C. If we live in an area where it is possible to reach lower temperatures it will be better to place the cycas in an area sheltered by a wall, possibly to the south. We can also protect the specimen with non-woven fabric. An excessive frost, especially if prolonged, can cause a yellowing of the leaves, which then, generally, will die.
They should be removed by the arrival of spring to encourage the production of new ones.
If the cold was really excessive, the plant could be seriously damaged. However, we should only remove the tree if the trunk is soft and no longer woody. If it is still hard, there is a strong probability that it will recover over time.
In this respect, it is not particularly sensitive. It lives well both in areas with very dry air and in those where the humidity is very high.
The period to proceed is from spring to summer. Let’s choose a container only slightly larger than the previous one.
For the planting in full earth we avoid an area where there is a depression. In fact, their root system does not like waterlogging. The ideal is where there is a well-drained soil. Let us also remember that over the years it could become a large specimen. Let us therefore leave free at least one area with a diameter of about 2 metres.
Cleaning the cycas
The puulizia of the plant must be carried out once a year eliminating the old leaves, generally those lower down and those possibly yellow or brown. Cut as close as possible to the trunk.
Dwarf palm – Cycas revoluta: Variety
In Italy the species is almost only available. However, there are also cultivars variegated in gold (with the tip of the leaves yellow), with completely yellow leaves or even silver. However, they are very rare.
- The cycas is one of those very few red wires that directly connect our most remote roots to what we are now.
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