Caring for cycads properly

Caring for cycads properly

Plant cycads properly

In the Central European climate, the tropical prehistoric plant optimally thrives in large tubs. This should offer enough space for the expansive taproot and have a floor opening as a water drain. How to plant the fern palm in an exemplary manner:

  • Put a drainage on the bottom of the pot with broken pottery shards (do not use chalky gravel)
  • Mix the potted plant soil with lava granulate (€ 10.95 at Amazon *) and fill in the lower third of the pail
  • Plant the young fern palm in the middle, pressing down the substrate repeatedly.

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  • Hibernating cycads - how to do it right
  • Yellow leaves on cycads - why and what helps against it?
  • Cycad and Frost - the two will not become friends

Finally, lime-free water is poured on to place the plant in the partially shaded location for the first 2-3 weeks.

Care tips

The care of a fern palm can also be managed by the hobby gardener with a limited amount of time without any problems. These measures are important:

  • Moisten the soil to the ground when watering
  • Let the substrate dry before the next casting pass
  • Use collected rainwater or decalcified tap water
  • Apply liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks from April to October

If the fern palm spent the summer outdoors, it moves to winter quarters at temperatures below 12 degrees. In a bright location at temperatures of 10-15 degrees, reduce the amount of irrigation water and stop adding fertilizer.

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Which location is suitable?

In order for the fern palm to develop a harmonious silhouette, these site conditions are important:

  • Bright to shady light conditions
  • No blazing midday sun
  • Normal room temperatures
  • Average humidity of 50-60 percent

A cycad feels particularly comfortable in the open air. Carry the plant on the balcony or in the garden, preferably in spring, when the temperatures permanently exceed 15 degrees. The even incidence of light during summer promotes a harmonious habitus.

What soil does the plant need?

The fern palm spends many years in the substrate. Because of this, it is important to use high-quality compost-based potted plant soil. Add lava granules or expanded clay (€ 17.50 on Amazon *) to optimize permeability. A few handfuls of bog soil ensure the desired pH value of 5.5 to 6.0.

When is the flowering time?

It is considered an accolade among amateur gardeners when you elicit a blossom from cycads. From May onwards, either a male cone flower or a female sporophyll, the typical flower on ferns, rises up. It usually takes 6 to 14 months for the seeds to mature.

Cut cycads properly

Since every new wreath of leaves on a fern palm is welcomed with joy, a cut is rarely an option. If new leaflets rise in the crown, the lower leaf wreath dies. Give the cycad time to assimilate the remaining nutrients. Either the dead leaves fall off by themselves or you can cut them off with a disinfected knife.

Water the cycad

Uniform substrate moisture with intermittent drying phases is an advantage for growth. Pour thoroughly with lime-free water and then wait until the surface of the earth has dried up again.

Fertilize cycads properly

The nutritional requirement is at a low level. Fertilize a fern palm every 4 weeks from April to October with a liquid fertilizer for green plants.


A glance at the strong, leathery leaves already suggests that diseases of a fern palm are rare. If cycads linger outdoors in summer, powdery mildew or downy mildew can spread on the fronds. The floury-gray patina disappears again after you repeatedly treated the leaves with a mixture of 100 ml of fresh milk and 900 ml of water.


If the fern palm winters at temperatures above 18 degrees Celsius, woolly lice and mealybugs can spread on the leaflets. Wipe the pests off with a soft cloth soaked in alcohol. Alternatively, pack the root area in a plastic bag and shower the parasites off.


If the outside temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius, the fern palm moves into the house or the winter garden. This is an exemplary way to overwinter the plant:

  • Set up in a light-flooded location
  • A temperature level of 10-15 degrees is ideal
  • Water less and do not fertilize

Year-round cultivation below room temperatures is possible. In view of the reduced amount of light, the fern palm stops growing, so that the need for irrigation water decreases. The higher the temperatures, the sunnier the location should be.

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Propagate cycads

Propagating cycads by sowing is considered the ultimate challenge. For the seeds to germinate, temperatures of 30-35 degrees and a permanent humidity of 80 percent are required. It takes up to 3 months for the first germ layers to appear.

Is Cycad Poisonous?

The fern palm is poisonous in all parts. Children should not come into contact with the plant unsupervised. Also, place cycads out of the reach of pets. The poison content can be removed from the seeds by roasting, so that they are suitable for consumption.

Cycad does not bloom

Don't be sorry if cycads haven't bloomed even after years. In the local regions, a bloom is considered a spectacular sensation. The more time the palm-like plant can spend in the open air, the better the prospects for a female or male cone.

Brown leaves

If the mighty pinnate leaves turn brown from the tip, check the fern palm for these causes:

  • Air that is too dry: spray repeatedly with lime-free water
  • Drought stress: water thoroughly until the water runs out of the opening in the bottom

If the leaf tips constantly hit an obstacle, they then turn brown. In this case, relocation solves the problem.

Yellow leaves

The exclusive use of calcareous irrigation water causes yellow leaves on a fern palm. If you switch the water supply to collected rainwater or decalcified tap water, the plant will recover over time.

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How do I transplant properly?

The calm growth of a fern palm requires transplanting every 3-4 years. If the roots peek out of the opening in the ground or push themselves through the substrate, repot cycads in February or March. Shake off the used soil as much as possible. Dead roots are cut out with a sharp, disinfected knife. In the first 2-3 weeks after transplanting, the plant must not come under direct sunlight.

The most beautiful varieties

  • Japanese sago palm fern (Cycas revoluta): by far the most popular variety with 70-140 cm long fronds on the mighty trunk
  • Zamia: this fern palm grows faster, with wider pinnate leaves and is easier to care for
  • Rolled up sago palm fern (Cycas circinalis): impresses with numerous leaves up to 150 cm long and long plumage
  • Zamia furfuracea: on a very short trunk, the curved leaves develop in dense bushes