This small, thick trunk is not an actual palm tree but a member of the cactus family. It grows easily, and is less maintainable. Gardenerdy provides all the information on how to care for a Madagascar Palm tree.
The botanical name of Madagascar Palm is Pachypodium lamerei. In Greek Pachypodium means thick foot, which refers to the thick trunk of this tree.
This sun-loving tree is native to southern Madagascar, Africa. Although, named as ‘palm’ due to its similar appearance to a palm-like top and swollen trunk, it’s actually a cacti succulent from the Apocynaceae family.
It has qualities of, both, an indoor as well as an outdoor plant. With its aromatic flowers and unique appearance, it can be best grown in temperate climates. It requires full sunlight, and is drought-resistant. One amazing phenomenon is, prior to its first bloom, it produces distinctive seed pods that look like cucumbers, which eventually open along the seam revealing great numbers of white-winged seeds.
Let’s get to know this tree a little better.
Growth & Appearance
The Madagascar palm can be grown through seeds, but it’s a long process. The seeds need to be soaked at least for 24 hours in warm water before planting them. It requires at least 3 weeks to 6 months to sprout. The best way to grow them is, to break off small shoots from the base and dry them for a week, then, plant them in a mix soil setting, indoors or outdoors.
They require plenty of sunlight; hence, plant them in a sunny place outdoors. If they are planted indoors as a potted plant, then, an area which is exposed to plenty of sunlight, like the patio, is ideal. They can grow in U.S. hardiness zone 10, and in warmer areas of zone 9B as well.
While planting them outdoors, plant them in a group, but make sure, they are well spaced. Planting them away from areas that are easily accessible to children and pets as they are poisonous in nature, is advisable. Make sure there are no other high maintenance plants growing next to them as they can hamper their growth.
They generally follow a slow growth pattern. They can grow up to 4 to 6 feet indoors, whereas outdoors up to 15 feet. The long swollen trunk is covered with exceptionally thick spines measuring approximately 2.5-inch. These spines appear like shiny, silver, pointy, hard needles, and the leaves form at the top of the trunk. It rarely develops branches, and gives out aromatic yellow, pink or red flowers in winter.
Care & Maintenance
The Madagascar palm requires cactus potting mix, or 2 parts all-purpose potting mix with 1 part sharp sand or perlite as soil. An indoor palm fertilizer is required only during summer and spring.
A potted palm will require repotting every 2 to 3 years during spring as it outgrows the pot. Place it in a pot with holes at the bottom to drain out excess water. Do not over-water the tree as it may cause the trunk to rot.
While handling the tree, make sure to wear thick protective gear and cover the trunk with several layers of newspaper or thick towels as every part of the tree is poisonous.
The tree goes into hibernation during winter; hence, it is normal for the leaves to drop completely. New leaves will grow again during spring.
Diseases & Pest Control
Cold weather might damage a Madagascar palm. It rots and looks like a soft, mushy tissue with a crumpled, withered look. Prune it by removing the damaged branch entirely or partly, on the area that is affected.
When infected by pests and leaves which are eaten by bugs, simply pull off the infected leaves. Do not use excessive fertilizers on the tree as it might give burn the leaves.
There might be the occasional infestation of mites or white fly larvae that may attach themselves to the bottom of the palm fronds. These can be cleared out with insecticides and fungicides in the form of sprays, soapy rinses, or systemic poisons.
This small, quirky, palm-like tree requires less attention, and is readily available in nurseries; hence, it’s a popular succulent in the world.