Cycads – Cycas Revoluta

Key Information

Origin:Southern Japan
Ultimate height:up to 6m (20ft)
Ultimate spread:2 to 3m (6 to 10ft)
Growing Temp:15-35C (59-95F)
UK Hardy:Outside, if well protected
Hardy to:-4C (25F) unprotected
Prolonged freeze:Yes, if well protected
Wind tolerant:Yes
Full Sun:Yes
Light Shade:Yes
Deep shade:No
Drought:Yes, when established
Watering:High/summ – low/wint
Drainage:Well drained
Humidity:Not fussy

Not a Palm at all but a fern/conifer type plant that has been around since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Cycas revoluta is the most common of the Cycads in the UK and can be found in such places as B&Q now.

The picture to the right is of Cyril Cycad a few weeks after I bought him at The Palm Centre when based in Richmond. Ghastley white pot, but that was the fashion in the 80s and early 90s. Not quite sure about his age when I bought him, but must have been 3 or 4 years.

Cyril spent the summer out in the garden and the rest of the time in the consevatory, for his first few years. being potted on every 2nd year. The pot was stood in various parts of the garden, for best effect.

Then in 2002, following a restructuring of the back garden, he was planted out against the baked south facing wall of the lounge. They are reputed to take a couple of degrees of frost, but I was a bit apprehensive about losing a 12 year 2 foot plant, so I covered him with garden fleece. He sailed through the winter of 2002/3 with no problems. He is now going into his 5th winter without any signs of damage.

Culture They like as much sun as you can throw at them and a well drained compost/soil, but coming from an area with summer monsoon type conditions, like lashings of water in the warmer months. They are also heavy feeders during this time. They can take a few degrees of frost but do not allow snow to accumulate in the crown of the plant. Evidance now suggests that even if all the leaves are killed by -6 or -7C the plant is not dead and should re-flush in the next season.

Cycads have an unusual growth patten compared to most other plants. They have pineapple like scales in the centre of the crown which gradually open out as the plant expands. Then, normally in high summer, in the UK. the leaves appear, but not every year. Cyril has a flush of leaves about every second summer. These leaves, and there may be 40 or so on a larger plant, have the leaflets curled up and are incredibly delicate. They quickly grow in size and the leaflets open out. In a matter of weeks a set of leave will grow to full size.

Once fully grown the leaves harden off to become the tough leathery leaves we all know. When the new leaves emerge the old leaves go yellowy and I cut them off see picture.

Warning: If grown in a pot, do not turn the plant while the leaves are emerging. If the light direction changes the leaves will twist and distort. Mark the pot to ensure it always faces the same way. Once the leaves have hardened the plant can be turned with no problems.