Lepidozamia Cultivation

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Both species are very easy and rewarding subjects of cultivation. In my nursery I have hardly ever lost even a seedling and, while their growth is somewhat slow at first and if you have the patience to wait a few years once they begin to produce several leaves at a time it does not take long to produce a very beautiful specimen. They will tolerate poor drainage better than many other cycads but when a good oxygen supply is available to the roots growth and appearance is much improved.

Fresh seeds take about 6 months to germinate and some may take as long as one year. It may take some months more for the first leaf to appear so it will be a couple of years at least to get a seedling with three or four leaves. Germination is easy if seeds are mixed with some slightly moist vermiculite in a plastic container or bag, sealed to retain moisture. Seeds may be potted into 140 mm pots as soon as the radicle appears. Potting mix should preferably not contain sawdust and certainly no poultry manure or soil.

I personally find that the somewhat heavy soil in my garden means that seedlings do better in pots than in the garden until they are reasonably large. L. peroffskyana prefers light shade and tolerates full sun quite well but does not make satisfactory growth in dense shade. L. hopei is more tolerant of shade but does not like full sun. Of the two species L. peroffskyana is much more cold tolerant being undamaged even when exposed to direct frost down to -6° C. L. hopei has in my nursery happily survived temperatures below zero night after night even when subzero temperatures were experienced for periods exceeding 12 hours at a time to -4° C but under some overhead protection. Daytime temperatures would then go to 16-20° C.

Mature plants in my garden have leaves to 2.5 m long, caudex over 300mm wide and high but still have not toned. One specimen recently potted from a 400mm to 500mm container has a flush of leaves of 15 at a time each year. Leaves are 1.7 m long, and the caudex is 250mm across. The larger ones in the garden gain 50-60mm in height of stem each year. Once plants produce more than three leaves at a time there generally is a flush of new leaves only once per year. When new leaves appear plants need plenty of moisture or the new leaves will droop, then harden and this produces leaves with kinks in the rachis. (O.K. if you like kinky things).

Plants do well inside but watch very carefully for the appearance of scale. They can quickly ruin a nice plant but are easily removed by hand. When new leaves appear plants should be placed in bright light so leaves do not elongate too much. Be careful hardening leaflets do not touch anything to push them out of line - once they harden they will retain whatever shape they are in at the time of hardening.

Contributed by:

Will Kraa (from Palms & Cycads No 39. Apr-Jun 1993)

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