Common Name: Madagascar Palm.
Etymology: Pachypodium: Latin form from Greek pachus (thick) and podion (foot), thick-footed.
Description: Slow growing semi- deciduous to deciduous subtropical succulent to 6m tall outdoors. 1.2-1.8m indoors. Resembles a combination of a cactus and a palm.
Foliage: Dark green lanceolate leaves arranged in spirels at terminal of branches.
Stem: Tall silvery grey to green trunk, heavily fortified with sharp spines 2cm-6cm long. Trunk can be up to 30cm diameter at lower middle base of trunk.
Flowers: 5-8cm white with yellow centred fragrant flowering spring through to early summer and on and off through warmer months. Will only flower at maturity and rarely indoors.
Fruit: It produces seed pods that look like cucumbers. Left alone, they eventually open along the seam revealing a great number of white-winged seeds.
Growth Requirements: Prefers a warm climate and full sun. It will not tolerate hard frosts, and will likely drop most of its leaves if exposed to even a light frost, tends to go dormant over winter in temperate climates . Can be grown easily indoors with sufficient sunlight in well drained potting mix such as ‘cactus mix’ to prevent root rot.
Uses: Potted indoor or outdoor plant, succulent or cactus garden and drought proof gardens.
Maintenance: Large plants may require staking to prevent movement in strong winds. Ensure the plant completely drys out between watering and preferably don’t water at all over winter. As with many cacti Madagascar palm can go long periods with little to no fertilizer, particularly the over wintering period where it goes dormant. When fertilizing use a good quality cactus fertilizer with low nitrogen content.
Propagation: Can be done from seed or cutting. Fresh seeds results in a 80-90% yield. Soak seeds in warm water for 24 hours before sowing in moist sand. Seed start sprouting in just 3-4 days (but continue to germinate erratically for about 6 month). They are also propagated by removal of small offshoots that grow at the base of the old plant. Carefully break off the offshoots, they should be allowed to dry for 5 to 8 days before potting up.