Are Madagascar Palms Easy to Care for?

Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei) is a pretty houseplant that, with proper care, turns out to be quite fast-growing and vital. Even if the name suggests otherwise, the plant is not a palm tree, but a succulent.

Madagascar palm: growth and appearance.


In its native Madagascar, the unusual species, which is also called thickfoot, grows as a stately tree. As a houseplant, Pachypodium lamerei also shows itself to be quite prolific – with good care, it can easily reach two meters in height.

In the growth phase, the succulent develops numerous narrow, dark green leaves at the end of the distinctive, cone-shaped stem. This is covered with strong thorns. Although the Madagascar Palm is considered deciduous, it can retain its leaves throughout the year under favorable conditions.

Its white flowers, unfortunately, rarely appear in indoor culture. If they are spotted on older specimens, however, the relationship to the oleander can be easily guessed: Like the latter, Pachypodium belongs to the dogbane family (Apocynaceae).

Besides Pachypodium lamerei, Pachypodium geayi is also available as a Madagascar palm. The latter has a gray-green leaf rosette with reddish veins, which are somewhat narrower than those of P. lamerei.

Location and substrate


The Madagascar palm prefers to thrive year-round in a south-facing window. If a full sun location is not possible, it should at least be very bright. Pachypodium can also spend the summer outdoors, provided that the place is protected from wind and heavy rain. Temperatures of 30 °C and a little more are no problem for the exotic plant.

In winter the thermometer should ideally read between 15 and 20 °C. Dry heating air is well tolerated and even appreciated as pleasant warmth. If the fatfoot sheds its leaves, this is no cause for concern. The plant then adjusts to a dry period and resting phase – usually this falls on the cold season. If the days become brighter and warmer again, the new foliage will soon appear.

The soil for indoor cultivation should be nutrient-rich and permeable. When choosing a substrate, you can use a commercially available cactus soil or make your own mixture of potting soil, sand and clay granules.

Madagascar palm care

Are Madagascar Palms Easy to Care for?
With the crown-shaped foliage at the stem end, older specimens of P. lamerei actually resemble a palm tree

As a succulent, the Madagascar palm tolerates a longer period of drought – in its soft stem fibers it can store the water very well. However, with a good water supply, it grows faster and also forms more leaves. So from spring to fall, you should water sufficiently and thoroughly. It is important that the root ball dries off superficially every now and then and that no water remains in the saucer.

Water regularly, but rather sparingly, even in the cold season. In this way, the plant may stop growing but retain its leaves. Waterlogging must be avoided at all costs during this time, as a damp substrate combined with cold weather will quickly lead to root rot.

The Madagascar palm has moderate nutrient requirements. Therefore, it is sufficient to administer a cactus fertilizer every four weeks during the growing season.

Repotting Pachypodium should be done every two to three years. Make sure that the water in the planter can drain well – a drainage layer of clay shards or gravel is recommended.

Propagation


Side shoots appear on the crown of the Madagascar palm only after several years – new offshoots can easily be grown from them. To do this, cut the side shoots with a sharp and clean knife as close to the mother plant as possible and let the cut dry a little. Then stick the shoots into the soil.

Be careful when handling the plant!

The milky sap contained in the trunk and leaves of the Madagascar palm (dog poison family!) is highly poisonous. It is best to wear thick gloves and wrap the plant in newspaper before repotting. This way you avoid skin contact with the plant.

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