Karoo Cycad

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Ancient Garden

​Karoo Cycad

  • Common name: Karoo cycad, Encephalartos lehmannii
  • Scientific name: Encephalartos lehmannii
  • Family name: Zamiaceae
  • Origin: Eastern Cape region of South africa
  • Height: Trunk grows up to 6 ft tall; with leaves included, grows up to 10 ft tall
  • Width: Trunk is about 16 inches wide; spread is 6-10 ft
  • Growth: Slow
  • Zone: 8b-11
  • Light needs: Full sun or partial sun
  • Salt tolerance: Moderate
  • Soil/pH/Texture: Can tolerate many different soil types, as long as the soil is well-drained. Neutral to alkaline pH (pH 7.0-7.5)
  • Soil moisture: This plant is suited to dry environments, so it should not be overwatered. Keep especially dry if temperatures go below 50°F.
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Pests/Diseases: Certain beetle larvae and ants/termites may attack the trunk and roots.
  • Growing conditions: Should be grown in a sunny, somewhat dry area will well-drained soil. It should be planted in an area where it can be protected from too much water. Should not be overwatered, as too much water can cause its leaves to lose their color and fall. It can tolerate light frost.  It responds well to fertilizers with an even NPK balance.
  • Characteristics: Trunk is short, thick, and roughly textured. Leaves are palm-like and grow out from the crown of the trunk. These leaves grow in such a way that the top of the plant has a somewhat half-sphere shape. Leaflets are silvery blue-green, lanceolate, and smooth. This plant is dioecious, having separate male and female plants, which produce different cones. Male cones are greenish-brown and about 14 inches long. Female cones are a similar color, but are larger, about 20 inches long. Seeds are red.
  • Propagation: By seeds
  • Wildlife: Small animals such as birds and lizards may rest on its leaves.
  • Facts: The species name, lehmannii, commemorates Professor J.G.C. Lehmann, who studied cycads such as this one. It has a conservation status of “near threatened”. In its native environment, this plant thrives on dry sandstone slopes.
  • Designer considerations: Its showy silvery-blue leaves make it a good foreground plant, and it’s a good plant to place near walkways or on its own. Due to its relatively short stature and slow growth rate, it also looks great in a large container.