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What Is a Madagascar Palm?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2014
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The Madagascar palm, also known by its scientific name Pachypodium lamerei, is a type of succulent flowering plant related to the cactus and plumeria. Despite the name, these plants are not actually palm trees. They do look similar to most palms, however, due to their long, slender bases covered in thorns and dark green leaves sprouting from the top. Most Madagascar palms do not exceed 15 feet (4.5 m) in height, and usually do not grow taller than 6 feet (2 m) when kept as houseplants. They are native to Madagascar, an island off the coast of south Africa.

Madagascar palms need full sun for proper growth, and exposure to temperatures under 30° Fahrenheit (1° Celsius) increases the risk of severe damage or death. Apart from the light and temperature requirements, the Madagascar palm requires little maintenance. Allowing the soil to dry out partially in between waterings is normally acceptable because this plant doesn't require constant moisture. The Madagascar palm goes into a dormant state in winter and needs little to no water during that time. Most people prefer to purchase young plants rather than starting them from seed due to their slow growth rate.

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Temperate climates are considered ideal for growing Madagascar palms, but they can grow almost anywhere under proper conditions. If the plant appears to have died due to cold weather exposure, cutting away the dead pieces may help it come back. This plant almost always loses its leaves when exposed to cold or if in dire need of water, but will often recover. People who have potted Madagascar palms should bring them indoors during cold weather to avoid possible damage. If a Madagascar palm is planted outside and cold temperatures are imminent, covering it with a tarp may help ensure survival.

A healthy Madagascar palm will produce fragrant white flowers from late spring throughout the summer, and should grow at least 1 foot (30 cm) in height each year. Fertilization twice yearly with an all-purpose fertilizer should also benefit the health of these plants. Madagascar palms are normally very hardy plants, but they can become infected and sustain damage from pests. Infection can typically be eliminated by cutting off infected pieces, and pesticides should be able to take care of any pests. People with pets and children who keep an indoor Madagascar palm should bear in mind that the plant is poisonous, and preventative measures should be taken to prevent any ingestion.

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Discuss this Article

fify
Post 5

It's not easy to care for a Madagascar palm in Midwest U.S. The trunk of one completely froze a few years ago and was clearly rotting. But I followed everyone's advice and chopped the rotting frozen part off. This prevented the rest of the palm from getting affected.

Madagascar palms are truly amazing. I did not think there was any hope for this one after this ordeal. But it did not give up on me and grew new buds after six months. As sensitive as they are to cold, Madagascar palms also don't give up easily.

candyquilt
Post 4

@turquoise-- Yea, they do love the sun!

I heard that Madagascar palms don't grow at all in winter though, even if they're in a greenhouse since they go into that dormancy stage. So don't expect it to keep growing (like I did). But yea, the leaves should come back unless that particular branch is frozen or dead, then there won't be any leaves. But you'll notice that after a while.

I don't know if I treat my palm as well as I should. I also keep mine potted and indoors in winter. One part of my house gets sun in the morning and the other in the afternoon. I'm trying to switch its place according to that so that it can get as much light as possible. I don't know if I'm doing more harm than good though.

Does anyone know what else I can do to help this little guy in winter? Would artificial light benefit Madagascar palms at all?

turquoise
Post 3

I received a tiny Madagascar palm as a gift last spring. My friend got it for my birthday and she said that it would do fine inside at a sunny spot and with a little bit of water everyday or every other day. I did that for a couple of months and it didn't appear to be growing to well. I had to go out of town for a month, so I left my Madagascar palm with my neighbor. When I came back it had grown a couple of inches and looked great!

I asked her what she did and she said she left it outside in the sun and watered it every two or three days. Boy do these plants love heat! Mine doesn't seem to get enough of it which I guess is normal since it's a tropical plant.

I did leave it out all summer and early fall but had to bring it inside again in winter. It has lost its leaves which I'm sad about but I'm told that they'll grow again once the weather warms up and he's out in the sun again. I imagine that it would grow really well in a greenhouse.

popcorn
Post 2

My grandmother had quite a few Madagascar palms in her yard and they really make quite a striking landscaping accent. We used to joke with her that it would be so much easier if she just bought an artificial palm instead of tending to her large palm trees all of the time.

Palms of Madagascar are OK as an indoor palm tree, but I found that they grow fairly quickly and have to be placed outside after not to long. What we used to do is keep the baby palms at our home as an accent until they got to big, then we would drop them at my grandmother's property as it was much larger, and as mentioned, she loves gardening.

lonelygod
Post 1

The Madagascar palm is one of the more beautiful palm plants in my opinion. It makes an excellent garden palm and can provide quite a bit of texture to a space when it gets to be full size.

I found a Madagascar palm for sale at my local greenhouse and it was already a good size when I purchased it. When you are getting ready to transfer your tree into your garden make sure you have the right soil and food for your plant. The people at your local greenhouse can probably give you some good ideas. For myself I added beneficial mycorrhizal fungi which really helped my Madagascar palm to grow.

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