What is a Cardboard Palm?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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Those interested in tropical plants that also qualify as perennials may be curious about the cardboard palm, which belongs to the Cycad family. This kind of palm is native to the coast of Mexico, and brings an exotic quality with it. It can be grown either indoors or outdoors, and is known for being low maintenance since it is drought resistant and does well in both full and partial sun. Like other types of palms, there is no flower, so the cardboard palm is grown solely for foliage. Unfortunately, care needs to be taken when planting this palm when there are pets around, as parts of it are poisonous when ingested.

Many people enjoy the fact that they can choose whether to keep this plant indoors or outdoors, as it does well nearly anywhere. It is resistant to drought, so it just needs to be watered when it is dry, and can thrive in either full or partial sunlight. At temperatures of about 28°F (-2.2°C) or lower, there may be damage to the leaves of the cardboard palm, which should not be surprising in a tropical plant. The best soil for this palm is sandy and well drained, and it should be fed with plant food about twice per year for ideal growth.


This plant tends to grow up to about 4 feet (1.22 m) tall, and its leaves tend to be the same length as its height. When planting more than one of these types of palms, one should be careful to space them at least 6 feet (1.83 m) from each other since the leaves will soon grow large enough to overlap easily. The leaves are thick and leathery, but feel somewhat fuzzy when touched. The trunk of the cardboard palm is also thick, and the reason that this plant can survive on little water is that the trunk collects moisture over time. This plant produces cones that contain small red seeds, which is how it reproduces to form new plants.

The seeds of the cardboard palm are considered dangerous when ingested by animals or infants, though most indoor palms do not tend to produce seeds due to lack of light. The leaves are also poisonous, though they are rather difficult to take off the plant since they are so thick and large. Additionally, the stems of the cardboard palm are dangerous if consumed, though fortunately they are covered with thorns that tend to discourage ingestion.


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