Cardboard Plant Care – Tips On Growing Zamia Palm

A popular houseplant, Zamia furfuracea (ZAM-ee-uh, fur-fur-AH-see-uh), is a plant native to Veracruz State in Mexico. 

Despite the common name of cardboard palm, the plant is a cycad. 

Cardboard Palm plant (Zamia Furfuracea) is not a palm tree and a slow growth rate
Cardboard Palm thriving with a full display of leaves in the right planting zone

Thus it is also often referred to as a cardboard palm cycad. 

Other common names include:

  • Cardboard sago
  • Jamaican sago
  • Mexican cycad

Cycad plants date back to the prehistoric era. This living fossil hails from the Zamiaceae family.  

The cardboard palm has pinnate leaves, much like the palm tree. But, they are more rounded and have thick, tuberous stems. 

They grow close to the ground and produce a cone at the center of the plant.

The botanical name refers to the rusty-brown central cone. And sometimes the scaly appearance on the trunk caused by the loss of old-growth.

Other Cycads You May Like:

Cardboard Palm Care and Gardening Tips

Size & Growth

Cardboard palms are slow growing with similar growth habit to palms. 

Each 20″ to 59″ inch leaf holds 6 to 12 stiff blue-green fuzzy leaflet pairs measuring roughly 3″ to 8″ inches long and 1 ¼” to 2″ inches wide.

The cardboard palm grows to about 3′ to 4 ¼’ feet tall and 6 1/2′ feet wide with a semi-succulent underground trunk designed to store water.

Flowering and Fragrance

Cardboard palm has no distinguishing fragrance and produces a cone instead of flowers. 

The female plant produces a large, egg-shaped cone while the smaller male plant has a long, oval-shaped cone. 

Insects usually perform pollination.

Once ripened, the female cone of the cardboard palm will break open to reveal bright red seeds approximately 1″ inch long. 

The seeds have a very short viability period, making them difficult to propagate.

Light & Temperature

The cardboard palm requires bright light to grow properly. 

Full sun benefits the plant best during its growing season and while young, but it can still thrive in partial sunlight. 

Avoid areas with too much shade where the light is too dim to support the plant’s needs. 

When growing indoors, be sure to rotate your cardboard palm so it can grow evenly.

While the cardboard palm may be grown outdoors year round, it’s a subtropical plant and won’t fare well against extreme cold. 

Thus, it should be restricted to indoor settings outside of USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11. 

Ideal temperatures range from 60° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit (15° – 24° C), although the plant can survive around 15° degrees Fahrenheit beyond this.

Watering and Feeding

  • As with many plants, the amount of watering will vary depending on the time of year. 
  • During the growing season, the soil should be slightly moist. 
  • Reduce this during the winter. 
  • As the trunk is used to store water, allow the top inch of soil to dry out before needing to water again. 
  • Be careful not to overwater, as it increases the risk of root rot.
  • Feed the plant using general palm food or slow-release fertilizer. 
  • Feed the plant at the beginning of spring and autumn.

Soil & Transplanting

Cardboard palms prefer well-drained, sandy potting mix. 

A slightly acidic pH of 6.0 is perfect for this plant. 

Choose to mix with equal parts of peat moss and sharp sand or stick with a good, well-draining potting mix for indoor use.

Potted palms will need to be transplanted to a new pot when the plant begins looking crowded, or the soil has been exhausted. 

The process is relatively simple, whether you move to a pot or an outdoor setting. 

Remove the soil from the plant and lift it out of the pot. 

Knock away any remaining soil to ensure the roots will get fresh food. 

Then, place the plant into a new pot with drainage holes or in the ground and backfill with fresh potting soil.

Grooming and Maintenance

Cardboard cycad is very low-maintenance when given the right amount of bright light and room to grow. 

Likewise, the plant doesn’t require frequent grooming, with dying leaves being removed as needed.

How To Propagate Zamia Furfuracea

Propagation of this plant is very difficult as the seeds have a short viability period, and you may not know the sex of the plant upon purchasing. 

However, it is not impossible once you verify you have a female plant, and it goes to seed.

Harvest the seeds and separate them on a paper towel. Plant the individual seeds as soon as possible in moist sand-filled flats. 

Keep the flats in a room with a temperature of 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C) or higher and partial sunlight. 

Keep the sand moist and restrict the young plants to moderate sunlight to avoid damaging the fronds. 

Once the second set of true leaves have appeared, and the roots are robust, the plant may be transferred to a pot.

Cardboard Palm Plant Pest or Disease Problems

Cardboard palm is highly susceptible to Florida red scale, which can kill the plant if not treated. 

  • Too much moisture can cause various forms of rot in this cycad native from eastern Mexico.
  • Crown rot is especially deadly once spores cover the crown. 
  • Spider mites are a common pest for this species.

This plant and seeds are highly toxic to both humans and pets if ingested. 

Dehydration sets in rapidly soon after ingestion. 

The toxicity causes liver and kidney failure, and eventual paralysis. 

There’s no known treatment or cure for cases of poisoning from this plant.

Suggested Cardboard Palm Uses

While they’re preferred as houseplants, cardboard palms are built drought-tolerant and make perfect additions to xeriscape gardens.

JOIN Our FREE Plant Care Newsletter 

By entering your email address you agree to receive a daily email newsletter from Plant Care Today. We'll respect your privacy and unsubscribe at any time.