Madagascar Palm Care: HOW TO Grow Pachypodium Lamerei

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The “Madagascar Palm” Pachypodium lamerei [pak-uh-PO-dee-um] [la-MER-ee-eye] is a flowering plant native to Africa, the island of Madagascar.

The Pachypodium lamerei plant is not a cactus or a palm tree but gets labeled as one. The barrel stem of the ‘Cactus Palm’ is covered with thick spines. It carries an umbrella of shiny green leaves at the top of the trunk.

Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei) growing outdoors in clay potsPin
Madagascar Palm Pachypodium Lamerei is not a palm tree at all.

This succulent plant has an unusual combination of tropical leaves, making Pachypodium plants look like a member of a desert cactus family, and it makes for a real conversation piece.

Madagascar Palm Tree Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Pachypodium Lamerei
  • Common Name(s): Madagascar Palm, Club Foot Tree, Summer-blooming clubfoot, Three-spined clubfoot, Ghost men plant, Pachy
  • Synonyms: None
  • Family & Origin: Apocynaceae family, native to southern Madagascar
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: USDA zones 9-11
  • Size: Can grow up to 20 feet tall
  • Flowering: Produces white or yellow flowers in the summer
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Humidity: Low humidity
  • Temperature: Tolerates high temperatures but not frost
  • Soil: Well-draining soil
  • Water: Water sparingly, allow soil to dry out between watering
  • Fertilizer: Fertilize once a month during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer
  • Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to mealybugs and spider mites, can also be affected by root rot if overwatered
  • Propagation: Propagated through stem cuttings or seeds
  • Plant Uses: Ornamental plant grown indoors or outdoors in warm climates.

Pachypodiums are part of the Apocynaceae family, which includes a wide variety of genera, including various trees and shrubs.

Pachypodium means “thick foot,” which is fitting. The “Madagascar Palm” plant is a stem succulent plant. These plants primarily conduct photosynthesis through the stem instead of the leaves.

While it’s native to southern Madagascar, this “cactus palm” makes a lovely houseplant growing in USDA hardiness zones 9a through 11. Use the following plant care tips to keep your “pachy” healthy.

Madagascar Palm Care

How Tall Does The Cactus Palm Get?

People often purchase Madagascar plants as small plants without trunks. Mature plants can grow to reach 20′ feet tall.

However, the Madagascar Palm grows quickly and may reach up to three feet in just a couple of years.

close up of the spines on the Madagascar palm with very tall mature palms in the background.Pin

The long “cactus palm stem” also begins to thicken and can hold a lot of water. As the cactus palm tree matures, it starts to get too top-heavy, requiring a heavy pot to keep it from tipping over.

During the spring, Madagascar palms begin to grow their long, shiny leaves.

The leaves typically reach up to 15” inches long and four inches wide. They almost resemble drooping pickles extending from the top of the trunk to the cactus base.

The leaves fall off in the winter, leaving just the cactus base. However, new leaves form in the spring.

Does The Madagascar Palm Flower Have a Fragrance?

If you’re lucky, the Madagascar monolith may produce small white flowers between the leaves.

The flowers are unscented and typically bloom when the plant is grown in conditions that resemble its native environment.

madagascar palm pachypodium lamereiPin

What Light and Temperature Does Pachypodium “Cactus” Grow Best?

Madagascar Palm trees are sun-loving and prefer warm weather, bright light, and direct sunlight in some locations. 

When positioning plants, place Pachypodiums in a sunny spot or south-facing window with lots of full sunlight.

When growing indoors, you may want to keep it near a heater vent or register to ensure it stays warm in the winter months.

During the winter, the plant should never be kept below 55° degrees Fahrenheit.

When plants are kept warm enough, they may retain a few leaves throughout the winter.

How Much Water and Fertilizer Do Madagascar Palms Need?

For watering needs – keep the Madagascar palm on the dry side and water only when the soil mix or soil surface is dry. 

When watering, the plants should be thoroughly watered throughout the summer and decrease the watering during the winter.

Person holding a potted plant, obscured face, white background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @urlocalplantboy

When the leaves fall off, STOP watering.

At the beginning of spring and the beginning of summer, apply a balanced houseplant fertilizer (liquid or granular) or low-nitrogen liquid fertilizer.

This will help to encourage new growth during the warmer months when plants are actively growing. However, if your potting soil mix contains houseplant fertilizer, the plants should not need to add any extra.

What Is The Best Soil Type For A Madagascar Cactus?

Like many succulent and cactus-type plants, Pachypodiums grow best in the regular well-draining cactus potting mix.

This mix tends to provide superior drainage, which helps keep the roots from rotting.

If you need to transplant the plant, repot in the spring just as it starts to wake from dormancy. Also, we like to use clay pots with drainage holes over the plastic to keep plants on the “dry side.”

Grooming and Maintenance

The only grooming needed is the removal of dead or decaying leaves.

How To Propagate Pachypodium Lamerei

You can propagate the Pachypodium from offsets or seeds. Both can be purchased, or the ripe pods can be taken from the plant. However, Madagascar palm propagation from seeds is difficult.

The seeds don’t germinate easily. When growing Pachypodium plants from seed, place the seed in warm water for one day. Sow in moist sand and keep them at room temperature.

Potted succulent plant with cacti, modern garden.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @shakho_barg

When starting from offsets, collect the offsets from the plant. Search for ball-shaped cacti growing near the trunk. They should be just below the leaves.

Carefully break these offsets off the trunk and allow them to dry for about four to eight days.

Place the small plants in individual pots with drainage holes in a mixture of one part soil to three parts sand.

Keep the plants warm until the roots form. The leaves may immediately die off. However, after the plants take root, the leaves should resume growing.

Madagascar Palms Pest Infestation and Diseases

The biggest threat to the health of your Madagascar Palm is overwatering, resulting in root rot.

People often overwater succulents and cacti. It’s easy to think that they are dried out when the trunk still contains water.

Potted succulent with textured stemPin
Photo Credit: Instagram @peoplewithplants_official

One of the risks of overwatering is breakage. A long spindly trunk of the plant may suddenly snap in half and tip over. However, this also occurs when plants are kept in a location where they do not get enough light or cold.

When the plant bends in half, it can’t be brought back to life.

NOTE: If the plant tips over but does not break, you can attempt to revive it by placing it in a mixture of soil and sand. Limit the watering to see if the roots strengthen.

You shouldn’t be in a rush to grow this plant and it doesn’t need much water. It grows quickly enough on its own.

If you don’t water the plant enough, plants may experience leaf drops during the summer instead of the winter. If the leaves turn yellow, you may need to use liquid plant fertilizer.

Spider mites and whitefly can be a problem. Look for these pests on the undersides of the leaves. A good rinse of some Neem oil should keep them under control.

What Are The Best Uses For Pachypodium Lamerei Madagascar Palm?

You’ll most likely want to grow them as attractive houseplants, where indoors, the plant will enjoy the warm temperatures to grow. Remember to choose a south-facing window for optimal exposure to sunlight.

Unique cactus with lush top, wooden fence background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @rumahgodong

However, the Madagascar palm makes an excellent addition also with other potted outdoor landscape plants, such as Desert Roses (Adenium).

The Madagascar palm Pachypodium also looks great when placed around other cacti growing in full sunlight. 

Madagascar Palm flowers will eventually tower over the smaller plants and become the focal point of the display.

However, avoid planting this plant in walkways or areas of activity.

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