MADAGASCAN PALM/Pachypodium lameri
The Madagascan Palm will grow to about 6m (20ft) tall in the wild, although in cultivation it will take 10-15 years to reach a height of about 1.5m (5ft). It has a thick grey-brown main trunk surrounded by long spines with a terminal head of leaves. This plant seldom produces offsets, and when it does they usually grow from the base. They develop very slowly unless the main stem is damaged.
When the plant reaches a height of 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft), it is of flowering size and produces a terminal cluster of cream flowers. The plant is closely related to the Frangipani, and the flowers are very similar. After flowering, the stem branches to form new shoots.
This plant is not tolerant of low temperatures even if kept fairly dry. Like many plants from Madagascar, Pachypodium lameri needs a minimum Winter temperature of 10-16°C (50-60°F). as at lower temperatures it is very prone to rot. It will benefit from good ventilation, but not draughts.
This plant requires a bright situation at all times and will grow happily in a South-facing window. Water well during the Spring and Summer, then allow theto dry before watering again. This plant is very susceptible to over-watering, it requires a moderate amount in Summer. During the Autumn and Winter keep fairly dry, giving only enough water to prevent shrivelling. During the Winter, the plants will shed many leaves, keeping just a few at the crown of the plant. This plant will soon rot if kept wet during the Winter months.
This plant comes from very arid areas and will benefit if given a dry atmosphere.
Feed regularly every 1-2 weeks during the Spring and Summer, using afood, or one recommended for tomatoes at about half strength.
This succulent will do best in a well-drained compost containing about one third grit. Repot at least every two years.
Small plants make good bonsai subjects, and their appearance can be enhanced by planting them into a shallow bonsai dish. Use a very gritty compost, allowing it to dry before watering again. The plants will probably need potting-on to a larger dish each Spring.
Rotting may occur if the plant is kept cold or over-watered.
Pests: The main pests are Red Spider Mite, Mealy Bug, Scale and Aphids. Few domestic insecticides will cope with RSM, but quick action with an insecticide-impregnated plant spike may do the trick; otherwise, burn affected plants. Dissolve Mealy Bug and Scale with methylated spirit and a cotton bud; treat Aphids with a systemic insecticide.