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Tumblr June 19, 2012, 10:52 pmCycad Care Notebook, by Maurice Levin, Jurassic Garden -- Part 1: Sun vs. Shade, Arid vs. Humid, Coastal vs. Inland
Finding Your Perfect Cycad
Part 1: Sun vs. Shade, Arid vs. Humid, Coastal vs. Inland
Cycads are drought-resistant living sculpture plants that combine rarity, intriguing looks and an interesting story. So, people like to include cycad plants in a landscape, and cycads can be a part of a variety of garden designs. In trying to find the right cycad, the landscaper or garden enthusiast needs to take a number of factors into account. This brief article addresses the question of sun vs. shade.
Encephalartos middelburgensis loves full sun in arid and humid heat climates
Photo by Maurice Levin
Assuming the cycad is right for your climate, you need to consider if the plant will benefit from full sun exposure,part sun (or coastal sun), or mostly shade? When considering sun vs. shade, here is a brief guide to ways to help “full sun” plants adjust to a dry climate:
- Are you in an arid (dry heat) climate, for example a Mediterranean Climate like we have in Southern California, or are you in a humid and/or subtropical (wet heat) climate. Why? Because full-sun plants in a subtropical or temperate climate generally need some shade in a dry climate. And, while certain cycad references may state that a particular cycad can handle full sun, as my friend Alvaro Calonje says, “The plant did not read the book.” So, while many of the big green Encephalartos from southern and central Africa may be said to handle full sun, and that may be true in Miami or Houston, in Southern California or Arizona, those plants may suffer in full sun.
- What time of day is the plant exposed to sun? Morning sun is more gentle and forgiving than afternoon sun. So, plant your sun-loving green cycads with eastern exposure to get morning sun in a Mediterranean dry climate. Plant them in a south-facing area, protected by an overhang, if you’re in the desert.
- Are you coastal or inland? Coastal climates tend to be easier on plants in arid climates than do inland climates. Remember, though, wind is also a factor in drying out your plants’ leaves and caudex, which leads us to…
- How open and exposed is your planting area to wind? We recently participated (well our plants did) in a landscape project in one of the Southern California “Beach Cities”, where the plants had afternoon sun to protect the green Encephalartos and Dioons. However, due to the exposed location, with winds, the plants dried more than we’d thought they would.
- Bury the caudex, at least for the first year. To protect your newly-planted cycad, cover at least 2/3 the plant’s trunk with porous soil. Consider the caudex as a world globe, and make sure that your soil line is well above the equator, if not higher. So long as your mounding soil is very porous, your cycad will benefit from more constant temperature, protected from summer heat and winter cold. I realize that this is a real challenge with collectors who want to expose their caudex and make the plant look bigger. However, if you bury your caudex more, it will ultimately grow much faster, the plant’s trunk will be much larger and the plant will be more healthy and larger above ground than it would have been had you exposed more originally.
And, remember, when growing rare plants like cycads, you’re always better off not tempting fate – be a little cautious and try not to “break new ground” and your plant will be happier.
Jurassic Garden – A&A Cycads
North Hollywood, California
Tumblr May 22, 2012, 4:12 amIt’s not a Fern… It’s not a Palm… It’s a Cycad! By Maurice Levin
It’s not a Fern… It’s not a Palm… It’s a Cycad!
What are cycads?
Cycads are plants that have been around since the age of the dinosaurs. They look a bit like ferns or palms, but actually they aren’t closely related to either of those plants. Cycads’ closest living relatives are pine trees–and like pine trees, cycads have sturdy, stiff, evergreen leaves and cycads produce cones, not flowers.
There are fewer than 300 described cycad species, found mostly in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, primarily in central and southern Africa, Australia, South and Central America, the Caribbean, and throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands.
You might have never heard the word “cycad,” but you’ve probably seen the most common cycad, Cycas revoluta, often called the “Sago Palm.” A popular landscape plant, Cycas revoluta has the radial symmetry typical of these striking and architectural-looking plants.
Cycas revoluta – The Sago Palm
Cycads’ dramatic and distinctive appearance and their general hardiness is making them increasingly popular for use in contemporary landscape designs. These plants are beautiful and their long history gives them an air of majesty, even mystery.
Many cycads are endangered as a result of habitat encroachment and poaching and are now protected by international law. Collectors and cycad enthusiasts have been known to go to extreme lengths to obtain rare or large cycad specimens.
At our nursery, we work hard to promote the sale of nursery- and garden-grown cycads. Helping put seed-grown cycads in people’s gardens is part of our mission to help re-populate the world with these historically significant plants.
Do you remember your first encounter with a cycad, either in someone’s yard or in a botanical garden? If you do, please share your first impression of these unusual, ancient plants in a comment.
Tumblr May 13, 2012, 4:59 amMaurice Levin Education Information
Maurice Levin went to Harvard College from 1974-1979. He received his AB in 1979.
Maurice Levin went to Harvard Business School from 1982-1984. He received his AB in 1979.
Tumblr May 13, 2012, 4:53 amMaurice Levin Employment Information
Maurice Levin is the founder of Jurassic Garden – A&A Cycads, a family-owned rare plant nursery in North Hollywood, California.
Tumblr May 13, 2012, 4:48 am