Cycad in Suburbia

Gary reports on what we've suspected all along: that Cycas revoluta is quite hardy enough for the sheltered, temperate garden.
Gary Bethel Wirral, UK.
Chamaerops No.26 Spring 1997

An article on the growth, habitat and cultivation of Cycas revoluta by Tony King was published in the Spring '96 edition of ' Chamaerops' . The following article is intended as further encouragement and incentive to other E. P.S members, which I consider a very important aspect of our society.

I first saw Cycas revoluta 'in the flesh' so to speak in a warm, nursery greenhouse: two, in fact; focal points amongst the gardenias and hibiscus. They looked very impressive indeed hut also very expensive. That was in the summer of '93 and after this sighting I decided to seek out any information I could about these plants. Information in books, magazines etc. was pretty thin on the ground (I was not an E.P.S member at that time) but it seemed they all had one thing in common: very erratic growth habit. All varied wildly on hardiness, however I came to the conclusion that they must be far hardier than the minimum +13ūC quoted by some sources, and would probably take some frost.

The following April whilst on holiday in Tenerife I could see Cycas revoluta (amongst others) everywhere, some in the ground of course and some in clay pots in bone dry compost, which surprised me considering that although they like good drainage they originate from a very moist subtropical climate. This made me think if they can endure dry heat maybe they're tough nuts that can endure lower temperatures also.

Added to this the belief that they need very high temperatures to start into growth made me wonder as these plants were nearly all in a great flush of growth in Tenerife's mid-spring temperatures of 21-23ūC, occasionally 28ūC temperatures, easily attainable during the warm spells of an average British summer. So on return to Britain I decided to take a closer look at the plants seen in the Yorkshire greenhouse twelve months earlier. They were still there and had come down to half price, although still a lot of money this was now very good value considering the size of specimens and the rate of growth of these plants, in the back of my mind was the fact that even quite small plants are not cheap and would take many years to reach this size, even under perfect conditions.

I was not very popular as the wife, kids, dog and excess luggage were crammed in the back of the Astra whilst the carefully lashed up Cycad travelled first class in the front, held in place with the seat belt. That was the end of May and on returning home I proceeded to start hardening the plant off, although quite mild at this time it had been in a warm environment for quite a few years.

It was quite arduous carrying it in and out each day while trying not to damage the still strapped-up leaves which I was dying to release but would make movement even more difficult This is where impatience and maybe vanity nearly cost me dear. Briefly many people were to be at the house at the weekend as my brother was getting married and the bride was going from our house. How much more impressive would the Cycad look in the ground, instead of in a pot with its leaves taped up.

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