Zamia furfuracea or Cardboard Palm is a perennial dioecious palm-like plant native from Florida to the W. Indies to Mexico. In nature, the plants will reach about 3 feet (0.9 m) tall and large clumps can reach 5-6 feet (1.5-2-1 m) across. The trunks will reach about 6 inches (15 cm) high or be wholly underground. Leaves are dark green with prickly petioles. Pinnae can be from 2-13 pairs with the leaflets linear-lanceolate. Our plant, grown as a bonsai, is about 7 years old; trunk is about 4 inches (10 cm) tall and 4 inches (10 cm) across. Leaves are 12 long (30 cm). There can be several flushes of leaves during the growing season. The plants are revered by bonsai enthusiasts because of their small size and great mounding form. They are of easy culture and are hardy in the landscape in USDA zone 10-11.
Blooming: Plants are dioecious, having female and male cones on separate plants. Our plant has yet to produce a cone of any type.
Culture: Zamia furfuracea need full sun to partial shade, with a well drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of equal parts of loam and sand with small gravel added to ensure good drainage. The plants are watered and allowed to dry before watering again. Since our plant is grown as a bonsai, we only fertilize once a growing season with a balanced fertilizer. If grown as a bonsai, the roots will need to be pruned every couple of years. We do this in the winter months. Also during this period, we reduce the water and fertilizer (withheld) until new growth starts in the spring. With careful watering and pruning these plants make outstanding specimen plants.
Propagation: Zamia furfuracea is best propagated from seed. Offset can be removed from clumps and rooted with bottom heat.
Zamia furfuracea (misidentified as Zamia pumila) was featured as Plant of the Week May 2-8, 2008.
Editing note: Identifications of plants by commercial growers are usually accurate, but mistakes are sometimes made and when we featured it before, we took their label at face value. Thanks to Bud at Duck Lake Trees and Shrubs for this correction! If you are looking for Zamia pumila, have a look at their site. Ironically, I picked up this plant at a Walgreens, figuring that the plant would be happier at OU! It is always fun to find what stores sell inadvertantly. -SR
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.