Cardboard Palm Care Tips


A popular houseplant, Zamia furfuracea (ZAM-ee-uh, fur-fur-AH-see-uh), is a plant native to Veracruz State in Mexico. 

Despite the common name of cardboard palm, the plant is a cycad. 

Cardboard Palm (Zamia Furfuracea)Cardboard Palm (Zamia Furfuracea)

Thus it is also often referred to as a cardboard cycad. 

Other common names include:

  • Cardboard sago
  • Jamaican sago
  • Mexican cycad

Cycads are plants dating back to the prehistoric era and thus grows a cone at the center of the plant. 

The cardboard palm has pinnate leaves, much like the palm tree, but they’re more rounded and have thick, tuberous stems. 

They also grow much closer to the ground.

This living fossil hails from the Zamiaceae family. 

The botanical name refers to the rusty-brown central cone, a well as the sometimes scaly appearance on the trunk caused by the loss of old-growth. 

Other Cycads You May Like:

Cardboard Palm Care

Size & Growth

Cardboard palms have a similar growth habit to palms. 

Each 20″ to 59″ inch leaf holds 6 to 12 stiff blue-green fuzzy leaflet pairs measuring roughly 3″ to 8″ inches long and 1 ¼” to 2″ inches wide.

The cardboard plant grows to about 3′ to 4 ¼’ feet tall and 6 1/2′ feet wide with an underground trunk designed to store water.

Flowering and Fragrance

Cardboard sago has no distinguishing fragrance and produces a cone instead of flowers. 

The female plant produces a large, egg-shaped cone while the smaller male plant has a long, oval-shaped cone. 

Insects usually perform pollination.

Once ripened, the female cone will break open to reveal bright red seeds approximately 1″ inch long. 

The seeds have a very short viability period, making them difficult to propagate.

Light & Temperature

Zamia furfuracea requires bright light to grow properly. 

Full sun benefits the plant best during its growing season and while young, but it can still thrive in partial sunlight. 

Avoid areas with too much shade where the light is too dim to support the plant’s needs. 

When growing indoors, be sure to rotate the plant so it can grow evenly.

While cardboard cycad may be grown outdoors, it’s a subtropical plant and won’t fare well against extreme cold. 

Thus, it should be restricted to indoor settings outside of USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11. 

Ideal temperatures range from 60° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit (15° – 24° C), although the plant can survive around 15° degrees Fahrenheit beyond this.

Watering and Feeding

  • As with many plants, the amount of watering will vary depending on the time of year. 
  • During the growing season, the soil should be slightly moist. 
  • Reduce this during the winter. 
  • As the trunk is used to store water, allow the top inch of soil to dry out before needing to water again. 
  • Be careful not to overwater, as it increases the risk of root rot.
  • Feed the plant using general palm food or slow-release fertilizer. 
  • Feed the plant at the beginning of spring and autumn.

Soil & Transplanting

Cardboard palms prefer well-drained, sandy soil. 

A slightly acidic pH of 6.0 is perfect for this plant. 

You may choose to mix equal parts of peat moss and sharp sand or stick with a good, well-draining potting soil for indoor use.

Potted palms will need to be transplanted to a new pot when the plant begins looking crowded, or the soil has been exhausted. 

The process is relatively simple, whether you move to a pot or an outdoor setting. 

Remove the soil from the plant and lift it out of the pot. 

Knock away any remaining soil to ensure the roots will get fresh food. 

Then, place the plant into a new pot or ground area and backfill with fresh potting soil.

Grooming and Maintenance

Cardboard cycad is very low-maintenance when given the right amount of light and room to grow. 

Likewise, the plant doesn’t require frequent grooming, with dying leaves being removed as needed.

How To Propagate Zamia Furfuracea

Propagation of this plant is very difficult as the seeds have a short viability period, and you may not know the sex of the plant upon purchasing. 

However, it is not impossible once you verify you have a female plant, and it goes to seed.

Harvest the seeds as soon as possible and plant in moist sand-filled flats. 

Keep the flats in a room with a temperature of 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C) or higher and partial sunlight. 

Keep the sand moist and restrict the young plants to moderate sunlight to avoid damaging the fronds. 

Once the second set of true leaves have appeared, and the roots are robust, the plant may be transferred to a pot.

Zamia Furfuracea Pest or Disease Problems

Cardboard palm is highly susceptible to Florida red scale, which can kill the plant if not treated. 

As this is a cycad native to eastern Mexico, too much moisture can easily cause various forms of rot. 

Crown rot is especially deadly once spores cover the crown. 

Finally, spider mites are a common pest for this species.

This plant and its seeds are highly toxic to both humans and pets if ingested. 

Dehydration sets in rapidly soon after ingestion. 

Soon after, the toxicity causes liver and kidney failure, and eventual paralysis. 

There’s no known treatment or cure for cases of poisoning from this plant.

Suggested Cardboard Palm Uses

While they’re preferred as houseplants, cardboard palms are built to drought-tolerant and make perfect additions to xeriscape gardens.

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