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Classification, origin and description
Common name: Cicas
provenance: Southeast Asia and Oceania.
Genre description: includes 12 species of evergreen plants, similar to palm trees, but belonging to the subdivision of the Gimnosperms (plants that have the ova not enclosed in an ovary). The trunk is erect and ends with a tuft of large pinnate leaves, persistent, leathery and with a large central rib. They are dioecious plants (male and female flowers are found on different plants). The adult specimens can produce spectacular inflorescences, called strobili, large and of bright yellow color.
Cycas revoluta (website photo)
Species and varieties
Cycas circinalis: native to India and Madagascar, this species, similar to C. revoluta, however, has flatter and more graceful fronds, which can reach 1.5-2 m. of length. It can grow up to 6 m. in height.
Cycas revoluta: the most cultivated species of this family comes from China, Indonesia and Japan. It has pinnate leaves, slightly arched, formed by numerous leaflets also slightly arched, of leathery consistency, linear, with a sharp apex and arranged along a central coast. Adult specimens can produce inflorescences that sprout in the center of the tuft of leaves. The female ones have bracts, at the margins of which the ova are formed, which will give rise to the red and fleshy seeds. Characterized by a slow growth it can even reach 3 m. in height; but, usually, the specimens grown in the apartment do not exceed 1.2-1.5 m.
Cycas siamensis: native to Burma, this species has leaves that do not exceed 50 cm. It can grow up to 0.5-1.2 m.
Cycas revoluta (website photo)
Environmental requirements, substrate, fertilizations and special precautions
Temperature: they can be grown outdoors in mild climate regions. They also bear periods of cold, provided they are not prolonged. In harsh climate regions, they require a cold greenhouse for the colder months. Light: very good, but protected from direct sun. From June to September it can be placed outdoors in a semi-shaded position.
Watering and environmental humidity: water frequently, but moderately in summer; reduce the frequency, but never let the soil dry completely.
Substrate: mixture of clayey earth, coarse sand and moorland. Drainage must be taken care of, which must be perfect.
Special fertilizations and tricks: in summer, give liquid fertilizer every 6-8 weeks. Repot the plant every 3-4 years, in spring, only if the roots have filled the whole pot.
Male flower of Cycas revoluta (photo website)
Cycas revoluta pseudo-fruit (photo website)
Cycas can be multiplied, all year round, by cutting and rooting the basal shoots, which are formed at the foot of the plant, in a fertile substrate (the same used for adult plants), at a temperature of 24-27 ° C . Given the slow growth that characterizes plants of this genus, it will take years before obtaining specimens of acceptable size.
Diseases, pests and adversities
- Cotton mealy bugs: can attack plants, especially in hot and dry climates. You have to remove them, treat the plant with an anticoccidic product and raise the level of environmental humidity (the spraying and the washing of the leaves allow to eliminate the cochineals in the larval state). As an alternative to the chemical, the affected parts can be rubbed with a cotton swab wet with water and alcohol.
- Brown mealybugs: they occur with the formation of brown growths (determined by the small "shell") and giving the plant a blackish and sticky appearance (due to the production by the plant of sugary substances that make it subject to attack by fungi and fumaggini). They are fought by removing them and treating the plant with an anticoccidic product or by rubbing the affected parts with a pad soaked in water and alcohol.
- Brown spots on the leaves: insufficient watering in the summer or too low temperatures during the winter (perhaps with excessive watering).