Technically a succulent plant, the Madagascar palm is a lovely shrub which, while the foliage looks similar to a palm, it isn’t related to any palm plants.
It also makes for a perfect foliage houseplant, as it’s easy to care for, and makes a leafy statement in any room you think needs a bit more greenery, as well as the curved, architectural lines of the trunk.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Madagascar palm plant.
At a Glance: What You Should Know About the Madagascar Palm Plant
The scientific name of the Madagascar palm is Pachypodium lamerei, classified under the dogbane family, Apocynaceae.
This is a gorgeous plant, sprouting palm-like foliage from the ends of a branching, thick trunk. It is worth considering carefully where you want to put this plant, as the trunk is covered in spines.
So it may not be an idea to put it somewhere in the reach of pets, children, or anywhere that gets a lot of traffic within your home.
In the wild, a Madagascar palm can grow up to 24 feet tall, but don’t worry. Most plants will adapt to their environment and will only grow to a fraction of their natural size when grown indoors.
This is more likely to be a maximum of 6 feet indoors, and that is once the plant gets mature.
While the Madagascar palm plant is not hardy, it will thrive indoors during the winter months, though its growth rate will slow down, like that of many houseplants.
As it is part of the dogbane family, the Madagascar palm has a considerable level of toxicity, so you’ll need to keep it away from children and pets, well out of reach of curious hands or mouths.
If you give this succulent the right conditions, including the right amount of light, infrequent watering, and the right temperature, the Madagascar palm is capable of producing huge white flowers in summer, once the plant has matured.
Each flower can reach an impressive 4 inches wide, but you will have to be patient for this plant to bloom.
Succulents only usually bloom when they are completely mature, and when the conditions are perfect, as flowers cost the plant a lot of energy.
Here’s how to do it.
How To Help a Madagascar Palm Plant Thrive
Sunlight & Position
As a typical succulent, the Madagascar palm loves as much sunlight as you can possibly give it (see also What Kind Of Light Should You Give Succulents?).
While it will tolerate partial shade, it’s unlikely to flower in these conditions, and the growth rate of the overall plant will be much slower.
Keep the Madagascar palm away from drafts, radiators and doors, those things in the environment which will cause the temperature to drop, or the air to get too dry.
The Madagascar palm needs very well-draining soil, such as cactus or succulent specialist compost.
This will ensure that the soil doesn’t have a huge amount of nutrients, which they have adapted to live without, as well as making sure that the water drains away from the plant.
If you can, make sure the compost is alkaline.
When Should You Water a Madagascar Palm?
The short answer is hardly ever. You need to make sure that the soil dries out in between watering.
Exactly how often you will need to water depends on the size of your Madagascar palm, how big the pot is, the surrounding temperature, and how much sunlight you give it.
Madagascar palms can hold a lot of water in their reserves, so if you’re not sure when the last time you watered your plants was, err on the side of underwatering them.
After a while, you’ll be able to tell by lifting the pot. If it’s extremely light, and the soil is dry, it’s time to give your Madagascar palm a drink.
Should You Fertilize a Madagascar Palm?
Normally, when it comes to succulent plants, the answer is a resounding no. When it comes to the Madagascar palm, this is a houseplant succulent that actually benefits from fertilizer, but you’ll have to be careful when you do this.
You can use an all-purpose houseplant feed, as long as you dilute it by half the normal amount. In spring and summer, you can feed it every other watering, and don’t feed it at all during the winter months, as it goes dormant during this season.
How to Repot a Madagascar Palm
The Madagascar palm only needs repotting every couple of years. It’s a good thing too, as the spikes can make this an uncomfortable experience, so make sure you wear heavy-duty gloves.
For extra protection, you can reuse cardboard to help you grab the spiny trunk without injuring your hands.
Transfer the plant into a pot which is slightly bigger than its old one, making sure to use succulent soil. Water the plant once it’s in its new home, and this will help establish the roots.
Can You Take Cuttings From a Madagascar Palm?
You don’t really need to take any cuttings from a Madagascar palm. If you look at the base of the trunk, you may see some plantlets.
Let these get big enough to fend for themselves, and take them out of the pot. Leave them somewhere on the side for a while to dry out and callus over, which will take a few days.
Then you can pot the new Madagascar palm into its own pot.
Pests and Diseases to Watch Out For
There are only two problems you really need to look out for: fungal disease and spider mites. Both present hazards to your Madagascar palm, although it’s pretty robust against many diseases and pests.
Fungal diseases take hold when you’re overwatering the plant, there’s not enough drainage, or both.
If you notice strange spots on your Madagascar palm, remove these leaves and reduce how frequently you water this houseplant.
Spider mites can be a big concern if you don’t deal with them quickly. Luckily, there’s a simple way to get rid of them without harming the plant.
You can use a dilution of neem oil in your next watering, but make sure to dilute it thoroughly, and only use it while wearing protective equipment. While it is organic, this does not mean it is not harmful to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are the Leaves on a Madagascar Palm Turning Black?
If the leaves on your Madagascar palm are turning black, this is the plant’s way of telling you that something is wrong.
It may be that the plant is starving for a particular nutrient, in which case, putting some liquid fertilizer into your next watering will help.
But this is most often the case when your plant’s leaves turn black all of a sudden, when it has been acclimatized to its position indoors for a few months already.
The leaves turning black may also indicate that you’re watering too much, or your plant is in the wrong position. It may be suffering from a draft, or where you’ve placed it is too dark.
To figure out which may be the problem, try changing one thing, and one thing only. If the leaves are still turning black in another week, you haven’t fixed the issue yet.
Can a Madagascar Palm Withstand Cold Weather?
For very short periods of time. A Madagascar palm needs a temperate climate to survive. While this houseplant does drop its leaves in winter, all the foliage dying off can also be a sign that the plant needs to be in a warmer place.