Pachypodium is a genus that easily adapts to arid climates with little water. It is part of the Apocynaceae family and its origins can be identified in southern Africa where Madagascar also appears. This type of plant has about twenty varieties
Apparently not graceful, this plant with a large and fat stem develops mainly vertically, assuming a tree shape; for this reason it is also called "palm of Madagascar". Its stem has an enlargement at the base which tends to tighten on the top where it branches; generally it produces few branches, from three to five on which then the acuiform leaves develop.
Thanks to the shape of the stem, the plant is able to accumulate sufficient water reserves that allow it to resist for a long time in arid places.
Another peculiarity of Pachypodium is the presence of small growths on the stem, which allow it to have all the benefits of the sun (photosynthesis) even if the leaves are not there. In winter, in fact, the plant tends to lose them.
All varieties of Pachypodium have thorns, although some have more developed them. The plant also reaches a height of 6 meters.
Environment and exposure
It is a rather heat-resistant plant, but the minimum temperatures should never be below 10 degrees.
The best place to put a Pachypodium is in a bright, well-ventilated area; it tolerates direct sun, but it is preferable to place it in a more protected area during the hottest hours, especially in summer.
The Pachypodium loves soils with a porous grain and which allows a good release of water. The soil compost must be fertilized and
a quarter of drainage material such as sand or pozzolan must also be added. You can opt for the use of compounds already prepared and suitable for cacti, to which a part of peat should however be added.
Planting and repotting
Depending on the Pachypodium species, this plant can be repotted starting from February and as spring approaches. It is not a type of plant that grows too quickly, therefore repotting can be done safely every three years or so, using a slightly larger pot.
In the period from March to September, Pachypodium requires constant watering, while in winter it is drastically reduced. If the plant is placed indoors, but without heating, it can even be suspended during the winter. Water should be given when the soil is dry for at least a couple of days. The dose of water for a medium-sized plant is about 300 ml.
During the summer season, Pachypodium should be fertilized at least twice a month with low nitrogen fertilizers. This element causes the plant to grow too quickly, weakening its defense against pests and molds.
The Pachypodium reproduces mainly by seed. This practice is complicated and requires an excellent predisposition to botany; for beginners it is difficult for the seed to develop into a seedling. The Pachypodium can reproduce by cutting.
The plant naturally loses its leaves in winter and pruning is only necessary in case of yellow, withered or damaged leaves.
The flowers of the Pachypodium are generally white, with five petals, and appear on the top; some varieties reach yellowish and pink colors. These flowers are truly spectacular, but in pot cultivation it will almost never be possible to witness this event. The flowers have a funnel shape; the Pachypodium blooms in the summer season.
Diseases and parasites
The Pachypodium is a succulent plant and as such it undergoes the attack of the scale insects; this problem is easily solved. Use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol and rub the leaves gently until the parasite is eliminated.
Another element that could damage the plant is an excess in watering which often leads to the presence of fungi.
In the spring season, the Pachypodium must be protected with broad-spectrum insecticides; be careful not to use it if the plants are in bloom.
Pachypodium can be found in well-stocked nurseries and is typically sold when the plant is about 30 centimeters tall. The average cost of a plant is about thirty euros.
Most common species
Pachypodium Saundersii is perhaps the most widespread species; this variety remains small and hardly exceeds one and a half meters. Its flowers remain white and it is the fastest growing species.
Pachypodium Baronii is characterized by an intense red flowering and by the presence of small fruits, from which the seeds are treated.
Pachypodium Horombense really has a curious shape; its stem is particularly stocky, pot-bellied and short. It might look like a bonsai due to its shape. Its flowers are yellow and large in size.
Pachypodium belongs to the same family as Adenium and Oleander.
Its thorns secrete poisonous substances, so you have to pay attention to any stings that could cause annoying skin irritation.
SQM • 16
Extracts from Il Giardino Fiorito
In 2001, thanks to my work as a freelance editorial graphic designer, I had the opportunity to obtain a collaboration agreement with the Edagricole Publishing House of Bologna, recognized as the most important company of its kind in Italy. It happened that the journalist Elena Tibiletti, then editorial coordinator of the historic magazine Il Giardino Fiorito (founded in 1931 by Mario and Eva Calvino), became aware of my skills and agreed to involve me in the drafting of some informative articles dedicated to succulent plants . Given the extremely generic character of the magazine, I chose some subjects that were easy to handle.
- Autumn festival (Ariocarpus in nature and in cultivation)
- Ancient cacti (notes on the genus Pereskia)
- The Turk's Hat cactus (notes on the genus Melocactus)
- A succulent gigaro (notes on Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
- Desert oleanders (notes on the genus Pachypodium)
- Desert Blueberries (Notes on genus Myrtillocactus)
- Obese and allied (notes on globose species of Euphorbia)
- A Mrs. Echeveria (notes on genus Echeveria, and in particular E. lauii)
- Plants in extinction, advice for use (on the illegal trade in endangered succulents)
- Ferocactus, the 'barrel cactus' (notes on the genus Ferocactus)
Published on Volume LXVII in 2001.
I live in northern Italy, equivalent to USDA zone 8. I have been growing plants since I was 13 years old. If I could (room, time and money) I'd grow all kind of plants from ferns to sequoia. As I have a little garden and winters are wet and cold, I began to collect summer growing bulbs that can be stored in winter in the garage then I made a little conservatory where to care for winter growing bulbs. My particular interest is in Amaryllidaceae, but I have representatives of a lot of families. Beside bulbs I like and grow Orchidaceae (Brassavola, Cattleya, Vanda, Dendrobium.), Jasmines (white, rose, yellow), Cactaceae (treasures from Mexico - Ariocarpus, Astrophytum, Pelecyphora, Leucthenbergia, Lophophora - and epiphytes - Selenicereus, Hylocereus, Rhipsalis, Disocactus, Epiphyllum), gingers (above all Hedychium), Hoya, Euphorbia from Madagascar, Aloe from South Africa and Madagascar, Pachypodium and other succulent plants from South Africa. Another of my interests is botanical books and prints. I usually write for a monthly Italian magazine (Il Giardino Fiorito) devoted to plants and gardens. My job is quite different from gardening I am a physician. But I am studying for a degree in Natural Science. At the moment I am organizing a show of Italian contemporary botanical illustrations. I think my madness has no limit.
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