Saturday, September 8, 2007
Madagascar Palm: Patio Pal
When I attended the Desert Landscaper Certification Course at the Desert Botanical Garden, our classroom was located right in the Garden. Outside on the patio was a 12 ft. tall Pachypodium lamerei, or Madagascar Palm. It was a beautiful specimen, and our instructor told us it was over 20 years old. Despite its common name and its palm-like foliage, it is not a palm at all, but part of the Plumeria family.
When I had a chance to pick up a nice sized one for my own patio, I purchased it and it’s been on my patio ever since. My P. lamerei keeps its leaves year round. As long as it has leaves, it needs water, but not often. I water mine about every nine days in summer, and I never fertilize it. This plant needs some sun and frost protection in Phoenix, so it’s best to keep it in a container on the patio or in the house if there is enough light. I did bring it in during our hard freeze last winter, but other than that, it lives outside.
The specimen at the Garden blooms occasionally. It has large white flowers that have a nice fragrance. The P. lamerei will not flower until it reaches at least six feet tall. Even at that height, it is not common to see flowers, and it will not bloom at all if grown inside. In its native Madagascar, it produces huge numbers of flowers.
This plant’s trunk is loaded with spines, which makes it hard to pot, and it does need repotting every few years as it grows. Although advertised as a fast grower, I don’t find that to be true. My plant has grown all of six inches in three years. Maybe it is putting all its energy into producing year-round foliage!
The Madagascar Palm is a popular succulent around the world, and is readily available at nurseries. I think every patio should have one.