The Q&A Archives: Fern Palm Cycad

Question: I have recently bought a large plant to take up space in my lounge and the label calls it a Fern Palm - 'cycad' but I can't find it in any books. When I bought it, the whole 'bulb' was covered top to bottom in fronds but the lower layers of leaves/fronds are rapidly turning yellow and dry and no new ones are growing at the top to replace them, what am I doing wrong? How often should I water/feed it and what with? Could you please also tell me the real name of the plant to make future book searches possible. Grateful for your time, thanks.

Answer: Cycads are primitive slow growing cone bearing plants that look like a palm or tree fern but are not related the either. Their dissected leaves, which are usually stiff, leathery and often spine tipped emerge as a crown of foliage only periodically or annually. The most popular cycads are Queen Fern Palm and Sago Palm (Cycad revoluta). These are relatively easy to grow. They require very fast draining soils, moderate to bright light, and regular feeding with a half-strength dilution of liquid houseplant fertilizer every 3-4 weeks during the growing season. Yellowing older leaves usually indicates overwatering. These plants are extremely slow growing so you may not see new growth for several months. I'd water it thoroughly and then wait for the top 2 inches of soil to dry out before watering again. Give your fern palm a chance to adjust to growing in your lounge and it should perk right up. Hope so!

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