Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

June 8, 2016

How to transplant a cycad cutting to get another plant

One of the nice things about cycads is that they "pup". That is, they send offshoots that are exact replicas of the mother plant (or father plant, as the case may be). And some types of cycads, like dioon edules, tend to pup a lot. And that means that you can get a whole 'nother plant from one. This is how:

• Cut the pup off with a saw. Chances are you'll have to dig down a bit to see where the pup is connected, but that will work out fine because the cut won't show on the main plant afterwards. Be prepared to do a fair amount of sawing!

• Dig around the pup and see if you can get as much of its own root system as possible. Pups that are softball size or bigger will have their own roots, the ones that are smaller won't and will need to be "rooted up". If your pup is big enough and has even a few roots, you're in luck, you can just plant it. Fill the hole up with free-draining potting soil (for palms and cactus) and firm it in. If done right, it shouldn't show a scar at all.

Dioon edule cycad after removal of a pup. Note that there is no scar, and the aloe will now get a little bit more room

Dioon edule cycad pup removed. The stuff on the cut is some garden sulphur and rooting hormone. The fronds are sprayed with plain water.

Apply garden sulphur and rooting hormone to the cut. In the past I've always cut all of the fronds off, but lately I've seen comments here that it's not really necessary, so I'm gonna leave them on, and hope for the best. I've sprayed the leaves with plain water, and will continue to do so for the next few weeks, every day. It's over 100 degrees here in Phoenix, so it's a necessity!

• Plant it on a slope that drains well. Cycads are prone to root rot, so if the water doesn't drain, the plant will die. I dug a shallow hole and built up all around it with potting soil. Then water it in with Miracle-Gro, and give it daily water throughout the first hot season. I'm also spraying it with the squirt bottle. If the leaves die, don't panic, it will just look like a little pineapple for a season until the new leaves form. But I'm hoping that the leaves don't die!

So there you go. Another nice plant, absolutely free. All it took was a little bit of effort. And remember that this plant will look its best with room to grow, so give it plenty of room. I've allowed space for the fronds to throw six feet long, and there is no height limitation. Cycads are slow-growing, so it probably won't need that room for another 50-100 years, but that's OK, I can wait!

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