This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

May 9, 2017

What a cycad flush is

Cycads are interesting plants. They're a group of plants that have a very ancient lineage, before the days of flowering plants. The most common ones are called "sago palms", although they aren't really palms. They look kinda like small palm trees, or large ferns. The ones I like the best are called Dioons, which is what the one at the top of this post is. And it's flushing.

Flushing means that it's growing new leaves. If that doesn't impress you, it's understandable, because most plants grow all of the time. Palm trees grow all of the time, ferns grow all of the time. Well, except when it's really, really cold. But cycads only grow once a year, in what is called a flush. Every once in a while one of my cycads will flush twice a year. And heck, I've even seen some flush three times a year, but that's very rare. They usually flush once. Once.

And that means that when a cycad starts to flush, it's the most exciting time in the world for someone who is growing the cycad. It means that it will have new leaves (I forgot to mention that some years they don't flush at all!). The leaves grow so fast it's absolutely amazing. If you have a sago palm, or any type of cycad, you know what I mean.

While your cycad is flushing, it needs to be left alone. The leaves are soft, and when they harden, they will harden into whatever shape they grow into. If you're leaning a rake on the leaves as they flush, they will be all twisted and distorted. Forever. So don't lean a rake on your cycad, if you were tempted to! Also, if another plant is touching the flushing leaves, move it away by trimming that plant, or temporarily tying the offending plant back. Once the cycad leaf hardens (and it only takes about a week), you can go ahead and let other stuff touch it, or lean the rake on it (if you must!).

So that's a cycad flush. And it's why people like me get all excited at this time of year (it's early May). Cycads will flush all summer, but if your cycad hasn't flushed by September, it probably won't that year. You'll have to wait another season. Cycads grow very slowly, and live for hundreds of years, so your cycad will probably outlive you, no matter how many vitamins you take. So care for yourself, and take care for your cycads.

Image at the top of this post: Cycad Dioon edule var. palma sola flushing May 9th, 2017.
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