Cher says we’re never too old for Sex?

I grew my first cycad over 55 years ago, and the excitement of these prehistoric, dinosaur-food plants still hasn’t worn off. Although I’ve long since given up on those that need to go indoors in winter, the number we’ve found to be winter hardy here at JLBG keeps expanding.

Once we exhausted the available species, it was time to turn to the hybrids. Yes, Virginia, you can artificially impregnate ancient sago palms. As it turns out, these hybrids are even better than the wild species in terms of vigor and winter hardiness. You would think that the interest in breeding prehistoric plants that never flower would be limited, but you’d be wrong. The Facebook group devoted to breeding cycads has over 1000 members from around the world.

Below are a few of our best performing hybrids from photos taken this week. We use unpublished nothospecific names to be able to track and sort these in our database. We hope this gives you an idea of the potential for growing cycads in regions that drop to single digits F in the winter months. While the plants are hardy, all cycad foliage browns when temperatures drop below 15 degrees F, but reflush quickly in spring. All plants experienced 11 degrees F this past winter.

Cycas x bifungensis is a cross of Cycas bifida x taitungensis. In the case of the plants below, the hybrid was back crossed back to C. taitungensis. This specimen is now 10 years old.

Cycas x bifungensis

Next is Cycas x panzhibaoensis, a cross of two Chinese species, Cycas panzhihuaensis x debaoensis. Cycas debaoensis is an odd multi-pinnate species, which is evident in the hybrid. These are also 2013 seedlings.

Cycas x panzhibaoensis

Below is Cycas x panzhioluta, a hybrid of the Chinese Cycas revoluta x panzhihuaensis. This is yet another 2013 seedling.

Cycas x panzhioluta

The final hybrid photo is Cycas x taithuaensis, a cross of the Taiwan native Cycas taitungensis and the Mainland Chinese Cycas panzhihuaensis. This is a 2008 seedling.

Cycas x taithuaensis

12 thoughts on “Cher says we’re never too old for Sex?”

  1. Pictures not showing on my yahoo e mail today ( Jan 2 ). Have you changed something at the beginning of the year?

    1. Lidia Churakova

      Hi Jim! Yes, we have moved the blog to the new JLBG website and are frantically fixing all the issues. Thank you for letting us know, we are working on it right now!

  2. I like the look of the new format, and I really like knowing that Tony wrote this piece. Never saw mention of an author before.

    1. Lidia Churakova

      Hi Barbara! Thank you for your suggestion, you should be able to attach an image or a short video to your comment now.

  3. Here is a photo of one of the partners in the cycad sex performance. I got this from Lotus Land on Montecito California. It was an impulse gift from a member of the staff. I felt lucky to get it and it makes a good conversation piece.

  4. Hi Tony,
    Last spring picked up three Cycas panzhihuaensis to try out in our woodland landscape, located in SW Wake Co., under mature oaks/dogwoods in dry shade, hardwood forest canopy in light shade. They are hard to find locally so I planted one and held back two in pots. The soil hasn’t been tested but it is likely acidic as the trees are mature oaks/popular/hickory. I amended the soil with a little compost when planted, and added Espoma Plant Tone, and then kept them moist through the summer; the site is on a slight slope and is well-draining. The plant wasn’t happy and didn’t make it through the summer heat. The potted ones are doing fine, they are evergreen/cold hardy to at least 32degF as they have stayed on our covered front porch up until the recent cold snap into the 20s. I read they cycas p. prefer alkaline soil and I notice yours are planted on mounds. What would you suggest I try next for best chance of success? The potted ones have continued to look great so am also considering cycads as house plants that could later be transplanted into the landscape. Any advice?


    1. We have not found the cycads to be overly particular about soil pH. Most of our garden where these are planted range from pH 6.0 – 6.5. Cycads love heat, which is why the are prevalent throughout Florida and Texas landscapes, so the temperatures wasn’t the issue. I’d look for signs of voles, as they really aren’t many other things that could take out a cycad.

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