How to Grow Madagascar Palms

This succulent shrub is not a true palm

Madagascar palm planted on side of white wall with surrounding mulch

The Spruce / Danielle Moore

The Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei) is not related to true palms at all. This spikey plant actually belongs to the Apocynaceae dogbane family within the Pachypodium genus and is a succulent shrub.

Native to southern Madagascar, this tropical plant is only hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11, so it's typically grown as a houseplant in most climates. It can also be overwintered indoors in cooler climates.

Identifiable by its spear-like dark green foliage, the Madagascar palm boasts a single thick grey trunk that can also have thorns. The plant blooms each spring and into the early summer with small, 4-inch buds—the flowers are typically white, but can also be seen in yellow, pink, or red.

When grown outside, the Madagascar palm can reach up to 24 feet high, with a spiral of leaves at the top. However, it will remain much smaller when grown indoors, topping out a just 6 feet tall or less. The Madagascar palm matures over a decade and it may take many years before your plant is ready to being blooming.

Botanical Name Pachypodium lamerei
Common Names Madagascar Palm, Madagascar Cactus Palm Tree, Pachypodium Species, Club Foot
Plant Type  Deciduous succulent (not related to true palms)
Mature Size  12 to 24 ft. tall, 10 to 12 ft. wide
Sun Exposure  Full sun
Soil Type  Cactus compost, well-drained chalk, loam, or sand
Soil pH  Alkaline
Bloom Time  Summer
Flower Color  White, yellow, red, or pink
Hardiness Zones  9-11, USDA
Native Area  Southern Madagascar
Toxicity  Toxic to humans and pets

Madagascar Palm Care

Your Madagascar palm needs a space 36 to 48 inches wide. Establish it in the ground or as potted plants on a patio or indoors. Grow this plant indoors year-round in mild-winter locations.

Where temperatures are warmer, cultivate in a clay pot (not a plastic one) outside in summer. Selecting a container with proper drainage holes will help avoid root rot.

Madagascar palm with thick and thorny trunk with long leaves closeup

The Spruce / Danielle Moore

Madagascar palm with long leaf fronds surrounded by mulch

The Spruce / Danielle Moore

Light

Grow your Madagascar palm under in full light and fairly warm temperatures. Indoors, set in a south or west-facing window.

Soil

Madagascar palm can adapt to a variety of well-drained soils. It will grow in the sandy soil of old dunes near the sea, in limestone, schists, etc. For best results, plant in cactus compost. Maintain a mildly acidic to mildly alkaline pH between 6.1 and 7.8.

Water

Allow the soil to dry between waterings in spring and summer. Expect leaves to drop in winter unless specimens are grown in south Florida or indoors where plants may keep their foliage.

Whenever the surface soil becomes dry, water more. Water just to maintain dry/mesic soil moisture. Water less once your Madagascar palm is established and even less in winter.

Fertilizer

Feed the tree a general-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength at the start of spring and the beginning of summer, or a low nitrogen liquid fertilizer every four to five weeks.

Whether grown indoors or outdoors, do not fertilize in fall or winter. Continue watering and feeding whenever new growth shows.

With proper care, Madagascar palms will grow around 12 inches per year when happily and healthily.

Pruning

Pruning is not usually needed for a Madagascar palm. Even so, the plant actually has incredible regenerative properties. While this species typically grows a single trunk, sometimes it will branch after flowering or after the main stem is injured.

To maintain a smaller size or to try to induce branching, prune the tree with care by slicing the top with sharp pruning shears or a gardening knife that has been sterilized first to prevent infection.

Propagating Madagascar Palm

In late spring, propagate by seed at 66-75°F (19-24°C) or take stem-tip cuttings. Soak seeds for at least 24 hours in warm water. Be patient, as the Madagascar palm tends to sprout quite slowly, anywhere from three weeks to six months.

For quicker results, break off a piece of new shoots above the base. Allow shoots to dry for a week. Then plant in a well-draining soil mix.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

This species is relatively disease resistant though it is vulnerable to aphids while flowering.

Keep an eye out for cassava whitefly and lance nematode. If it does show signs of pest infestation or disease, remove the parts that are damaged.