Majestic Tsikas, or Cycad

Elegant and always ranked among the elite and fashionable indoor plants, the appearance of the cicas is very reminiscent of palm trees. But despite the feathery leaves and even the shape of the trunk, this plant represents a completely different family. Cycad or cicas is one of the most ancient plants on the planet. An elegant, large soloist, who always and everywhere becomes the main star of the interior, even if he makes rather strict requirements for the conditions, he is a persistent and hardy plant. Both beginners and experienced flower growers can grow it. This long-liver is one of the most grateful indoor plants, showing its decorative effect even with minimal care.

Cycad drooping, or Tsikas drooping, or turned away (Cycas revoluta). Farmer anolba

Pseudo palms with luxurious crown of leaves

Tziacs, we also known as cycad palm or sagovnik (Cycas) looks very much like a palm tree. This representative of the Sagovnikov family has not changed its appearance for millions of years, in fact, being a plant as ancient as ferns. In room culture, cycads are quite compact, in no way resemble natural giants. But their beauty does not suffer from this. In this indoor relic, the leaves retain their attractiveness for a surprisingly long time. And the life of a plant itself is not limited to decades: under favorable conditions, cycads can grow in nature for more than 5000 years.

Plants develop very slowly, for decades they gradually grow almost imperceptibly. At 1 year, the cycad produces only one row of leaves, it rises in height by no more than 3 cm. The diameter of the crown of the cycad, the spread of leaves is much greater than the height. This plant should be displayed as a single accent or placed in groups so that the leaves do not rest against walls or other plants, the leaves are free and the crown develops evenly. He is a proud soloist who easily outshines any other plant.

Naturally architectural, elegant, somewhat austere cicas crown is perceived as an expressive architectural accent, an important graphic element. The trunk of the plant looks like a pineapple tree. In the cycad, the trunks are often called “cones”: in indoor culture they are rarely columnar, they resemble either bulbs, or indeed round cones or pineapples, thickened, beautiful. The trunks are covered with “scales” of dead leaves and are crowned with a bunch of pinnately dissected, luxurious leaves.

Leaves are wide enough, tough, collected in an elegant top. They are usually placed quite symmetrically and evenly, forming a kind of crown. Palm-shaped leaves reach from 50 cm to almost 2 m in length. The leaf lobes are narrow, lanceolate. The surface is leathery, with a waxy coating that protects against excessive evaporation of moisture. The color of the greens is dark, rich green. Each leaf lobe has a single central vein. Watching new young fronds open up is a separate pleasure. Light and delicate sheets twisted into “snails” gradually straighten, reaching ever larger sizes and becoming rigid.

Cycad drooping (Cycas revoluta)
Cycadic cyclone (Cycas revoluta). Farmer mrgarris0n

Cycas species

Tsikas is easily recognizable at first sight. But in indoor culture, this plant is not at all monospecific. Tsikas is represented by not one, but 5 main species; other natural forms are also rare. And all plants, albeit very similar, have unique advantages.

The most popular of the cicada species is cikas drooping, or turned away (Cycas revoluta). This is a powerful plant, which in nature forms large straight trunks up to 2,5 m in height, crowned with a luxurious apical crown of hard feathery leaves that resemble ferns and palms. In indoor culture, the stem height is limited to a maximum of 30-50 cm. The glossy, dark, always fresh-looking leaves of this plant are among the most beautiful of the large crops. In room form, this type of cycad blooms very rarely, but sometimes in greenhouses it releases bright orange inflorescences above the stem, then giving way to pineal fruits.

Cycad curled, or Cycas cochlea or curled (Cycas circinalis)
Cycad curled, or Cicas cochlea or curled (Cycas circinalis). Farmer Forest & Kim Starr

Cochlea cicas or curled (Cycas circinalis) Is an elegant plant with large, wide, feathery leaves reaching 2 m in length, which at the beginning are directed straight up, and then are located almost horizontally. Each leaf is divided into 100-120 densely spaced narrow leaflets-lobes with a pronounced central vein. The fronds themselves resemble an enlarged copy of a pigeon feather. At the base, the lobes are slightly lighter than at the ends, which creates an interesting color transition on the leaves as a whole. The leaves are longer than those of the drooping cicassus. A feature of the species is the ability to release numerous shoots.

Tsikas Rumfa (Cycas rumphii) flaunts with a cold, emerald green color. The leaf lobes are not so densely arranged, as if they stick out to the sides from each other.

The bluish-whitish color of narrow, up to 1 m long leaves with lobes up to 10 cm long is also characteristic of Siamese cicada (Cycas wilkesiana). But the less common cycas medium (Cycas media) differs from other species in a more shiny surface of dark leaves, an elegant, arcuate bend.

Cycad, or Tsikas, or Sago palm (Cycas)
Cycad, or Tsikas, or Sago palm (Cycas). Farmer Carlos Massieu

Home care for cicasas

Tsikas, for all their unprecedented beauty, exclusivity and durability, are not difficult indoor plants to grow. These ancient beauties cannot be counted among the capricious exotics, because they do not require the reconstruction of any difficult conditions, atypical for living rooms. Tsikasam will not need specific, scrupulous care.

The most difficult thing in growing this room culture is to ensure fairly strict preferences for lighting, access to fresh air, and maintaining moisture indicators that are comfortable for the cycad. Problems in the development of this pseudopalm are rare. The plant is hardy and won’t bother even beginners. Changes of different periods and phases are almost imperceptible in the development of cicas; there is no need for them to change conditions at the stage of rest or active development.

Lighting for cicas

Despite its status as an ancient relict plant, the cycad does not at all resemble other indoor “antiquities” ferns in terms of their preferences for lighting. This plant is very comfortable only in a bright location, preferably with diffused lighting. This pseudo-palm tree will be frightened of direct sunlight only at noon, and even then in the summer it perfectly tolerates any sunny location, provided there is access to fresh air. The older the cycad, the less sensitive it is to direct sunlight. It is better to gradually accustom young plants to direct lighting in summer.

The intensity of illumination in cycas is the most important factor in active development. With an insufficient light level, the plant practically stops growing, does not release new leaves. Therefore, it is better for the cicassus to provide a brightly lit location.

Cycads prefer stable lighting throughout the year, even in winter. In summer, lighting can be as bright as you like, but uniformity and stability throughout the year allows you to get the most decorative leaves. However, if you do not have the opportunity to rearrange the cicas to a lighter place in late autumn (due to their large size or a special role in the interior), the lack of compensation for the seasonal reduction in lighting will not radically affect the appearance of the cicas.

But what is really important for this pseudo-palm is the uniformity of illumination for the entire crown. With a high-quality distribution of light, cicas naturally form a symmetrical, very neat and beautiful crown. If the light falls on the plant unevenly, only on one side of the crown, the cicas will more actively release leaves on one side, the bundle of leaves will be unevenly located and the plant will develop one-sidedly in the future. If it is not possible to provide uniform illumination, the plants should be regularly turned in one direction, ensuring compensation for this process.

Angular cycad (Cycas angulata)
Cyclic angular (Cycas angulata). Farmer GREGORIUZ

Comfortable temperature

If the cycad makes rather strict requirements to the lighting regime, then it is much easier to find comfortable temperatures for it. This plant is thermophilic, does not tolerate cool conditions, but it is not afraid of either extreme heat or short-term unexpected cold snaps. The main thing is that the temperature does not drop excessively for a long period. Moreover, even frequent temperature fluctuations will not harm cycasas; the plant does not require extremely stable conditions.

Indicators that should be guided by – the temperature is above 20 degrees in the warm season and above 15 degrees in winter. The temperature should not be allowed to fall below these “points” for more than 2 days. But higher rates for cicassa will be comfortable at any time of the year.

This loyalty to temperatures also has its downside. Certain species and varieties of cycads, which in flower centers and nurseries from a young age were kept in low winter temperatures (to accelerate growth during the active period) must, in room conditions, continue to be in a cool mode in winter. Thus, the bent cicassus prefers wintering in cooler conditions, from 10 to 12 degrees.

You should clarify the features of the wintering of a particular plant when buying it. If the consultant tells you that it is desirable to keep the plant in the temperature range from 12 to 16 degrees in winter, then when grown in warmer conditions, the cicas will rapidly lose their decorative effect. If you cannot provide suitable conditions, then you should look for another type of cicas or a specimen that is accustomed to the usual room temperatures.

Tsikas are great lovers of fresh air. These plants simply adore constant access to fresh air, are not afraid of drafts (unless we are talking about an icy wind) and respond well to airing rooms even in the cold season. With stagnant air, grown in a completely closed culture in rooms that cannot be ventilated, the cicas gradually loses the beauty of the leaves and changes the color intensity, weakens and withers. The love of fresh air is also evident in the fact that cicatas love to be outdoors during the summer. As soon as it gets warmer, the temperature rises above 15 degrees, cycads can be displayed on balconies, terraces and even in the garden.

Traditionally, cycas are exhibited from June to September. At the same time, in the open air, they are also not afraid of direct sunlight or light drafts. They can be safely used in the decoration of even open recreation areas, but it is better to avoid enough wind sites. The main thing is that the lighting remains uniform and the area is warm. Plants need to be brought back at the first cold snap, when the temperature starts to drop to 10-12 degrees. Exposure to the open air makes this plant more resilient, stimulates vigorous growth and achieves more leaves in one year.

Cycad Rumph, or Tsikas Rumph (Cycas rumphii)
Cycad Rumph, or Tsikas Rumph (Cycas rumphii). Farmer Harry P. Leu Gardens

Watering and air humidity

Maintaining a comfortable humidity, or rather correct watering for all cycas, is the second most difficult moment in growing them. The thing is that for cicas, you can use only extremely soft, not containing impurities of heavy salts in the water. For this plant, it is not enough to choose just settled water for irrigation, you need to use rain or thawed (or similar in composition).

Cycads can be counted among the fairly moisture-loving indoor plants. Water should not stagnate in the pallets between procedures, the soil should not be overmoistened, and even more so brought to waterlogging, acidification due to stagnant water. But by all available means, complete drought should be avoided (even during a period of relative dormancy in winter, cicadas cannot tolerate complete drying of the soil in pots). In summer, watering should be very abundant, with only the topsoil drying out. In winter, plants need approximately half the moisture content of the substrate. The soil is allowed to dry out in the upper and partly in the middle layer, watering is made more rare, but systemic procedures are not stopped and a constant light moisture is maintained.

But cicadas are almost insensitive to air humidity. They respond well to normal room conditions and average rates of 50-70%. And even if they will not give up high humidity, this parameter of care cannot be called vital (of course, the appearance of the plant is better, the higher the humidity). Mandatory measures are carried out only in the form of spraying in the summer and during the operation of heating systems, supplementing the procedures with regular showering. But at the same time, both the stem and the base of the leaves must be protected from moisture. Tsikas does not need to install humidifier devices, but if it is easier for you to use them, and not to spray, they can be an alternative option.

Top dressing for cicas

Cicas have slightly unusual requirements for feeding and their composition. This ancient plant has an increased sensitivity to the salts of two substances – calcium and magnesium, but at the same time, the need for other trace elements is also increased. For normal development, you need to maintain a stable level of soil nutrition.

For cicas, complex fertilizers containing both mineral mixtures and organic matter are preferred. For this plant, it is better to choose preparations designed specifically for palm trees or at least for decorative deciduous crops.

Active feeding for the cycad is carried out throughout the warm season, from April to October. In this case, feeding should be quite frequent. A standard dose of fertilizers is applied every 2 weeks or procedures are made weekly, but the manufacturer’s recommended dose of drugs is halved. From November to March, it is better to stop feeding for cicas. The only exceptions are neglected plants and cycas, which have not been transplanted for a very long time. For such specimens, they continue to carry out top dressing even in winter, using a half dose of fertilizer with a frequency of 1 every 4 weeks.

Cycad average, or Tsikas average (Cycas media)
Cycad average, or Tsikas average (Cycas media). Farmer Vivyan Lisewski
Sagovnik, or Cycas
Cycads, or Cycas. Farmer Clement Rivier

Transplant, containers and substrate

Any fertile, loose, light substrate is suitable for cycas. These plants feel most comfortable in special soil mixtures for palm trees, with a high level of organic fertilizers and a rather coarse texture. To improve water permeability to the cicas soil, it is advisable to add perlite or other loosening additives.

Cycads are often transplanted only at a young age. Plants must be transferred to a new container at the age of 5-6 years annually. Older cycas are transplanted at a frequency of 1 every 5 years, but from the third year they begin to feed them in winter.

The only viable option for transplanting cicas is early spring or late February, when there are no young leaves on the plant. These plants are extremely sensitive to any traumatic influences, contacts with roots, react poorly to the destruction of the earthen coma and redistribution of the rhizome. During transplantation, the formed root system must not be disturbed, the plants must be transferred as quickly as possible while preserving the entire earthy coma (the soil from the roots is by no means shaken off or washed off).

For cicas, a thick, thick drainage layer must be laid on the bottom of the container, covering it with either sand or soil. During the procedure, you need to act quickly, trying to minimize injuries to the plant, without tilting or disturbing it and immediately returning to its usual conditions and resuming normal care. Before transplanting, a third of the oldest leaves can be removed from the plant for renewal.

When choosing a container, it should be borne in mind that for a cicassus, you should not increase the pots by more than 2-5 cm. For a cycad, containers with equal diameters and heights or containers in which the height only slightly exceeds the width are ideal. Best of all, these pseudo-palms develop in pots made from natural materials, including terracotta and ceramic containers. In plastic, cicas grows worse due to poor air permeability.

Cycad drooping, or Tsikas drooping, or turned away (Cycas revoluta)
Cycad drooping, or Tsikas drooping, or turned away (Cycas revoluta). Farmer Rare Seeds and Plants

Diseases, pests and common problems

Cycads are quite resistant plants. But when the air is too dry, in combination with high temperatures, pests from neighboring plants can easily get over them. Tsikas often suffer from spider mites, mealybugs, scale insects and thrips. Pest control can only be carried out in the form of comprehensive measures combining mechanical treatment (removal and washing of insects) with spraying with special insecticides.

With regular stagnation of moisture in the pallets and too intensive watering, various rot spreads very quickly along the roots of the plant, which is quite difficult to deal with. An emergency transplant for cicas can be even more dangerous than waterlogging itself. For the plant, you need to drastically change the care regime, let the substrate dry almost completely, and then resume watering, making sure that the dampness does not recur anymore. Transplantation with excision of damaged roots should be resorted to only in extreme cases.

For cycas, the appearance of spots on the leaves is also characteristic in the absence of additional fertilizing or constant sharp fluctuations in temperature. But the drying of young leaves before they bloom is most often associated with an incorrect watering regime and a lack of ventilation.

Reproduction of cycas

The rather high price for cycads is explained not only by the fact that plants develop slowly, but to achieve high decorativeness, they are grown in industrial conditions for a sufficiently long period. Tsikas are very difficult to reproduce. At home, getting a new generation of plants is considered a great success. Cycads are obtained from seeds only under industrial conditions, after very complex processing and scarification. At home, the only breeding method is the separation of daughter plants.

Occasionally, in a very comfortable environment, cycas can release small tuberous daughter shoots with a modest rosette of leaves. If you cut them from the mother stem, make additional cuts from the bottom, treat them with a fungicide and a growth accelerator and root them in sand or perlite for several months, you can get an independent plant. In large parcels, the “bump” is immersed by 75%, small plants – even deeper. After planting, the plants are watered abundantly 2-3 times with an interval of 1-2 days, and then only light moisture is maintained with more rare waterings. But since rooting takes a long period (up to 8-12 months), the risk of such divisions falling out is very high, and in order to achieve success, you must first of all be patient.


Majestic Tsikas, or Cycad
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Anna Evans

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