Bamboo Cycad

The unique and exotic appearance of bamboo cycad makes it a striking addition to the Florida yard.

While most cycads are often mistaken for palms, Ceratozamia hildae has an upright, delicate look. Its resemblance to bamboo gives the plant its common name.

In existence since the age of dinosaurs, cycads have long been a standard of the Florida landscape. Their tropical look and ability to survive in many different environments makes them a popular choice. There are more than 200 cycad species and the bamboo cycad is one of the most unique.


Bamboo cycad, Ceratozamia hildae

Bamboo cycad in the Teaching Garden at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Plant City campus.

The bamboo cycad is native to inland areas of Mexico. It forms thin, stem-like petioles, that grow up to 5-7 feet long depending on how much sunlight they receive. Pairs of thin, lime-green “leaflets” are arranged along the petiole in a “bow tie” pattern. These thin, papery leaflets distinguish the bamboo cycad from other cycads, which typically have thick, leathery leaflets. 

Easy to grow, bamboo cycads tolerate a wide range of climate and light conditions, and are adapted to dry environments. They are fast-growing and can mature in 2-4 years in good culture.  Like most cycads, they are dioecious, meaning they have separate male and female plants. When mature, the male plants produce pollen-filled cones, while the females produce larger cones that contain seeds.

This plant is excellent as an accent for tropical gardens or it can be used as a container plant. While unlikely, take care that pets or livestock don't nibble on your bamboo cycad—all parts of cycad plants are toxic, and potentially fatal to small animals if ingested. 

Planting and Maintenance

Young bamboo cycads can be purchased at nurseries. Expect to pay a good amount for these plants because they are rare and highly sought after by plant collectors.  

Cycads are adapted to Florida's sandy soil, and should always be planted in a well-drained media. These plants require less water than most and can tolerate dry spells. Bamboo cycads prefer a little moisture compared to other cycads, but should never be overwatered or allowed to sit in saturated soil; they're sensitive to root rot and will die. Avoid planting your bamboo cycad in low spots or places that become saturated easily. 

You can feed your bamboo cycad with a palm special-type fertilizer found at most garden shops.  However, cycad roots "fix" nitrogen and are therefore self-fertilizing. Another advantage of bamboo cycad is that it is virtually pest free and unaffected by the Asian Cycad Scale.

Bamboo cycads grow best in partial shade, but can also be grown in moderate sun or deep shade.  These cycads do very well in hardiness zones 9 to 11 and can survive in temperatures as low as 15°F, but prefer warmer, humid climates. Bamboo cycads can be propagated by dividing the rhizomes or can be germinated from seed. 

Source:  Tom Broome, member of the Cycad Society


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