Pachypodium is a genus of caudiciform succulents from the family of Plumeria. The plants in this genus are characterized by thick, succulent stems that are usually covered by long spines and crowned by lance-shaped leaves that are arranged in a circular fashion. Belonging to Africa and Madagascar, Pachypodium are quite hardy plants that can adapt to a variety of growing conditions in tropical and sub-tropical climates.
Pachypodium offers a variety of unusual yet attractive plants of different sizes (as small as a few inches and as tall as 4 meters or even more). Since these plants originate from hot and dry climates, they are a good choice for designing low maintenance landscapes such as rock gardens and xeriscapes where they can store sufficient amount of water in their succulents stems to survive long spells of drought. In fact, the name ‘Pachypodium’ (pachy- podium/thick-footed) is derived from their habit of forming thick and succulent stems.
From a number of commercially grown species, Pachypodium lamerei is the most popular and widely cultivated in landscapes and gardens. It is fairly easy to grown both indoors and outdoors where it receives sufficient exposure to sunlight and moderate water except in winter. It is cold sensitive and needs to be protected from frost, overwatering and freezing temperatures in winter.
- Pachypodium lamerei , Image by Axel Straub
Though it is not a palm but Pachypodium lamerei is commonly described as Madagascar Plam – may be for its rich green leaves that crown the tall succulent stem of the plant. These leaves usually pale out and fall in winter followed by new growth in spring. This is the time when the plant produces showy white or yellow fragrant flowers. However, it takes a lot of years (up to 10 years) to start blooming. At this stage, the plant reaches the height of 3 meters or more.
Pachypodium lamerei can be propagated from seeds, divisions or grafting. The plant prefers a regular but well-drained soil mix.
Other popular species include:
Pachypodium geayi: Similar to P. lamerei with thicker stems. Tends to branch out and grow up t0 m meters or more. White flowers often appear on branches.
Pachypodium horombense: Grows as a small succulent shrublet and produces a swollen tuberous stem with spiny branches each bearing a rosette of leaves. Average height is 1 meter. Flowers appear in early summer.