Restless pachypodium

(Question)

Hello there, I bought a pair of pachypodii(?) three years ago and the first year they were fantastic, grew like crazy and had a lovely mop of glossy green leaves on top, looking exactly like small “palm” trees.

However into the second year they had trouble growing a new set of leaves. I don’t generally water or fertilize them very often, but they started losing all their leaves last Spring, and the first batch of leaves look damaged as per the attached photo. I first thought that it looked like overwatering but I haven’t bee; maybe they’re just not getting enough sun? It has been a cool damp season this Spring and they started perking up a bit after the recent heat wave.

I must be doing something wrong that does not jive with their life cycle in the wild.

The latest crop of leaves has brown ends on one plant (but not on its twin which I bought at the same time) – the ends start black then turn crispy brown.

I assume Winter means nearly dormant and minimum watering, and start watering more frequently in the Spring and during hot days. But they are succulents so I always hold back at all times with water.

Any advice on these wonderful plants would be appreciated. It’s probably a case where I’m spending too much attention on them and they’ll thrive better on neglect. I may need a sunnier spot as well. Trees around us have grown a lot this season due to the amount of rain so it’s only part sun now at our home. I leave them outside after frost risk is passed.

(Answer)

Pachypodium is a genus of succulent spine-bearing trees and shrubs, native to Africa. It belongs to the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. Pachypodium comes from a Latin form from Greek pachus and podion, hence meaning thick-footed.

According to the website for Highland Succulents, one of the largest growers of this plant in North America, pachypodiums require high light levels and lots of water.

Three to four hours of “direct light each day and a minimum temperature of 55 degrees F. will keep them happy. They will grow well indoors on a sunny window sill, outdoors during the warmer months, and in a greenhouse as both of these conditions are easily met…Most growers new to this genus are often amazed at the amount of water required.”

According to Highland succulents’ extensive culture guide, “the classic symptom that plants are not receiving sufficient light is that the new leaves will turn black” so this could be one of your problems.  For more in-depth information on the care of this plant, also known as Madagascar palm, visit https://www.highlandsucculents.com/pachypodium.htm   and click on to the link for Pachypodium Culture Guide.