Encephalartos lehmannii

the Karoo cycad
Upright blue cycad, choice collectors plant. Develops trunk overtime, but is low to the ground for decades. Heirloom plant.
height 4–10ft
width 3–6ft
tolerates Drought, Heat, Pots, Wind
Low – Moderate
Cycads need good drainage to thrive, and most require average water once established. Many of the South African cycads, like this one, are quite drought tolerant at maturity.
exposure Part Shade – Full Sun
drainage In Ground: Cactus Mix, In Pots: Cactus Mix
fertilizing All Purpose
origin E South Africa

Sunset Zones Map

Outdoor Exposure Guide


Full Sun
Six or more hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Shade
Three to five hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Sun
One to two hours of sun beams directly landing on the plants leaves.

Full Shade
The plant is never fully lit by sun beams, but is in a bright spot or has dappled sunbeams playing over the leaves throughout the day.

Deep Shade
The plant never has dappled light on the leaves, and is in a place that feels dim, even on a nice sunny day.


Growing Notes

Cycads look adorable when they’re small! And it’s a good thing, too, because these plants are slow-growing, taking decades to become large specimens, and much longer to achieve the scale of plants in habitat. Cycads flush leaves infrequently, often only once a year, but when they do it’s quite the show, as they flush a whole crown of leaves all at once.
Since cycad leaves are slow to replace themselves, be extra careful not to physically damage them.
As older leaves turn brown, they can be pruned back to the trunk and removed.
Be sure to fertilize your cycad in the spring. Without a good amount of food, your cycad might skip a year of flushing its leaves!
Prune off old lower leaves once they begin to decline.
Generally solitary, but may pup with great age.

Special Interest

Cycads look like palm trees, but they are gymnosperms that bear either male or female cones, making them more closely related to a pine tree than a palm tree. Their similar appearance is created by convergent evolution, whereby dissimilar plants adapt similar forms to survive.

Since they require a male and female plant to produce and are very slow growing, large cycads are usually quite expensive and rare.

The oldest potted plant on earth is a cycad: Encephalartos altensteinii in the Kew Gardens collection. This plant was brought to England and planted there in 1775, when it was already likely quite old.

A Cycas rumphii was planted in the Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago to mark its completion in 1890. It was estimated at over a hundred years old when planted, and it still grows in the collection today. It is older than Chicago itself, which was incorporated in 1833.