Encephalartos ferox, 30 gallon, 13 inch caudex, 6.5 feet tall, 3 feet wide
Here is an excellent example of an Encephalartos that prefers dappled light, the Encephalartos ferox. Other Encephalartos having similar sunlight restrictions would be the hildebrandtii, laurentianus and villosus. Many 5 gallon E. ferox' are available.
The ferox can take an enormous amount of time to become tall like this example. Stick this cycad in a heavily shaded spot, like beneath an avocado tree and you will see little in 5 years, knee-high in 10 years and maybe waist high in 15 years. How do you speed this process up? Always plant in the ground for growth is 3 to 5 times that of cycads grown in containers.
- Plant in coastal sun with no overhead trees or shade. Unfortunately a Santa Ana may do damage.
- Plant in inland sun on the east side of a house or structure. When the sun breaks over this structure towards the west, the light level on the east side will lower and be satisfactory. Experiment with the ferox in a container for several months; water well to insure the plant can draw up water during this experiment. If this ferox does not yellow or turn lime-green, this is a satisfactory location.
- Plant in inland sun under 30% shadecloth. This material has to be special ordered and is ugly, not acceptable as a permanent solution.
- Plant in inland sun beneath Queen palms that are arranged with about 16 feet separation. The sunlight will shine through openings. As the earth turns this sunlight will "move" across the leaves and not burn. This is exactly what the ferox wants--a bite of sun but no more. Similarly, plant beneath Schizlobium parahybum trees spaced around 14 feet.
This cycad's habitat is Central Africa. This geographical area near the equator has high humidity which effectively shelters plants from intense sun rays. This cycad is best grown here in southern California in dappled light, or high cover where tall trees create scanning patterns of sun rays with less intensity. It can be grown in a coastal location with good results but remember there are Santa Ana winds that can quickly change a moderate climate. An alternative is to plant this cycad on the east side of a home or a wall; the cycad receives warm sun in the morning but because the sun breaks over the roof or wall, there is bright light but no direct sun on this cycad. This cycad relies on pulling up moisture in a reasonable period of time from its ground location; we have found that this cycad is unable to achieve this when placed in a container.
Note the gorgeous green color of these Encephalartos gratus leaves. You can achieve these results using the above methods.
This cycad does not become large but remains so remarkably prominent and noticed in your garden. This cycad was started with two seeds thus is a dual plant; it can be easily separated into two cycads. The larger caudex is 2.75" and the smaller caudex is 2". Note the new flush on the larger caudex and the interesting lanate which is the woolly, curly hairs on this caudex. This is the distinguishing feature of the Encephalartos lanatus. As well, this cycad has a steep curl of the leaf tips termed recurve, seen in this photo. This cycad will enjoy full, blasting sun.
Encephalartos lehmannii This 6" cycad was grown in full Escondido sun with measured irrigation, water soluble fertiizer and was weeded and trimmed over the 14 years it was grown in the ground starting from a 3-year old plant. The color is an amazing silver-blue, brighter than other Encephalartos blues. It was posted in this website at 4 p.m. and was SOLD at 8 p.m. The new owner who called in the order from his out-of-state location is thrilled. He has an extensive cycad collection and is quite exacting in his choices.