How to Care for a Cardboard Plant


Cardboard plant (Zamia furfuracea), also known as cardboard palm, provides a year-round display of bold, tropical foliage and requires only minimal care once established. Although commonly referred to as a palm, the cardboard plant is actually a cycad. The two share a similar leaf structure, but are different types of plants. Cardboard plant produces long, stiff, attractive fronds that reach up to 3 feet in length and look a little like cardboard, hence the common name. Hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11, the cardboard plant cannot survive cold temperatures. In cooler zones, gardeners typically grow the plant indoors.

Step 1

Plant cardboard plant during mid-spring in a location that receives partial sunlight throughout the day. Choose a location with sandy, well-drained soil. Space cardboard plants 36 to 60 inches apart to accommodate the plant's full spread when mature.

Step 2

Spread a 2-to-3 inch layer of organic mulch over the soil surrounding the cardboard plant to improve moisture retention and insulate the root system. Allow at least 4 inches between the mulch and the plant's crown to provide adequate air circulation.

Step 3

Water the cardboard plant once every seven to 10 days, or whenever the top 2 to 3 inches of soil are dry to the touch. Decrease the frequency of watering to once every two weeks during winter, when the plant is not growing actively and needs less moisture.

Step 4

Feed the plant twice per year, once during early spring just as active growth resumes and again in late fall, using a balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer to speed up the plant's typically slow growth. Check the manufacturer's instructions for the proper dosage.

Step 5

Prune the cardboard plant once per year during late winter to improve its health and appearance. Use hedge clippers to remove any dead, diseased or damaged fronds. Burn diseased growth at a distant location to prevent spreading the illness to other nearby plants.

Tips and Warnings

  • Cardboard plant is toxic and should not be planted in a location easily accessed by small children or pets.

Things You'll Need

  • Organic mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Hedge clippers


  • University of Florida Gardening in a Minute: Cardboard Plant
  • Floridata: Zamia Furfuracea
  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Zamia Furfuracea Cardboard Plant, Cardboard Cycad
  • "Some Like it Hot: Flowers That Thrive in Hot Humid Weather"; Pamela J. Gartin; 2007

Who Can Help

  • USDA: Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: cardboard plant, cardboard palm, Zamia furfuracea

About this Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including