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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Use bark or leaf mold to mulch cardboard plant.

In zones cooler than 9, grow cardboard plant indoors as a houseplant. Provide well-drained potting soil, direct sunlight and watering about once every two weeks. Place the plant outdoors during warm summer months, if desired, but bring it back indoors before the first frost to prevent cold damage. Permanent leaf damage occurs at 28 degrees F.

Cardboard plants make excellent beach plants, as they tolerate salt and can grow in almost pure sand if necessary. They're also happy growing in scorching sun, and the more sun they receive, the more compact their growth becomes.


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

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