Pachypodium
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Pachypodium Category
Pachypodium Primer

Pachypodium Primer

Pachypodium lamerei
Pachypodiums are a very popular and easy to grow family of caudiciforms. Some species like P. lamerei have tall upright thick spiny stems topped with non-succulent lance-like leaves. These are very popular with Florida growers because they look like palm trees. Other species, such as P. saundersii, have have short fat trunks with short branches. Caring for your pachypodium is very easy. They like regular water during the warm growing season and prefer to stay  on the dry side during the cool rest period of winter. Also, remember that when repotting, the current leaves will dry and drop off, to be later replaced by a fresh set of leaves. Pachypodium are very cold sensitive and should be protected from frost.

Pachypodium lamerei and P. geayi

Pachypodium lamerei and P. geayi

Pachypodium lamerei

Both Pachypodium lamerei and P. geayi look the same when young. They have straight vertical trunks with robust, numerous straight spines.They are distinguished by their leaves. The leaves of P. geayii are more grey and sword-like. The P. lamerei has bright green oval leaves. The single trunk can grow to be very tall, reaching 2-3 meters, while the base of the trunk takes on a vase shape. They are very exotic plants when big.


Grey Leaves of Pachypodium geayii

Green Leaves of Pachypodium lamerei
Grey Leaves of Pachypodium geayii Green Leaves of Pachypodium lamerei

Eventually, these Pachypodiums may branch. However you can get them to branch when young by cutting the top off. When the fleshy wound on top of the stem hardens, new stems will grow from around the edges of the top of the trunk. These two species are also less sensitive to overwatering and humid climates. So, they are often used as grafting stock for more prone species such as P. brevicaule. There is also a cresting form of P. lamerei that is usually grafted on top of a P. lamerei normal form trunk.


P. lamerei used as base for P. brevicaule

P. lamerei used as base for P. lamerei crest
P. lamerei used as base for P. brevicaule P. lamerei used as base for P. lamerei crest
Pachypodium lealii v. saundersii and v. lealii

Pachypodium lealii v. saundersii and v. lealii

Pachypodium lealii v. saundersii

This species tends to grow close to the ground. It spreads out horizontally rather than vertically, although it may have branches up to one meter long. Pachypodium lealii is rarely seen. However, P. saundsersii is fairly common in the market place and has a couple different varieties. The most common variety has the longer stems, which can be trimmed to enhance the base. The rarer variety, called P. saundersii v. compactum, has very short stems and a caudex that can spread very wide. This species is active during the summer months. With regular water they will extend their branches rapidly. They normally flower white at the end of summer and then go dormant through fall and winter. During shutdown watering should be kept to a minimum.



Pachypodium lealii

Pachypodium saundersii

Pachypodium saundersii v. compactum
Pachypodium lealii Pachypodium saundersii normal form
Pachypodium saundersii v. compactum

Pachypodium brevicaule

Pachypodium brevicaule

Pachypodium brevicaule

Pachypodium brevicaule is the most unique of all Pachypodium species. It doesn't have conventional stems and just remains as a mound of stunted nodules. This central Madagascar can be found growing in rock crevices. It is a very slow growing species.



Pachypodium brevicaule with spines

Pachypodium brevicaule without spines
Pachypodium brevicaule with spines Pachypodium brevicaule without spines


It is one of the more difficult species to grow because it is sensitive to over watering as well as doesn't like the soil to be completely dry. It is best to plant it in a fast draining gravel mix and mist frequently with a spray bottle. 

Pachypodium brevicaule is rarely seen at cactus and succulent club plant sales. Typically, only small seedlings, 1-2 inches (3-6cm), will be offered. Most of these will have spines, which we have been told are hybrids. On rare occasion, larger specimens ranging in size from 4 to 8 (12-24cm) inches wide will be offered. These are usually plants rescued from their native habitat in Madagascar. Because of the popularity and rarity of this species, they will be offered at a premium price. A nice clumping six inch (18cm) specimen is not uncommon to be offered in the $300 range.


A small seedling typically offered at cactus club sales.

Pachypodium brevicaule flower

Pachypodium brevicaule Medium Size
Small Pachypodium brevicaule Pachypodium brevicaule flower Pachypodium brevicaule Medium Size

Pachypodium brevicaule Medium Size

Pachypodium brevicaule Texture Close Up

Medium Sized P. brevicaule priced at $100
Pachypodium brevicaule Medium Large
Pachypodium brevicaule Texture Close Up Medium Sized P. brevicaule priced at $100

 

Pachypodium densiflorum, horombense, and rosulatum

Pachypodium densiflorum, horombense, and rosulatum

Pachypodium rosulatum

These three species were grouped together because of their similar growth form. They grow a squat base with many short branches. They differ from P. saundersii in that the overall plant tends to be smaller, the branches grow shorter, and the epidermis (skin) tends to be highly textured and colorful. They differ from P. lamerei and P. geayi in that those species are columnar (verticle) growing, whereas these are more prostrate (horizontal) growing.

The differences between these three species, P. rosulatum, P. horombense, and P. densiflorum are just in the mature size, spine density, and flower petal shape. P. rosulatum has the shortest branches, followed by P. densiflorum. P. horombense has thick spiny horizontal branches and can grow to be one meter wide. Like P. brevicaule, the cultivated plants tend to have more spines; the wild collected plants have smooth exteriors.


Pachypodium densiflorum Wild Collected

Pachypodium densiflorum Flowers

Pachypodium densiflorum v. brevicalyx
Pachypodium densiflorum Wild Collected Pachypodium densiflorum Flowers Pachypodium densiflorum v. brevicalyx

Pachypodium horombense

Pachypodium horombense branch close up

Pachypodium rosulatum
Pachypodium horombense Pachypodium horombense branch close up Pachypodium rosulatum cultivated

Pachypodium rosulatum v. gracilis

Pachypodium rosulatum v. gracilis

Pachypodium rosulatum v. crest
Pachypodium rosulatum v. gracilis 1 Pachypodium rosulatum v. gracilis 2 Pachypodium rosulatum crest

 

Pachypodium namaquanum

Pachypodium namaquanum

Pachypodium namaquanum

Pachypodium namaquanum is a vertical succulent plant similar P. lamerei. However it differs significantly in canopy type, branching habit, flowers, epidermis color, type location, environment, and rareness. 

Pachypodium namaquanum Extra large

Pachypodium succulentum, and P. bispinosum

Pachypodium succulentum, and P. bispinosum

Pachypodium succulentum

Pachypodium succulentum and bispinosum differ only in their flower and body color. They differ from other Pachypodium species the caudex grows to be very fat and shaped like a ball. There are no spines on the caudex, and only a few spines on the branches. These two species are rarely offered by growers.


Pachypodium succulentum

Pachypodium succulentum Extra large base
Pachypodium succulentum Extra Large
Pachypodium succulentum Extra large base


P. succulentum has a light pink or white flower with deep pink mid-stripe on the petals. P. bispinosum has light pink flowers with a pink throat.

Pachypodium Comparison Table

Pachypodium Comparison Table

Pachypodium Comparison Table

Here is a summary table comparing the different species of pachypodium by six criteria: Mature size, origin, growth characteristics, availablity, spine density, and flower type.

Pachypodium species name Mature Size Origin Growth Type Availablity Spine Density Flower Type
Bispinosum 4 feet tall (1.2 m) South Africa (Port Elizabeth) Slow Rare Sparse light pink flowers with a pink throat
Brevicaule 12 inches in diameter (30 cm), 6 inches tall (15 cm) South-central Madagascar Extremely Slow Rare Sparse Large Bright Yellow
Densiflorum 3 Feet (1 meter) tall Madagascar Slow Rare Sparse Large Bright Yellow
Geayi 13 feet tall (4 m) Southwestern Madagascar Fast Common Dense The flowers are white with yellow throat
Horombense Slow Rare Dense
Lamerei 8 feet tall (2.4 m) Madagascar Fast Common Dense white with yellow center
Lealii 2 to 4 feet tall South Africa Slow Rare Dense white
Namaquanum
10 feet (3 m) Namibia, South Africa Extremely Slow Available but expensive Dense petals have dark red tips
Rosulatum  3 Feet (1 meter) tall Madagascar Slow Rare Sparse, short Yellow, spring
Saundersii 2 to 4 feet tall, base up to 2 feet wide. South Africa Fast in Summer Common Dense white flowers in the fall at the end of the summer growing season.
Succulentum caudex up to 8 inches wide (25 cm) Wide spread inSouth Africa Slow Rare Sparse White with pink stripes