Zamia - Cardboard Palms

Zamia furfuracea


  1. Top Tips
  2. Location, Water, Humidity & Fertilisation
  3. Common Issues
  4. Origins, Temperature, Propagation, Repotting & Toxicity.

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Top Tips & Info

  • Care Difficulty - Easy
  • Provide a bright location with a few hours of sunlight  - especially in the winter months when the daylight hours are reduced.
  • Water once the top three quarters of the soil dries out, reducing this further in the autumn and winter. You'll be able to tell how much of the compost has dried out by the weight of the pot.
  • Fertilise with 'Houseplant' or a 'Cactus' labelled fertiliser, once a month.
  • Regularly check for pests, most notably Mealybugs, that'll live within the cubbyholes of its foliage. 
  • Repot every three years using a 'Cactus & Succulent' potting mix and the next sized pot. 

Location & Light - 🔸🔸🔸

A brightly lit spot with a dash of direct sun is highly beneficial for Zamia as they naturally occur in sunny arid regions of eastern Mexico. Darker locations shouldn't be considered unless wholly necessary due to the heightened chance of over-watering. The amount of light and current season of the year will directly govern the frequencies of waters per month. Specimens placed in indirect areas must be kept on the drier side to life, whereas brighter locations will require more soil moisture to lubricate photosynthesis.

Water - 🔸🔸

Only hydrate the soil once around three quarters dries out to lower the risk of root rot. Although rainwater is best, if tap water is used, be sure to allow it to stand for at least 24hrs to settle the high levels of fluoride. Because of the roots' sensitivity to cold temperatures, never directly apply freezing water to the soil as this will result in an angry plant over time. Under-watering symptoms include pale or yellow leaves, stunted growth and gradual decline - these are quite rare due to the genus' ability to endure extended periods of droughts. Over-watering can cause root rot, yellowing leaves and a mushy stem; although this is more common with those grown in darker locations, this could happen at any given time if it's allowed to sit in soggy soil. Click here to learn more about eradicating root rot.

Humidity - 🔸🔸

During the autumn and winter, create a humidity/pebble tray and mist the foliage every two weeks to avoid browning leaf-tips. A monthly hose down outside will help hydrate its leaves, as well as removing dust particles and potential pests.

Fertilisation - 🔸

A monthly feed of other 'Houseplant', 'Cactus & Succulent' or a 'General Plant' fertiliser is best for equal, quality growth. Never directly apply 'ready-to-pour' feeds into the soil without a pre-water frost as the combination of dry soil and sharp chemicals will quickly lead to root burn.

Common Issues with Zamia

An under-humid room will not favour Zamias in the slightest. Humid air and periods of dry soil are what keeps this genus happy, so dry air will lead to browning leaf tips and weakened growth. Either mist weekly or introduce a humidity tray to keep life manageable. Avoid situating it within four metres of an operating radiator, as the dry air will spread up the process of browning leaf-tips.

Yellow central leaves are the result of excess moisture settling on the foliage, typically promoted by dark locations. Instead of pouring water directly onto the foliage, irrigate at the soil line by lifting the foliage at the side to prevent wetting the leaves.

Long periods of direct sunlight will cause greying of leaves and curling foliage that could easily spell the end for juvenile specimens. Relocate the plant in a bright, indirect setting with consistent irrigations - never place the Zamia in a low-lit location too far from a window as this too can cause many issues. 

Correcting the amount of light is essential for a Zamia's health. Locations that are too dark will cause yellowed central leaves, whereas areas that offer intense direct light will easily scorch the leaves and permanently damage the individual fronds. As mentioned above, a few hours of direct sunlight is very beneficial for the plant, but make sure not to let it endure too much light as this could cause greying or curling of the foliage.

Too much sunlight will lead to sun scorch, with typical signs including browning or crispy leaves, dry leaf-edges, sunken leaves or stunted growth. Although too little light will cause over-watering issues, excess sunlight will be a detriment to the plant as well. If yours has fallen short of this, reduce the amount of the sun considerably and always be mindful of environmental shock (when two locations offer too different growing conditions). Remove some of the affected leaves and increase waters slightly.


Zamia is a deciduous genus that consists of seventy-six species, mostly originating from tropical America. Carl Linnaeus first described the genus in the 1750s during a visit to northern South America. Zamias are closely related to the Cycad family due to the similar growth characteristics of the two. The name comes from the Greek word for pinecones, 'azaniae' which refers to the sporophylls. The most popular indoor species of this genus, the Z. furfuracea, originates from south-east Mexico with its name referring to the Latin word for 'rough' (scurf). Zamioculcas are directly named after the visual similarities of the two genera, despite being in different taxonomic families.

The Distribution of Zamia furfuracea.


8° - 30°C   (46° - 86°F)
H2  (Hardiness Zone 10)  - Tolerant of temperatures above freezing. This plant will die if left in temperatures below freezing; move to a conservatory or greenhouse until the risk of frost has elapsed.


Up to 1m in height and width, with the ultimate height taking over twenty years. Zamia will produce between one and three new fronds per annum.

Pruning & Maintenance

Remove yellowed or dying leaves and plant debris to encourage better growth and improve the all-round appearance. Use a clean pair of scissors to prevent the spread of bacteria in the plant's wounds.


Via Seed or Offsets.

Offset (Pup) Division (Easy) - For this method, it's best to divide in spring or summer and once the offshoots are at least a fifth of the mother plant's size. Remove its pot and place your hand in between the junction that connect the two; soil may have to be brushed away to get a better grip. Gently push the pup downwards while supporting the mother plant until you hear a snap. Cautiously separate the root systems, keeping great care in keeping them damage-free. Place the new plantlet in a small pot with a well-draining potting mix, much similar to the original soil, and maintain the same care routines. 'Cacti & Succulent' compost is best, or you can make your own using multipurpose compost with extra grit, sand and perlite. Provide a bright setting with temperatures around 18°C  (64°F)  with the majority of the soil drying out in between waters. New leaves should emerge within the six weeks, as long as the soil is kept on the drier to life.


Zamias are dioecious, meaning that the flowers are either male or female and needs two opposite sexed plants for pollination. Its flowers are located directly in the centre of the plant and will develop once the plant reaches the maturity of over eight years. The male flowers are shaped like a cone, whereas the females form a shallow shield, both sporting a yellow appearance. It's unfortunately sporadic for an indoor Zamia to flower due to the insufficient conditions that are on offer in our homes.


Repot every two or three years in the spring using 'Cacti & Succulent' compost and a larger pot. This is an excellent time to check the roots' condition, as well as division. As all Zamias are prone to root rot, have a look around the bottom half of the root ball for any brown or broken down roots. If this is the case, remove the affected areas with clean utensils and ease off with the irrigations.

Transplant shock is a big issue when it comes to repotting; give the plant a good soak 24hrs before the action and never tinker with the roots, unless it has been affected by root rot. Typical signs of transplant shock are largely similar to under-watering (wilting, yellowing leaves and stunted growth). Click on this link to learn about how to perform the perfect transplant and vital information about Transplant Shock.


Pests & Diseases

Keep an eye out for scale, spider mites, whitefly, mealybugs & thrips. Typical diseases associated with Zamia Palms are root or heart rot, leaf-spot disease & powdery mildew - click on this link to learn about addressing them.


Classified as poisonous; do not purchase if pets and children are in the home. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with immediately; acquire medical assistance for further information and actions.

Retail Locations

Online Stores.

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