GARDENING: A PLANT WITH COMBS – Newspaper

The kangi palm increases in size when planted in the ground | Photos by the writer

The kangi palm, also known as the sago palm, is actually not a palm, but a cycad and belongs to the Cycadaceae family. This ornamental plant, which can be kept indoors and is very easy to maintain, is often found in both homes and offices.

Scientifically known as Cycas Revoluta, the kangi palm is characterized by its unique, shiny green and pointed leaves growing in a circular pattern directly from the trunk. It is believed to be native to southern Japan.

The kangi palm is a sturdy plant which can tolerate neglect and doesn’t need much sunlight or watering, which is why it does well indoors. All of these factors make it a good choice for those who are not ready to invest ample time in gardening and their plant’s maintenance. You will find it in different nurseries as kangi an Urdu word for comb, due to its distinct leaves.

The plant has a swollen trunk sized between six and eight inches wide, typically with no side branches. However, as the plant grows, the trunk branches out as well.

The kangi plant is the perfect house plant for those looking to create a green space without much effort, as it requires minimal care

Depending on the growing space and age of the plant, the oldest Kangi palm can grow between 18 to 20 feet in height and spread more than 12 feet in diameter. Overall, in an eight to 12-inch sized pot, the kangi palm remains a small plant of hardly two to three feet in height. It only increases in height and diameter when shifted in the ground or a very large container.

The price of this relatively high-priced plant varies, depending on its age and height. Although the growth, even in favorable conditions, is relatively slow, the Kangi palm can live anywhere from 50 to 100 years!

The feather-like leaves of the kangi palm are generally one-and-a-half feet to five feet long. Each leaf contains very stiff leaflets, which are around three to seven inches long. These leaflets have strong revolute edges, which also accounts for the plant’s scientific name Cycas Revoluta.

The kangi palm sucker separated from the parent plant

The kangi palm is dioecious, meaning it can either be male or female. The shape of the cone helps to ascertain the gender of the palm. The male kangi palm produces a cone-like structure, which is yellow in color and around a foot to two feet in size. On the contrary, the female kangi palm produces a football-sized round structure, which lies in the center of the trunk top.

Seeds of the female kangi palm can be developed by crossing it with a male one. Air, natural pollinators like bees and insects, and even-hand pollination comes into play in this regard. The best time for the pollination to take place would be spring and early summer.

Seeds mature during the fall season. These seeds are then used to grow the next generation of kangi palm plants. The seeds produced are larger in size and reddish orange in color. The germination of seeds may take several months.

The kangi palm sucker after transplantation

Another way of getting a new Kangi palm plant would be through the suckers that grow around the base of the plant. Both male and female varieties produce the suckers. These suckers should be carefully separated from the parent plant as soon as possible, since it has the potential to develop into an individual plant.

The soil for growing and propagation of the kangi palm should be well-drained with balanced composition, consisting of compost and gardening soil. Since it is a very slow-growing plant, therefore there is hardly any need for heavy feed or fertiliser.

The kangi palm should only be watered when the soil is completely dry. When watering, ensure the soil does not turn muddy. The plant does not require much sunlight; three to four hours of early morning sunlight is ideal. Too much sunlight and heat exposure can kill the plant, so it should be placed in shaded areas with little sunlight exposure.

One should be cautious if the new leaves turn into leaflet-less midribs. This is because the new, softer leaflets are being devoured by the most commonly attacking insect for any sago palm, the cycad moth. The caterpillars of this bluish-grey butterfly eat up the newly developed leaflets before the leaves harden. The leaflet-less plant ends up with a very poor look, although the plant still survives. Any organic pesticide, at the time of the new leaves eruption, should be sprayed to prevent the plant from the cycad moth attack. The plant may also be prone to attack by mealy bugs and spider mites.

Care should be taken in those homes with children and pets, as the pointy leaves can cause injury. Being a very low-maintenance and easy-to-keep plant for home and offices, it is highly recommended for all those who have limited time up their sleeves.

Please send your queries and emails to doctree101@hotmail.com. The writer is a physician and a host for the YouTube channel ‘DocTree Gardening’ promoting organic kitchen gardening

Published in Dawn, EOS, November 20th, 2022