I grew my first cycad over 55 years ago, and the excitement of these prehistoric, dinosaur-food plants still hasn’t worn off. Although I’ve long since given up on those that need to go indoors in winter, the number we’ve found to be winter hardy here at JLBG keeps expanding.

Once we exhausted the available winter hardy, it was time to turn to hybrids. Yes, Virginia, you can artificially impregnate ancient sago palms. As it turns out, these hybrids are even better than the wild species in terms of vigor and winter hardiness. You would think that the interest in breeding prehistoric plants that never flower would be limited, but you’d be wrong. The Facebook group devoted to breeding cycads has over 1000 members from around the world.

Below are a few of our best performing hybrids from photos taken this week. We use unpublished nothospecific names to be able to track and sort these in our database. We hope this gives you an idea of the potential for growing cycads in regions that drop to single digits F in the winter months. While the plants are hardy, all cycad foliage browns when temperatures drop below 15 degrees F, but reflush quickly in spring. All plants shown experienced 11 degrees F this past winter.

Cycas x bifungensis is a cross of Cycas bifida x taitungensis. In the case of the plants below, the hybrid was back crossed back to C. taitungensis. This specimen is now 10 years old.

Cycas x bifungensis

Next is Cycas x panzhibaoensis, a cross of two Chinese species, Cycas panzhihuaensis x debaoensis. Cycas debaoensis is an odd multi-pinnate species, which is evident in the hybrid. These are also 2013 seedlings.

Cycas x panzhibaoensis

Below is Cycas x panzhioluta, a hybrid of the Chinese Cycas revoluta x panzhihuaensis. This is yet another 2013 seedling.

Cycas x panzhioluta

The final hybrid photo is Cycas x taithuaensis, a cross of the Taiwan native Cycas taitungensis and the Mainland Chinese Cycas panzhihuaensis. This is a 2008 seedling.

Cycas x taithuaensis

If you’ve ever wondered why all the reference books list all cycads as Zone 9 and 10 plants, it’s because that’s where the authors all live.

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