Dioon Edule: Growing Virgin’s Palm

In case you’ve vacationed to the jap coast of Mexico, you in all probability got here throughout a Dioon edule. Possibly you mistook it for a palm tree or perhaps a fern. What you noticed is definitely a cycad plant species that’s been round for longer than people – and even dinosaurs – walked the earth! 

Dioon edule, additionally referred to as virgin’s palm, is a big, evergreen cycad. Because of its subtropical origins, it’s a drought-tolerant plant that’s additionally delightfully low upkeep. Virgin’s palm is a staple xeriscaping plant in USDA hardiness zones Sept. 11. It may be grown within the floor, the place it’ll keep for tons of of years, or planted in containers beginning at 4 inches broad. 

Like all cycads, dioon edule is a gymnosperm. It grows feminine and male cones that vary from 2-16 inches lengthy. Extra noticeable is the brief, woody trunk that’s topped with a festive fountain of leaves. This plant will certainly add texture and form to your landscaping. 

On this article, we’ll study all in regards to the rising habits and cultivation of this assortment of native Mexican species. Then, with a heat surroundings and a few endurance, you’ll be able to develop your individual!

Fast Care Information

The leaf frond of D. edule. Supply: amortize
Frequent Title Virgin’s palm, chestnut dioon, palma de la virgen, Mexican palm, Mexican blue chamal, Mexican fern palm
Scientific Title Dioon edule
Household Zamiaceae
Top & Unfold As much as 8 ft tall, 6 ft broad
Gentle Full solar, partial shade
Soil Effectively-draining, poor soils
Water Sparse
Pests & Ailments Caterpillar, cycad aulacaspis scale, root rot, fusarium wilt

All About Mexican Cycad

Immature Dioon edule cones
When immature, the cones are arduous to determine as male or feminine. Supply: brewbooks

Dioon edule was break up into two subspecies: edule and angustifolium. Nevertheless, the latter was just lately reclassified as its personal species beneath the Dioon genus (although the 2 are nonetheless very comparable). 

We’ll give attention to care necessities for Dioon edule on this article, although they’ll in all probability even be utilized to D. angustifolium and different species within the Dioon genus, corresponding to Dioon imbricatum, Dioon aculeatum, and Dioon strobilaceum. It’s additionally price noting this identical species has the synonyms Macrozamia pectinata, Zamia rigida, and Macrozamia littoralis

This plant goes by many widespread names, together with chestnut dioon, virgin’s palm, palma de la virgen, Mexican palm, Mexican blue chamal, and Mexican fern palm. As you’ll be able to inform by a number of the names, this plant is commonly confused with palms. The 2 are fairly unrelated, as palm bushes aren’t even gymnosperms (they produce flowers as a substitute of seed cones).

Probably the most noticeable factor about chestnut dioon is its plume of leaves. These leaves are pinnate, that means they’ve a row of opposing leaflets inserted down either side of a central stem (like a fern). As an entire, every leaf grows as much as 6 ft lengthy. Nevertheless, they’re often in proportion to the trunk and gained’t be that large instantly.

The semi-glossy, blue-green leaves are very slim and create a mushy look. Once they’re younger, these basal leaflets are edged with small spines with a pointy level. The brilliant inexperienced leaves sit atop a thick, woody trunk that’s devoid of branches. Beneath the soil are nitrogen-fixing coralloid roots and a tricky taproot that may discover water in even the rockiest backyard soils.

Dioon edule crops can develop as much as 8 ft tall (and so they aren’t even the tallest cycads!). Nevertheless, they develop very slowly, so most cultivated ones are so brief that they give the impression of being extra like a bush than a tree within the web site they’re initially planted. These slow-growing crops aren’t in a rush as a result of they’ll dwell for over a thousand years.

With such an extended lifespan comes an advanced and considerably uncommon technique of copy. Dioon edule is a dioecious species, that means every plant solely grows male or feminine cones. Each crops should be in shut proximity to supply viable seed. 

Which intercourse the plant is isn’t simply recognized till the feminine or male cones develop. Even then, they aren’t simply informed aside except in contrast to one another (the feminine cones are usually bigger). The feminine cones include two ovules and produce paired seeds. 

Mexican cycad grows up from the tip with new leaves sprouting from the middle, like a succulent’s rosette. Outdated leaves will finally fall off from the underside of the tuft, generally leaving a innocent scar on the trunk. Gradual-growing feminine cones will take up residency within the middle of the palm-like leaves for a few years earlier than releasing their paired seeds.

For an evergreen plant with growing reputation in gardening, dioon edule is near changing into an endangered species. Sadly, plenty of cycad crops are already endangered or on the verge of extinction. 

They’re cultivated for his or her edible (but poisonous) roots in some areas of Mexico. Despite the fact that they’re thought of edible right here, it’s greatest to keep away from consuming them. The individuals who traditionally use the poisonous and edible roots have a deep understanding of the right methods to course of the plant earlier than consumption.   

These magnificent cycads that survived the mass extinction that took out the dinosaurs might not have the ability to survive the presence of people. You’ll be able to assist! By rising a dioon edule in your backyard or assortment of crops, you’re doing all your half to protect this stunning species.

Chestnut Dioon Care

Dioon edule with cone
A dioon edule with its cone. Supply: Hello Tech Bio

So long as you present the optimum situations, this palm-like plant shall be very straightforward to develop in your backyard. Right here’s what it’s essential to know for correct dioon edule care.

Solar and Temperature

Mexico palm crops will thrive in full solar. Nevertheless, because it’s typically grown in hotter climates, they respect half shade infrequently. In case you’re rising it indoors, you need to put your dion crops by a sunny window (preferrably south-facing). In case your dioon lives exterior within the backyard amongst a set of different crops, place it someplace with half shade throughout the hottest a part of the day.

Dioon edule hardiness is what units it other than different crops in its household. Regardless of being native to Mexico, this is among the most cold-hardy cycads, tolerating occasional temperatures as little as 10°F. 

Water and Humidity

Water your dioon crops when the soil begins to dry out. Be very cautious of overwatering your crops, as dioon ought to by no means be left sitting in water (particularly if it’s planted partially shade). Throughout the winter, when the temperature and progress has dropped, in the reduction of on watering.

Word that chestnut dioon is barely drought tolerant when well-established. Don’t neglect a younger, newly planted chestnut dioon. When the plant has gotten its bearings, you’ll be able to go longer stretches with out watering. We suggest you don’t go too lengthy although and keep away from watering sporadically, as this will stress out any plant.

This Dioon species likes humid situations, however isn’t reliant on them. Both manner, it is best to make sure that there’s good airflow between the leaves. Give it area in a set of different crops. When watering, attempt to hold the foliage and brief, stocky trunk as dry as attainable.


Good drainage is maybe an important a part of dioon edule care. These crops will develop in nearly any soil, be it rocky, sandy, or loamy, so long as it drains nicely. Nevertheless, any of those well-drained soils additionally want to carry some moisture. If wanted, add some mulch or composted plant materials to maintain the backyard soil from drying out too shortly.

For container evergreen cycad crops, use a soil combine meant for cacti, succulents, or palms. Make sure that the pot has drainage holes and empty the water-catching tray as wanted. 

Fertilizing This Gradual Rising Plant

Virgin palm female cone
The feminine virgin palms produce these break up “fruit” from the cone. Supply: liangjinjian

Dioon edule crops often develop simply superb in poor soils, however their progress will velocity up when you present a set of some additional vitamins. Throughout the rising months, feed steadily with a lightly-dosed, balanced fertilizer. It’s also possible to use sandy compost to spice up the backyard soil’s fertility.


Your dioon edule houseplant doesn’t should be pruned. It’s best to solely take away leaves in the event that they’re diseased or infested with pests.


Mexico cycad crops could be propagated by seed, however that may imply procuring each female and male crops, probably hand pollinating, and ready till the feminine cone unravels and releases its seed. Or, to avoid wasting time and power, you should buy a brand new assortment of seeds, soak them, and floor sow them instantly. Though they take a very long time to develop, dioon edule seeds germinate very simply.

In case you don’t need to wait so lengthy for a longtime plant, vegetative propagation is the best way to go. A mature Dioon edule plant will produce offshoots on the base of its trunk. Utilizing a pointy, clear knife, reduce the “pup” off of the mother or father plant. If it already has roots of its personal, be certain to maintain them intact. Plant the slicing in a small container full of one of many well-drained soils you’d use for potted established crops. 


Male cone
The male cone slowly opens at its high however stays conical. Supply: tatogra

So long as you present the suitable backyard surroundings, dioon is among the best crops on the subject of pest and illness issues. There are just a few issues to be looking out for.

Rising Issues

Like most drought-resistant crops, overwatering is a large trigger for concern. An excessive amount of moisture within the soil can shortly result in root rot which in flip results in stem and leaf rot. It’s arduous for a plant to come back again from this, so prevention is vital. Earlier than watering, examine that the primary few inches of the soil is dry first (moisture meters are very useful right here). In case you by chance overwater, let the soil dry out for longer than standard earlier than resuming a sparser watering schedule.

Cycads can get sunburned in the event that they get an excessive amount of solar publicity. Their foliage will flip yellow or pale brown when scorched. This often occurs when the plant is in direct daylight and the air is dry and scorching (we’re speaking over 100°F). The harm is often simply aesthetic however can’t be undone. The very best you are able to do for a sunburned cycad is transfer it to a shadier location in your backyard.

In case you have a set of crops which can be taller than your Dioon edule, attempt shading it beneath them to treatment sunburn. 


Caterpillars are at all times hungry for some leaves – particularly cycads! To save lots of your dioon’s blue-green leaves from changing into lunch, choose off any caterpillars you see and take away them from the backyard. If the issue persists, think about using BT spray or diatomaceous earth.

Dioon edule crops are additionally susceptible to scale bugs, significantly cycad aulacaspis scale. This uncommon, non-native pest was by chance launched to the US within the 90s and has been wreaking havoc ever since. They’ll settle into the decrease leaves of a cycad plant and feed, turning the leaves yellow and brown. You gained’t mistake this for sunburn although as a result of their white our bodies are very noticeable.

You’ll want to chop off infested leaves and destroy them distant out of your backyard. Nevertheless, these scales might unfold to the stem and roots, so that you must also apply an insecticide (search for one containing malathion or dimethoate). After all, the perfect technique is prevention, which is completed by solely shopping for wholesome cycads from respected sellers.


Your dioon is unlikely to have any illness issues. Nevertheless, if the roots are rotting from overwatering, they could turn into contaminated with micro organism or fungi already within the backyard planting web site. Fusarium wilt, which comes from a soil-born fungus, generally impacts D. edule’s cousin Dioon spinulosum. In case you see spots of browning leaves or different uncommon growths, attempt making use of a normal fungicide.

Steadily Requested Questions

Dioon edule
Dioon edule is a captivating cycad. Supply: wallygrom

Q: How briskly does Dioon edule develop?

A: It is a very slow-growing plant. The brief stocky trunk grows so slowly that you simply’ll often see this plant at bush top in a backyard. These crops dwell for tons of of years, in order that they aren’t in a rush to sprout up.

Q: Is Dioon edule toxic?

A: Sure. Although the edible roots have traditionally been used to make tortillas, the leaves and stems are poisonous to people.

Q: Is Dioon edule sago palm?

A: No, however they’re each within the cycads household. Sago palm could be acknowledged by its arched leaves, whereas dioon edule crops have flat ones. Sago palm additionally has a golden-colored feminine cone whereas dioon edule’s is white.

Q: How do you plant Dioon edule seedlings?

A: Plant them into what shall be their everlasting house (when you’re rising them exterior in your backyard). Gently place them in well-draining soil in a location that’s heat and will get loads of full solar.

Q: How do you plant Dioon seeds?

A: Soak the arduous seeds in water for 1-2 days after which place them on high of the soil in a small container. Maintain the seed heat and moist till it germinates and sprouts (you’ll be able to transfer it to the backyard later).

Q: Are cycads toxic to cats?

A: Sure, in reality these crops are sometimes toxic to all mammals, although they’ve traditionally been seen as edible in sure cultures.

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