How to Grow Zamia pumila Plants in your Garden

Zamia pumila goes by many names, including Cardboard Palm, Seminole Bread, Comfort Root and Florida Arrowroot, though it is perhaps best known as the Coontie Palm.

It is an evergreen member of the Zamiaceae family (cycads).

Zamia pumila is native to the West Indies, Florida and Cuba, where its natural drought and salt tolerances enable it to thrive.

Pumila derives its name from the Latin word pumilus, which means dwarf, and, indeed, this cycad, or palm-like plant grows only about one to three feet (30 to 90 cm) tall, with a 36" to 72" (90 to 180 cm) spread in multi-branched clusters.


Zamia pumila at Rare Plant Research, Oregon City photograph by Megan Hansen.

Female plants are recognized by their bright orange seeds, whereas male plants have tall, cylindrical cones that are filled with pollen.

Zamia pumila can make nice indoor plants. While when grown outside, they are often used as borders, in container gardens, as foundation plants, or as a ground cover to give gardens a tropical appearance.

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Coontie

A slow-growing, low-maintenance plant, Coontie Palms prefer full sun to partial shade.

Ideally use a well-drained, occasionally dry sandy to sandy loam soil.

Like all cycads, Zamia pumila are highly toxic. Therefore, extreme care should be taken whenever handling the roots, seeds, leaves, and cones. Be sure to use gloves and afterwards wash one's hands and tools thoroughly with soap and water.

These Plants naturally germinate via seeds and offsets. However, for those who wish to help with propagation, first remove offsets and transplant them into pots away from mother plants; as the parent plant emits a chemical that eliminates competing seedlings.

As they are susceptible to damage from ovipositing female Atala butterflies (atalas), young plants may need to be protected by covering them with tomato cages and netting.

As for the seeds, collect them from female Coontie cones after they ripen and naturally break apart.

They will be sticky, so clean them, spread them on the ground, and cover them lightly with soil.

Zamia pumila Germination should take place in about six weeks.

Zamia pumila Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Zamia pumila
  • Common Name: Coontie Palm
  • Growing Zone: USA: 8 to 11; UK Hardiness H1 - Under glass / outdoors in containers in the summer.
  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Groundcover, Indoor Plant, Shrub

Plant Details

  • Plant Height (Inches): 24 to 48
  • Plant Spread (Inches): 36 to 72
  • Time of Bloom:
  • Flower Details:
  • Leaf Foliage: Green
  • Fruit:
  • Growth Form: Rounded

Ideal Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Partially shady to full sunlight
  • Rate of Growth: Grows slowly
  • Suitable Soil Types: Acidic, Adaptable, Alkaline, Clay, Loamy, Neutral, Sandy, Slightly alkaline, Well drained
  • Soil Moisture: Dry to Moist (Medium Moisture best)

Caring Conditions

  • Care:
  • Level of Maintenance: Low
  • Propagation: Seeds; offsets
  • How to Prune:
  • Pests: Sooty mold, red scale
  • Diseases: no serious diseases

Further Information

  • Can Attract: Mockingbirds, Blue jays
  • Tolerant of: Drought
  • Best Garden Use: Border, Container Garden, Foundation Plant, Ground cover, En masse, Seashore, Specimen
  • Family: Zamiaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Dioon, Encephalartos, and Macrozamia.

  • Miscellaneous: Attractive foliage, North American native, Some parts are poisonous, Attracts butterflies, Does not bloom
  • Genus Detail: Zamia
  • Further Reading and References: Here and Here

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Zamia pumila. You may also enjoy the following palm-like plant growing guides: How to grow Lupin and Cladanthus plants.