Encephalartos horridus

Overall Plant
Common Name: eastern Cape blue cycad 
Type: Palm or Cycad
Family: Zamiaceae
Native Range: South Africa
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Leaf: Evergreen
Tolerate: Drought


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12 where it can be grown outdoors in deep, organically rich, fertile, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Full sun is needed for best blue leaf color. Best performance occurs in soils with even moisture, but avoid overwatering. Tolerates drought. Tolerates an occasional light frost. May be propagated from suckers. Plants grown by seed take several years to mature. North of USDA Zone 10, plants may be grown in containers must be overwintered indoors in cool, bright, sunny locations.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Encephalartos horridus, commonly called ferocious blue cycad (also eastern cape blue cycad), is a slow-growing, small to medium-sized, evergreen blue cycad that is native to rocky outcroppings, slopes and ridges in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. It is a small, palm-like, tropical plant that features pinnate, spiny, blue-green leaves and large seed cones. From thick tuberous roots, each mature plant forms a short, stocky trunk, all or a part of which is often subterranean, with pinnate, recurving leaves rising on stems to 2-3' tall in a dense terminal crown. Hard, lanceolate, spine-tipped leaflets emerge silver blue, but typically age over time to blue green or green. Leaflets give rise to the specific epithet (horridus from Latin meaning prickly). This cycad is dioecious (separate male and female plants). Red-brown flowering cones (to 16" long) appear in summer. Male cones are cylindrical and female cones are oval. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) currently lists this plant as endangered on its Red List for Threatened Species, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) has placed this plant on its list of threatened species.

Certain early nomadic peoples in South Africa (once called Hottentots) used the stem pith of some genus plants for food by removing it, burying it, rotting it, digging it up, kneading it and baking it.

Cycads are gymnosperms whose seeds are not enclosed in an ovary.

Genus name comes from the Greek words en meaning in, cephale meaning a head and artos meaning bread for the edible "heart" of the plant.

Specific epithet means vety prickly.


No serious insect or disease problems. Curculionid weevil is a threat to the species in its native habitat.


Uniquely attractive leaves provide excellent accent to gardens in frost free areas. Good mixed with succulent plants. Grow in conservatories, warm greenhouses or as indoor potted plants north of USDA Zone 10. Excellent trunkless indoor container plant when young. Plants may be difficult to obtain in commerce.