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Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) Growing Guide

If you’re looking for an evocative, perennial shrub, look no further than the Sago palm. This ancient, lush and long-living plant is great if you’re considering something eye-catching in your home or garden.

Although this plant doesn’t flower or fruit, it does produce long, green, feather-like foliage and small pups, which are great for propagation—considering growing Sago palm at home?

Here is everything you need to know about propagation, growth and care. 

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How To Grow and Care for Sago Palm

What is Sago Palm? 

Sago palm is a Cycad and part of the Cycadaceae family, which includes over 100 species

Unlike the name suggests, sago palms aren’t actually a palm species. Sago palm, or Cycas revoluta, is in fact, a Cycad and part of the Cycadaceae family, which includes over 100 species. 

These slow-growing plants have a long history dating back to over 65 million years ago. Originating from tropical and subtropical regions in Japan and South China, this plant is believed to have been around even before the dinosaurs

Today, however, this low and slow-growing cycad is grown in gardens and homes across the globe. 

Other common names for the Sago Palm include:

  • King Sago
  • Japanese Sago
  • Japanese Funeral Palm

How to Grow Sago Palm

Sago palm, or Cycas Revoluta

Sago palms are fairly easily established; however, they do require some very specific growing conditions. As they are used to tropical weather, they can be quite sensitive to an excess of sun or water, which can quickly damage the foliage and lead to unwanted disease. 

Sago palms are suitable for container planting, although adequate drainage is vital for a happy and healthy plant. 

Do Sago Palms Need Full Sun? 

This species of cycad prefers bright, indirect sunlight. Too much exposure to direct sunlight will scorch the leaves and leave your Sago susceptible to disease and pests.

If planted in a spot that receives sunlight, soft morning sunlight is preferred. If indoors, consider choosing an east, west or south-facing window. 

What Kind of Soil is Best for Sago Palms? 

Sago plants aren’t overly picky when it comes to soil. However, proper drainage is incredibly important. Sago palms cannot tolerate wet feet, so the soil needs to be loose and drain quickly between watering. 

A soil mix that is rich in organic matter and slightly acidic is ideal. A general palm mix is usually preferred for container growing. 

What About Temperature & Humidity? 

Again, sago palms are accustomed to tropical climates, so they’re happiest in warm and humid conditions. Although they can tolerate cooler temperatures for a short period, anything below 20°F will cause your palm to die off. 

In general, try to keep your Sago away from any cold drafts or major areas with a strong airflow. More so, you can boost general humidity with regular misting or placing it onto a pebble tray. 

How to Propagate Sago Palm

caring for sago palm

Sago palms are usually propagated from seeds. However, this is a very time-intensive exercise and requires a lot of patience. As such, many home gardeners will use the division method, which is very viable. 

Propagating Sago Palm by Division

Sago palms naturally grow smaller plant clusters or pups from the base when in favourable conditions. These can easily be removed from the main plant with a sterilized grafting knife or pruning shears.

Take care to leave as many roots as possible. It is important to remove the pups before they get too big or grow effectively. Remove pups before they reach 1 foot tall. 

After that, plant in a similar potting mix and leave in a shady spot for the first few weeks, ensuring the soil stays moist. 

Cycas revoluta Propagation by Seed

If you’re up for the challenge, propagation from seed is also a viable method. It will just take far longer before you have an established palm. Seeds germinate between 70°F and 100°F, so they will need to be kept in the sun or on a heat mat.

Seeds can take as much as three months to germinate, so try not to rush the process. Seeds should be placed into a rich, seeding mix and watered well for the first few months. 

Consider covering your seedlings with a plastic cover, giving them an ideal ‘greenhouse’ effect.

Caring for Sago Palm

How Do You Grow Sago Palm

Caring for sago palm is pretty simple and won’t require too much effort. Especially, as these are fairly drought-tolerant plants, they’ll survive if you occasionally forget to water them. 

Watering Cycas revoluta

Sago palms usually only require additional water when the soil is dry to the touch. Otherwise, they’re quite happy to continue growing. Watering should be radically reduced during the dormant, colder months. 

Sago Palm Fertilizer

Fertilization is an important part of sago palm care. A slow-release sago palm fertilizer is recommended. However, a water-soluble sago palm fertilizer will also work.

If you are using a water-soluble sago palm fertilizer, consider an 18-8-18 mix, where you use one teaspoon for each gallon of water. Fertilization should be done once a month during the growing season and once every 3 months during the dormant season. 

Pruning

Pruning isn’t as important when it comes to sago plant care. However, it can be done to control the size and remove any spent foliage. In general, most Sago grower’s will only cut back their plant every few years or so. 

Should you Sago experience leaf burn from extreme heat or cold, damaged fronds can be removed. Take care only to remove brown friends. Yellow fronds should be left as their removal can stunt plant growth. 

Repotting

Sago palms need to be re-potted every three years so that the soil can be replenished with fresh nutrients and organic material. Gently remove the Sago from its original pot and shake the roots loose of any additional soil. 

Re-plant into a fresh palm potting mix, perhaps with some slow-release, granular fertilizer.

Problems, Pests & Diseases 

How to Propagate Sago Palm

Usually, Sago palms don’t have major issues when it comes to pests and diseases. However, if conditions are unideal, your Sago will be more susceptible. 

The most common occurrence is usually scale or spider mites. Pay special attention to your foliage to look for any discolouration or damage. Sometimes you may even see small insects on the underside of the leaves. 

Attempt to solve the issue with natural pest- or insecticides before looking for chemical solutions, as this will protect your palm. 

How Poisonous are Sago Palms? 

Sago palms are highly toxic to humans and animals when ingested, especially the seeds. Sago palms contain a toxin called Cycasin, which tends to attack the liver, causing issues throughout the body. 

Should you have small children or curious pets, it’s best to keep your Sago out of general reach.

Landscaping Advice

Sago palms make for really exquisite ornamental plants. However, it’s important to note that green fonds can be fairly sharp and hazardous. As such, it’s best to grow your sago palm in low-traffic areas where they won’t accidentally poke or prod someone. 

Many growers recommend using a terra cotta pot instead of the usual plastic if growing in a container. Sago palms can even be grown as bonsai.

Wrapping Up Our Sago Palm Guide

Take a look at our other amazing How To Guides to find other amazing indoor and outdoor plants to grow at home. Follow these tips and tricks, and you’ll have happily grown non-hazardous sago palms.

Always pay careful attention to the soil, ensuring it is never overwatered. Equally so, avoid keeping your Sago in direct sunlight for too long to avoid foliage damage. 

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

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