Herself's Houston Garden

Conservation through cultivation

Sago Palm ( Cycas revoluta )

Sago Oct 13

Sago Oct 13

Sagos grow leaves from a central trunk that can get 2′ in diameter, very old sagos have been found with trunks 20′ across. Trunks may branch.

Leaves are 3′-4′ long. Leaves may be longer on plants grown in shady areas.

These plants send off suckers near the base that should be cut back. This is not easy as they grow close to the main plant which has a rough stem with barbs. Wear your thick leather gloves to prune this plant. Reproduction is also by seed.

Sago palms grow best in full sun. I have one in almost full shade and one in full sun. Both are doing well. The one in the sun is show in the picture. The one in the shade only has 3 flushes of leaves. I’ve found with a yearly dose of either Shultz with rooting hormone or worm castings once a year the sago in the shade will put out one flush for me and the one in front will put out two flushes a year.

Do not over water them. They are drought tolerant, but will grow slowly, if at all during droughts.

They can comfortably with stand temperatures as low as 20’F.

Cycads are one of the oldest living plants on earth. They were here 270-280 million years ago, that would be predate the dinosaurs. They are considered the missing link between non-seed plants and plants that propagate by seed. They have also changed little in the 275 or so million years they have been here.

There are at least 185 species known of cycad now, some common some endangered. So if you see an unusual one at the nursery, bring it home and plant it. It is up to gardeners to spread out and propagate all the threatened species we run across.

If you are having trouble getting your sago to flush ( make new leaves ) remove the bottom third of the fronds.  The plant will try to keep roots and leaves in balance.   When you remove the leaves it will get busy making more of them. You can remove up to half of the lower fronds each year with out hurting the plant.

The seeds are toxic, female plants take about 9 months to fully develop the seeds so you’ll have lots of time to remove them.  They will kill a small dog or cat if eaten.  The leaves are also toxic containing carcinogens and neurotoxins.

I am not sure but I believe only the female sagos get the pups off the main stem.  I’m still looking for more sources to confirm that.

In Houston manganese deficiencies are common, according to Mercer Gardens, if new leaves are yellow your plant needs manganese. If new leaves are pale green it is likely iron you are lacking.

Fungal leaf spot can be a problem in high humidity. It appears as black spots with yellow rings, just like black leaf spot on roses.

My sago is getting pups which are baby plants off the trunk of the mother. These need to be removed. It’s going to be more of a project than I thought. I’m told washing the dirt away with a garden hose, then using a saw to cut them from the mother plant is the best option. If you cut the leaves off the pup then replant the pups about half way in soil. You will get new plants. It may take a couple of years to get the new plants so plant them somewhere out of the way in your garden.

One of the few plants to thrive during the 2011 drought and heat wave.

More information:
Are cycads social plants?
Cycas revoluta known as King Sago Palms
The Sago Palms, Cycas revoluta
Cycad s the most threatened plants