Sago Palm ( Cycas revoluta )

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 are 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 taller with shorter fronds. The one in the shade only has 3 flushes of leaves, but they are much longer than the other. 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 25’F. It was about 18’F that burned the one in the photo. All over town they look like that. I lost the leaves on all of them during the Feb 21 deep freeze. The trunks feel solid so I expect most of them will flush out early summer. The leaves that died are gone forever, trim them or not as it pleases you.

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. 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, 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.

Scale is a problem until the plant gets tall enough to keep the fronds off the ground

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

4 thoughts on “Sago Palm ( Cycas revoluta )

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Hello –

    I love your site. I found it about a month ago, and I’ve successfully used your Pentas rooting instructions to grow a whole tray full of new plants. I can’t wait until the end of summer for the hummingbird migration and see the birds and butterflies enjoy them!

    My question, if you have a minute: I came home from work today to find that one of my Sago Palms was run over by one of the neighbors. The trunk is broken completely through just above ground level, with only a bit of one side remaining intact. Can it be saved?

    I read on one website that rooting pups could be helped along with a rooting hormone containing an antifungal agent – I just can’t find any information that hints this might work for a larger plant. If I saw off the remaining bit and clean up/even up the wound, will the plant root from the trunk? And if it will, should I leave the trunk intact, or cut it closer to the crown since that’s the main part of the plant?

    I’ve read all of the links on your Sago page already, and I’ve been Googling my brains out for the past several hours with no luck. If you know of a site with instructions on how to save the plant, would you please reply with a link? Or if you have any advice, I would certainly appreciate it. I planted the palm about 10 years ago, and it was just starting to really come into its own, finally growing past the 3-foot mark.

    Many thanks for your time – I’ve really enjoyed looking around your site!

  2. Thank you.

    I’m thrilled to hear that your Pentas cuttings are doing well. I warn you that propagating plants can be addictive.

    As for the sago I do not think the main part will grow back. But I think you will see baby sagos appear all around it before too long. The babies should do just fine. After about a year, they are slow growers, dig up the babies and separate them. They will want much more room between themselves as they get larger.

  3. Help! I live in Memphis,TN. I have kept a large Sago
    alive in the ground for 6 years (w/ cold frame). It
    keeps having pups but no flush in 2 years. The fronds
    are bright yellow w/ 4 pups sticking out of the ground. Why no flush??

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