Sago Palm: Making Sure A Sago Palm Will Thrive


Sago Palm

Sago palms, members of the Cycadaceae family that dates to the Mesozoic Era, are considered living fossils. Scientists think they developed from seed ferns millions of years ago.

Their common name implies they are a palm when, in fact, they are more closely related to gymnosperms or plants that produce exposed seeds, such as pine trees and Ginkgo.

Because sagos are unique and expensive (the slow-growing plants are priced by the foot and a large specimen plant can cost several thousand dollars), the plants generate a lot of interest from gardeners.

They ask us about the sago‘s care and feeding, fruiting structures, propagation techniques, scale insects, and cold damage.

A lot of nurseries grow them in the Jacksonville area, but people who want the large specimen plants have a hard time finding them.

There are three species of sago palms grown in Florida: Cyeas circinalis (queen sago palm), Cycas revoluta (king sago palm), and Cyeas taitungensis (prince/emperor sago palm).

The queen sago is only grown in South Florida, but the king sago tolerates colder weather and is grown throughout the state and in Georgia.

King sago palms are slow-growing plants but may reach up to 4 to 6 feet in height. But it takes a while. Under ideal conditions, sago will reach a height of only 12 to 18 inches in six to seven years.

Varieties of the Sago Palm

Although there are a few other plants that go by the name sago palm, Cycas revoluta is the most commonly cultivated species in gardens. The following are the other species:

  • Cycas rumphii, often known as queen sago, is a plant that behaves more like a tree than a shrub and can grow up to 15 feet tall.
  • Cycas circinalis, often known as the queen sago palm, is a tree-like plant that may grow to a height of 10 feet and is indigenous to India.
  • Metroxylon sagu (true sago palm): A real palm that is a member of the same botanical family as many other well-known palm plants.


When the sago palm leaves have turned a fully brown color, only then should you prune it. Do not remove the leaves that have turned yellow. Even though they do not have an attractive appearance, they can absorb nutrients for the plant.

The plant’s overall health may suffer because of the removal of leaves that have turned yellow.

If you are required to take away any of the fronds, the ones that can be safely removed are the ones located around the plant’s base.

Cut them with sterilized hand pruners or pruning shears as close to the trunk as you can get them.

Propagating Sago Palm

Planting seeds is the primary method used in palm propagation. However, this method requires more time and is frequently ineffective.

The most efficient and uncomplicated method of spreading a plant is through division. The sago palm produces offshoots or pups at the base of the plant that resembles miniature versions of the parent plant and grows in clusters.

By removing the offspring from their mother plant, you can reduce overcrowding, reduce the amount of competition for water, and increase the amount of air circulation around the plant’s base.

The beginning of spring or the end of fall is the ideal period to transplant those pups.

The following is a guide for cultivating the offsets:

You can split a sago palm into multiple plants if it has offsets, also known as baby offshoots.

Besides a container, a hand trowel, a knife, scissors, and soil that drains well and is suited for palm plants, you will need these items.

Before using the tools, make sure they have been sanitized with alcohol or bleach-based solution.

It may be necessary to use your scissors, a knife, or a hand trowel in order to pry or cut the offset free from its attachment. Some offsets are just weakly attached and can be simply removed with a simple tug.

It is the best idea to let the cut dry out and callous over for a few days before moving the offset to the tray.

The callous acts as a barrier, preventing pathogens from infecting the plant.

Start by putting some soil that drains properly into the bottom of the container.

The circumference of the offset should be the primary factor in determining the size of the pot.

The circumference of the pot’s top should be around two inches greater than the circumference of the offset.

The branch should be centered in the pot, and the sides should be filled with potting soil. To a sufficient degree:

Put the plant in a bright spot indoors, but put it in the shade when you take it outside. The rooting process should take a few months at the very least.

Between waterings, the plant should be allowed to become completely dry.

Instructions for Germinating Sago Palm Seeds

Both male and female characteristics can be found in sago palm seeds. It makes no difference which one you have because either can develop into a plant as long as the seeds originate from a reliable source.

The color of a sago palm ranges from brilliant red to orange. Because of the presence of poisons in the seeds, handling them requires the use of protective gloves.

In order to prepare the seeds, first remove the outer husk and then soften them by soaking them in water at room temperature.

Plant them in a shallow container or tray designed for starting seeds. The seeds should be covered with a seed starting mix that contains sand, and then placed in a warm location.

While you wait for the seedling to sprout, make sure the soil stays wet. Be patient, since it may take some time for many huge seeds to germinate. Germination of sago palm seeds typically takes a few months to complete.

Potting and Repotting Sago Palm

Sago palms do not require repotting more frequently than once every three to five years because their growth is so modest.

Every spring, it is a smart idea to carefully take the plant from its pot and replace the loose dirt with new soil. This will guarantee that the plant continues to grow healthily.

The ideal growing medium for this plant is a soil-based potting mix that has been augmented with some sand and peat moss.

Repotting or transplanting new pups in the ground should only be done once the plants have developed significant root systems.

Sagos that have just been planted should not be transferred until the beginning of spring, whereas mature palms can have their roots moved either in the early spring or in the late fall.

Because sago palms cannot tolerate moist soil, plant them in terracotta or unglazed ceramic planter instead.

The porous substance will contribute to the soil’s ability to absorb excess moisture. Also, use a container that has several drainage holes to ensure that the water can escape the pot quickly.


Sago palms are hardy up down to zone 8. They can survive brief temperature snaps at 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but they will perish if kept at 23 degrees or lower.

It is important to offer protection for plants throughout the winter. If you cannot bring the plant inside, protect it from a brief period of cold by wrapping it in a burlap bag or a thin blanket.

When the frost has completely melted away the following day, uncover the plant.

Pests That Are Usually Seen

There aren’t any significant problems with illnesses or pests with sago palms. But problems can arise when scale and spider mites are present.

Keep an eye out for any discoloration or damage to the foliage, as well as any tiny insects hiding among the fronds.

Prior to resorting to more powerful pesticides, it is best to use organic insecticides first, such as insecticidal soap or neem oil. You should ensure that your plant has adequate airflow and humidity.

The Sago Palm Has several Common Issues

Although they are simple to cultivate and care for, sago palms need very particular growing conditions in order to remain in good health.

Minor adjustments, such as adjusting the watering schedule, ensuring adequate water drainage, and selecting the soil type, can frequently have a significant impact.

Leaves that Have turned Yellow

The aging process of outer, more mature leaves often results in a yellowing that can be traced to the leaf’s life cycle. The oldest leaves are in the ring that is closest to the ground. Do not remove the leaves until they have completely lost their green color and died.

Yellowing can also be caused by insects; however, if you have seen no bugs on the plant, think that there is an inadequate amount of manganese in the soil.

It will appear as though the yellowing affects every frond. To fix the issue, you can amend the soil with two to three applications of manganese sulfate powder per year.

The yellowed leaves will not recover their original green color, but the recent growth should look robust.

Leaves that are wilting and falling off

Root rot is a fungal illness that is commonly brought on by excessive watering, or the usage of soil that drains poorly and has been compacted.

The fungus penetrates the plant to the roots and causes death from the inside out. A black sore or stain on the trunk that is leaking and bleeding is another indicator of root rot.

The wilting, browning and eventual loss of leaves on a plant are all symptoms of root rot.

If you discover the problem in its early stages, you will treat the plant by removing any infected foliage and applying a fungal spray or a systemic fungicide.

Scattered Charcoal Dots on the Leaves

Even if your plant has fully recovered from the damage caused by insects, you may still observe microscopic black spots on the leaves and stems of the plant that look like dirt or soot.

A type of mold familiar as sooty mold develops from the secretions that are left behind by very few insects. This fungus can be removed from the leaves of the sago by applying a steady spray of water to each affected area.

The fungus does not feed on the sago, but it will continue to develop if it is not stopped, and it can take over a plant’s leaves, which will interfere with the generation of chlorophyll and photosynthesis.

Sago Palms Are Lethal To Pets

According to the Pet Poison Hotline, any part of the sago palm is poisonous if eaten, but the seeds have the most cycasin, which is a poison.

As soon as 15 minutes after eating, stomach problems like vomiting, diarrhea, and tiredness can show up as signs of sickness.

Carsten Bandt is a clinical assistant professor and the head of the emergency and critical service unit at the UF Small Animal Hospital.

She has seen several cases where this poisonous plant was involved. Most of them ended in the death of the animal, which is sad.

Bandt said that the animal should be taken to an emergency room as soon as possible, preferably within the first or second hour after eating the poison.

If not, the poison will have already left the stomach, and there will be nothing left to do.