The sago palm tree is a plant for those who would love to see a historical touch added to their garden, or landscape. One of the most primitive plants – cycads – is the Cycas revoluta whose origin has been traced way back to the Mesozoic era.
Cycas revoluta, known as the sago cycad, is sometimes referred to as the king sago palm or simply sago palm.
The sago palm is found primarily in the landscape across the southern states… but the sago palm is grown and used as a houseplant indoors.
The sago, each year, only produces a few fronds, this makes the sago not a plant for those impatient plant growers.
The frond production is an attractive feature for this plant with its very symmetric form showing its thick, rugged trunk that supports a crown of whorled glossy green leaves. This feature makes it very similar looking to palms, and tree ferns but Cycas revoluta is absolutely a cycad.
Despite their unusual appearance, sago plants have become popular ornamental plants. They can also be seen in botanical gardens. Commercially, they are promoted and used as landscape plants. In special occasions, the Sago palms are grown as bonsai plants.
Sago Size and Growth Rate
The sago palm tree are slow growers putting out a few fronds per year. Size wise old plants over many years can grow the height of small trees, with thick trunks.
As one of the most unusual yet popular ornamental plants, revoluta exhibits unique and dynamic leaf coloration. Cycas revoluta periodically produce a lovely new flush of leaves called “break” which compensates for its slow-growing habit.
These tender new leaves emerge all at once in a crowning or circular pattern or feather-like rosette. Several weeks later, the leaves become harder, and stiffer. When the plant is at its reproductive stage, the leaves are semiglossy green in color and have strongly recurved edges.
Growers collect old “stumps” since it is possible to regrow Cycas revoluta and becuase they are so slow growing. The stumps pictured are decades old. Collecting stumps can be a very taxing task.
The long and fibrous roots of Cycas revoluta can cause too much trouble. In fact, some grounds, walls, and concrete pavements cracked due to the underrated power of the intertwining strands of roots that comprise the root system of Cycas revoluta. Also the plants or “stumps ” can become damaged. Care must be taken when collecting them.
Light and Temperature
In a perfect world the Sago prefers a half-shady location during the summer and a brighter location in winter. Temperatures in the mid 70′s and not below 60 degrees during winter months. Older more mature plants can handle more sun.
Watering and Feeding
During winter months watering of sago plants should be reduced – they just are not growing.
During the growing season as new leaves begin to appear, give them plenty over water and liquid feed very third watering. DO NOT allow them to sit in water. Provide good humidity.
A good shower on the leaves occasionally will clean the foliage of dust.
Soil and Transplanting
It is not a bad move to repot sagos in the spring, moving the plant to a slightly larger pot. Use a soil mixture that is light and sandy.
Other than cutting off old fronds which get ugly, not other “grooming” is really required.
Sago palm trees are propagated in several ways, none of them fast and easy.
Ripe seeds can be sow in a shallow flat or pot with soil mixture with lots of sand. Keep temperatures in the high 70′s.
Months can pass before tiny shoots will begin to show, and another 3-6 months or more before seedlings can be moved or repotted.
Old mature plants sometimes develop bulbs or side shoots on the stem.
These can be cut off and rooted. Remove leaves from the side shoots as they pull lots of moisture.
Stick the “bulbs” in soil (I like pure sand) keeping the mixture on the dry side until new roots form over a few months.
Section of trunk
Just like the “bulbs” or side shoots, sections of a sago trunk can be planted. This is often done with “collected” plants.
No matter what propagation method chosen, it is time consuming, slow process and for many difficult. Seed germination takes many months, growing them to size takes many years.
Cycads can have some problems with scale particularly Asian scale.
Sago Buying Tips
When buying a Sago plant look for foliage with clean undamaged leaves and dark green foliage.
Since these plants are some of the oldest in the world, their lifespan can be a lifetime.
There is no real “season” for Sago palms and they can be purchased anytime.
Look for sago palms sold by other names: Fern palm, Cycas revoluta
Growing In The Landscape
In the landscape, they can provide an “Oriental Influence”. Here is how one designer described using the Revoluta in their landscape plan…
The Japanese lantern mounted on a pedestal, with pleasing freeform lines, was carved from lavarock (feather stone one of the many types of landscaping rocks available). Dramatic growing Cycas revoluta among coral boulders, makes an interesting background.
A Casuarina equisetifolia was trained and pampered for many years in order to achieve the ming-tree like results. Cycas revoluta to the left among coral rock.. Brassaia and Yucca plant give a textured background.
In the landscape or as a house plant the Sago is versatile.