How to Care for a Sago Palm

Overview

With their feathery fronds, bright green color, and interesting thatched trunks, sago palms are a popular choice for gardeners. And who wouldn't love seeing a living relic from prehistoric times growing in their garden? Sago palms are not in fact palms at all, but are primitive cone-bearing plants related to conifers and belonging to the species cycad. Perhaps their hardiness in lasting for thousands of years is just an indicator that the same hardiness will work for the benefit of the home gardener--sago palms are a tough, tolerant house or garden plant that will grow in temperatures ranging from 15 degrees to 110 and will tolerate sun to partial shade.

Step 1

Amend your soil to guarantee fast draining and to provide a rich humus mix. You can purchase a fast-draining potting mixture, vermiculite or sand to mix with your soil if your soil is dense or has lots of clay.

Step 2

When planting, place the sago just above the soil line. Do not provide a basin where water can collect because sagos do best when the soil is more dry rather than wet.

Step 3

Water when the soil dries out, as you would with cactus. Watering too frequently can cause the sago's roots to rot, so erring on the side of too little rather than too much water is best. For sagos growing in bright sunlight, you can water weekly. For those in partially shaded areas or in cooler temperatures, you only need to water every two or three weeks. Like cactus, sagos are very resistant to droughts once they are established.

Step 4

Place your plant in either full sun or a partially shade with bright sun during part of the day. As with cactus, Sagos prefer bright light and you can be assured of more vigorous new growth by giving a sago palm as much light as you can.

Step 5

Fertilize lightly with slow-release or diluted fertilizer, as fertilizing too heavily can damage the sago's root. A fertilizer designed for cactus would be perfect for a sago palm, too. As with watering, sago grown in full sunlight will have a faster rate of growth and could be fertilized once a month during spring and summer. For those in shaded areas, fertilizing once every six weeks will be plenty. Plants in pots can be fed every few weeks.

Tips and Warnings

  • All parts of the sago palm are poisonous. Clean up any fallen fronds or bits of trunk so pets don't run the risk of injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Fast draining potting mixture, vermiculite or sand
  • Fertilizer with a complete mix of nutrients

References

  • University of Illinois Extension: Plant Palette: Sago Palm Cycas Revolute
  • "Sunset Western Garden Book"; editors of Sunset Magazine and Sunset Books; 1977
  • Sun Palm Trees: Palm Tree Types and Pictures: Sago Palms (Cycas Revolute)
Keywords: sago palm, cycad, care of sagos, care sago palm

About this Author

A freelance writer with an extensive career in education, Susan Lundman taught writing and communication at the Military Academy at West Point, at military bases overseas and at community colleges in the United States. Working in a non-profit agency for 20 years, she wrote grant requests, promotional material, and operating guides. Lundman's expertise includes backpacking, dance, gardening and healthy living.