How to Care for Bulb Palm Plants

Overview

Bulb palm plants (Cycas revoluta) are so nicknamed for their habit of producing "pups," or baby plants, that look like flower bulbs. Also known as Sago palms, these shrub-like trees have short, thick trunks and long, graceful fronds. Ironically, although these plants look like palm trees, they are not true palms at all, according to the University of Arizona. Instead, they are members of the Cycadaceae family. The care of these hardy plants, which are often grown as house plants, does not go beyond basic cultivation practices.

Step 1

Place the plant where it will receive some sunlight (at least six hours per day) but is protected from hot, afternoon sunlight. Bulb palm plants develop leaf spot (a fungal disease) less often when located in partially shaded areas, reports the website Floridata. Indoor plants should be set near a bright window that receives indirect light, such as a south-facing window.

Step 2

Add sand and organic materials to your soil, if it is poor-draining or low in nutrients. Peat moss, perlite, leaf mold or compost all enrich the soil and aid in water drainage. Overly soggy soil causes the roots of this plant to rot.

Step 3

Water once a week during the hot season. Water until the liquid drains freely from the bottom of the container or until it starts to collect on the surface of the soil rather than immediately soak into it. Although bulb palm plants can tolerate brief periods of drought once established, they do best with regular watering, according to the University of Arizona.

Step 4

Fertilize lightly at the start of the growing season (spring) with a balanced (10-10-10) slow-release fertilizer. Apply half-the dose as recommended on the label, as the roots of these plants are sensitive.

Step 5

Pop off the "pups" (bulb-like growths) with a trowel if you want to grow new plants. The pups usually grow along the base of the tree or up and down the trunk. Rinse them off, and set them to dry for a week. Plant them in a pot filled with a mixture of peat moss and sand, and water only when the mixture dries out so the bulb does not rot before the roots become established.

Things You'll Need

  • Sand, perlite, peat moss or leaf mold
  • Watering tool
  • Balanced (10-10-10), slow-release fertilizer
  • Trowel
  • Pot

References

  • University of Arizona: Cycas Revoluta
  • Floridata: Cycas Revoluta
  • University of Florida: Cycas Revoluta
  • Rhapis Gardens: Sago Palm Pups
Keywords: bulb palm plants, sago palm tree, caring for palms, cycas revoluta

About this Author

April Sanders has been a professional writer since 1998. Previously, she worked as an educator and currently writes academic research content for EBSCO publishing and elementary reading curriculum for Compass Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in information sciences and technology in education from Mansfield University.