Sago palms, known botanically as cycas revoluta, are a bit misleading in their name. They are not actually palms at all, but cycads, an extremely ancient type of tropical gymnosperm plant. Sago palms are prized for their stiff and spiny-palm like fronds that are a glossy green and grow in a dramatic fountain form. Sago palms are very slow growing, long-lived and hardy down to USDA Zone 8b. They can easily be grown in the garden soil as specimen trees as well as in large patio containers or as indoor plants.
Select a planting site where the sago palm will ideally receive daily sun exposure with the reprieve of some afternoon shade. Sago palms will grow in full sun, but can easily dry out and experience leaf burn. They can also adapt to grow in full shade conditions, but may grow more slowly. An in ground planting location should be chosen with care as sago palms do not like to be moved once established. Choose a planting sit that allows for good drainage and will not collect sitting water. Higher-ground planting is much preferred over lower-grade planting to lessen the chances of root rot.
Prepare a well-tilled planting bed of nutrient-rich and lightly alkaline soil. Till up the planting soil to the depth of the sago palm's existing plant container. Amend the soil with up to 50 percent of its volume with a balanced mix of peat moss for alkalinity, compost and well-aged manure to boost the soil quality. Excavate a hole in the soil that is twice the diameter of the sago palm container and at least 6 inches deeper. Fill in the bottom 6 inches of the hole with the amended soil. When planting sago palms in containers choose a pot at least two to three times the diameter of the root ball to prevent the need to transplant several years.
Place the sago palm into the prepared planting hole being careful not to knock the roots. Add amended soil under the root ball to make the top of the root ball level with or just proud of the surrounding soil. Turn the palm until its most pleasing aspect is facing the direction from which it will most often be viewed.
Backfill the amended soil around the root ball to stabilize the palm. Tamp down with the heel of your shoe to compact the soil lightly. Water in the palm deeply and add more amended soil if needed to fill in any collapsed air pockets. Maintain evenly moist, but not wet, soil around the roots at all times.