Sago palm (Cycas revoluta) is a member of the cycad group and is also commonly referred to as Japanese sago palm and funeral palm. Sago palms are considered living fossils with evidence indicating their extensive presence in the Mesozoic Era 150 million years ago. Sago palm is a native of southern Japanese islands and thrives in certain soil conditions.
The sago palm requires a very well-drained and moist soil for optimal growth. Sago palm roots are prone to rotting in poorly drained ground. Sandy soils amended with organic matter prior to planting are a good choice. Apply a light mulch of leaf or bark mold after planting. Although cycads like sago palm are natives of tropical areas, they do not grow well with excessive soil or air moisture as their foliage has a low transpiration rate.
Fertilize the sago palm tree lightly with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer. Either the granule or liquid formulations work well. Avoid using strong fertilizers such as fresh manure as these products can seriously damage the special coralloid roots of the sago. These roots are specially designed for processing the nitrogen from air to make it available to the plant. Sago palms are highly prone to manganese deficiency, especially when grown in alkaline soil. To relieve deficiency, apply manganese-rich fertilizer to foliage or soil.
Plant sago palms in areas of bright light including full sun. The tree also adapts well to bright shade. The foliage of trees growing in shade tends to be larger. In regions with warm weather conditions, such as Florida, sago palm is not susceptible to leaf spot disease in areas of shade. Sago palm is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 8 to 10. Mature trees can tolerate temperature as low as 13 degrees Fahrenheit.
Under optimal growth conditions, sago palms grow to a mature height of 10 to 12 feet. The slow-growing cycad has a symmetrical form and dark-green, pinnate foliage measuring 4 to 5 feet long and 9 inches wide. New foliage grows in the form of light-green spikes around the trunk in spring, uncoiling slowly. The reproductive male structure is a 1 to 1 1/2-foot-long yellow rod and the female structure is a yellow globe with 1 1/2-inch orange seeds.
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