The sago palm (Cycas revolta) is a lovely tropical plant that can be grown outside if your winter temperatures rarely drop below 20 degrees F. It also makes a lovely houseplant in all climate zones. Although it’s called a palm, the sago is a member of the Cycad plant family, which includes gymnosperms with an unbranched stem and large fern-like leaves that emerge from the crown. About 250 species of Cycads exist in tropical and subtropical regions, and they represent the oldest living plants that produce seeds. If you think of dinosaurs, some types of cycads shared their environment. The sago palm provides interest wherever it grows.
Planting a Sago Palm
Pot your young sago palm in a deep pot, using a sandy potting mix with one or two cups of humus mixed into every gallon of soil. Plant it a bit above the top of the soil instead of in a depression to prevent the roots or crown from rotting. Leave plenty of space for its roots to develop.
Plant your sago palm outdoors if you live in an appropriate climate. Dig a hole at least twice as deep as the root system of the plant and then add one large shovelful of sand and the same amount of humus to the soil. Leave the crown of the plant slightly above the soil surface. Backfill the hole with the sandy humus.
Keep your sago palm in an area, whether indoors or out, that receives bright, indirect sunlight.
Maintain humidity in the 50 percent range, although sagos thrive in more humid conditions. You can check the humidity by placing a small, inexpensive humidity meter near your plant. If it indicates the humidity is under 50 percent, spray your plant with a fine mist of water and then spray again if the humidity drops.
Water your sago palm sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out completely before you water it again. This usually means giving it more frequent water in summer than in winter, but always check your soil to make sure it is dry, or nearly dry, before you water it. Its water needs are similar to cactus.
Things You Will Need
- Deep pot or deep, sandy, well-draining soil
- Sandy potting soil
- In Hawaii, the sago palm scale has resulted in the deaths of many of these plants. If you live there and begin to notice a white film on your sago palm, immediately treat it with an ultra-fine oil, which will smother these insects. This type of horticultural oil is available at nurseries. Continue spraying your plant even after all signs of this destructive insect are gone.
- The sago palm is as popular as a bonsai plant.
- Sago palms are very slow growing but very long-lived.
- Sago palms are believed to have evolved more than 200 million years ago.
- The sago palm contains toxic substances that are toxic to humans and pets.