If you like growing indoor plants that have an exotic look, why not try growing Sago Palms?. This plant makes a great choice for those new to houseplants since it prefers drying out before you water it again. A sago palm tree is easy to grow as long as you keep a few tips in mind.
In the US, unless you live in the warmer zones (8b and higher) the sago palm is grown as an indoor plant.
The common name of this plant seems to indicate that it is a palm, but sago is actually a cycad – Cycas revoluta is the botanical name. Cycads date back to the Mesazoic era and used to be found pretty much world wide. Today, their native homes are limited more to tropical and subtropical areas. This makes them ideal house plants but more challenging to grow outdoors.
Tips for growing Sago Palms
While a sago palm will tolerate lower light conditions, it does best with bright light indoors. An average temperature of 65-75 degrees F. works best since these plants are tropical in nature. Don’t place it too close to the glass of the windows and protect it from windows that get a lot of sunlight. Rotating the plant every few weeks help to keep the plant growing straight and not reaching for the light.
Sine the fronds have a drooping growth habit, be sure to place a sago where it won’t be crowded by nearby plants. It makes a great table plant if the light is bright enough.
Be sure not to over water a sago palm. This can encourage the whole root to rot and you’ll end up with a dead plant. This actually makes it great for beginners who often forget to water, since the plant likes to dry out a bit between each watering. I like to think of the sago palm as needing the same watering requirements as cacti or succulents.
Crown and Leaves
A sago palm has thick and sharp fern like fronds. They need to have any yellowing or dead fronds trimmed regularly. The plant also has somewhat of a bulbous base which adds to its appeal indoors. Prune the stalks close to the trunk of the plant with a set of clean and sharp pruning shears.
Sago palms like a soil that drains well and is slightly acidic (5.5-6.5) Apply a slow release cycad fertilizer that is meant for ferns, palms and cycads. Fertilize regularly during the spring and summer and don’t fertilize in the late fall and winter months. Check the root ball in the spring when new growth starts to see if the plant is root bound. If it is, choose a container about 2 inches larger than your current one and add new soil to the container.
Indoor sago palms will benefit from a summer outside in a filtered sunlight location.
Flowering takes place in late spring. It’s unlikely to see a sago palm flowering indoors. It can take up to 15 years for a flower to develop, and even then it will only bloom about once every 3 years.
Toxicity and other problems
All parts of the sago palm tree is toxic to human and pets if they are eaten. If you have cats and dogs or small children, care should be taken to keep the plants away from their reach. The seeds are especially toxic.
Sago palms are prone to scale infestations. Be sure to treat this aggressively if noted. Signs of scale problems are yellowing of the new growth. (older growth naturally yellows.) Yellowing growth can also indicate over watering.
How to Grow a Sago Palm Tree Outdoors
If your idea tends more to growing sago palms outdoors, then there are a few care tips to be aware of. Consider it a tree, not an outdoor plant or shrub, since it will get larger and larger as the years progress.
Outdoors, growing sago palms works if you live in zones 8b to 11. It can tolerate fairly low temperatures as long as there are no prolonged freezes. Sago palms can grow to a height of 10 feet, so think carefully about the eventual size when you plant them. It takes about 8 years for the plant to reach a mature size.
Choose a spot for your sago palm tree that gets good morning sun but filtered afternoon sun since the fronds are likely to burn if they get too much intense sunlight.
Choose well draining soil and add organic matter or compost regularly to the soil. Water well when the plant first starts growing outdoors, but once established sago palms only require limited watering during the driest spells. A slow release fertilizer once a year, in the spring, is all that is needed to keep your sago palm tree growing well.
Pruning yellowing leaves is very important outdoors. If you are a person who likes to plant and forget, a sago palm might not be a good choice, since it can end up a tangled mess easily if not pruned regularly.
Sago palms will produce male and female flowers outdoors which can result in the plant propagating and producing seeds. These grow from the center of the plant.
The most common method of propagation is to remove and plant the side pups that the plant will produce.
A light layer of mulch before winter approaches will help to ensure that the plant over winters well.
Whether you decide to try growing sago palms indoors or outside, remember to provide steady temperatures, light watering and protection from the hottest sunlight. If you follow these tips, you can look forward to an exotic looking plant that will give you years of pleasure.
Print out this recipe card to keep the care tips for a Sago Palm Tree handy.
- Light: Bright indoor sunlight
- Temperature: 65-75 º F.
- Watering: Let the plant dry out a bit between watering
- Prune: Remove yellowing leaves from the trunk.
- Soil: Prefers a slightly acidic soil
- Toxicity: All parts of the plant are toxic to children and pets if eaten.
- Cold Hardiness: Hardy to zones 8b – 11. Otherwise grow as an indoor plant.
- A sago palm tree does well in containers & looks exotic. It can also be grown outdoors in some hardiness zones.