Caring for a Sago Palm
By Susan Landis-Steward
, last updated March 10, 2011
The sago palm, or cycas revoluta, is not technically a palm but a cycad, and its care and needs are relatively simple. The plant dates to prehistoric times, around the time of the dinosaurs, and can add a jungle air to your environment. It is extremely slow-growing, but eventually develops a thick trunk with narrow shiny fronds at the top. The fronds arch at their tips, and despite their hardy appearance, are quite fragile and should be handled carefully. The entire plant is poisonous, especially the seeds, so keep it away from children or pets who are prone to put things in their mouths. This is normally grown as a houseplant.
Sago palms are easy to care for if a few simple rules are followed. Don't let it stay wet. Make sure the soil drains well and wait until it dries out before watering. Most problems with sago palms are related to overwatering. Make sure your palm gets plenty of light during the day. During the growing season, feed your palm lightly with a dilute solution of liquid fertilizer. Use an 18-6-18 fertilizer, dilute 50 percent, and apply while watering to avoid fertilizer burn.
Sago palms don't like disruption so only repot of absolutely necessary. Dead fronds can be cut off at any time.
If your palm's fronds turn yellow, it may be the result of overwatering or lack of nutrients. Water thoroughly then allow the soil to dry out; be careful that the soil does not dry out completely. Avoid getting water in the crown of the plant as this can lead to crown rot. Place your palm in bright light with some direct sun. Turn the plant regularly to make sure it doesn't lean toward the light.
Eventually, your sago palm will put off "pups." These can be removed and planted in containers. Use cactus mix or 2 parts peat-based potting mixed with 1 part sharp sand or perlite.