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Sago Palm Does Well With Less

Help Line / Second of Two Parts

March 31, 2001|U.C. MASTER GARDENERS

Question: Is the sago palm easy to grow?

S.V., Stanton

Answer: Caring for sago palms is relatively easy.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

* Whether in the garden or in a container, sago palms should be planted slightly above the soil line in well-drained loam. They will tolerate wet, soggy conditions, but do much better if kept on the dry side.

Particularly in pots, the fleshy roots of the sago palm can rot if overwatered.

Water and fertilizer needs are related to the amount of light exposure and, unlike most plants, sago palms give little indication of when to water or feed them. It is best to think of them in the same terms as cacti and to water only when they are almost dry.

* Fertilize in spring and summer, but keep in mind that in the case of sago palms, less is better than more. In particular, the application rate should be reduced for plants growing in low light.

Do not allow fertilizer to get into the plant crown where the formation of new leaves occurs.

* Sago palms are adaptable with respect to light, temperature and humidity. They do well in either high or low humidity and in temperatures ranging from 15 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

They grow in full sun as well as partial shade, and they do fine in bright indoor areas with just a few hours of daily sunlight exposure.

* Sago palms are relatively free of pests. The one to be most concerned about is scale, which forms a white or gray crust, and there also are occasional infestations of mealybugs.

Consult your local certified nursery professional for information on treatment options.

* In selecting a garden location, remember that even though they are slow growing, sago palms can eventually reach heights of 15 feet or more, and the diameters of multi-trunk specimens can exceed 10 feet.

* Annually or more often, remove old leaves after the new ones have set. Usually the lower leaves get brown tips or may turn completely brown because the plant's energy is being directed to the growth of the new leaves.

Cut leaves off close to the trunk and remove any yellow or distorted leaves at the same time.

The sago palm is probably the world's most popular cycad and is widely available in nurseries.

Sago palms gain considerable monetary value as they grow and mature. Most home gardeners will find growing this unique plant rewarding.

--Written by University of California Master Gardener in Training Edward A. Shaw of Laguna Beach.


Have a problem in your yard? University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners are here to help. These trained and certified horticultural volunteers are dedicated to extending research-based, scientifically accurate information to the public about home horticulture and pest management. They are involved with a variety of outreach programs, including the university's Master Garden hotline, which provides answers to specific questions. You can reach the hotline at (714) 708-1646 or send e-mail to Calls and e-mail are picked up daily and are generally returned within two to three days. Please include your name and city of residence.

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