Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Not a Palm Reader

I was perusing my e-mail today, when I got one from a friend of mine about Sago Palms (Cycas revoluta). I know a little bit about them, but decided to do more research on them anyway.
Sago palms (which are not true palms) are evergreen plants with stiff, palm-like fronds that radiate outward from a slow-growing usually non-branched trunk. They are very slow-growing and long-lived. It can reach a height of 10 feet, although 3 to 5 feet is more common. They are native to Japan's southern most islands. And is thought to be a plant that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs.

Sago's are evergreen here in South Carolina. It is considered a Zone 8-10 plant. I have seen it growing in a Zone 7, though the fronds usually get burned in the Winter. It actually got hit pretty hard this past Winter here.
They like sandy, fast draining soil, preferably with some organic matter. Also recommended is a light mulch of bark or leaf mold. Plants appreciate light feedings of balanced, slow release fertilizer or liquid fertilizers. They are drought resistant when mature. Their light requirements are everything from bright conditions including full sun to full shade with no ill effect (its leaves grown larger in the shade).
They can be propagated from offsets or seeds. The seeds should be allowed to age for a couple of months in a cool place before planting. New plants can also be obtained by removing offsets from the base of the trunks. Remove the leaves and plant in moist, well drained soil. This is most successful when done in the Winter when the plant is dormant.
Sago's also make an excellent container plant for use outdoors and in the home. It has been a popular house plant in the west for over a century and in Japan for even longer. In Japan the Sago is also used as a bonsai subject. Dwarfs of great value are produced by withholding moisture and packing the plant in sand. These often have very thin trunks or interesting deformities and are sometimes sold under the name Cycas nana.
Animals that graze on Cycas leaves may exhibit permanent nuerological disorders. Sago seeds are sometimes suggested as a natural remedy for certain conditions - do not use it! All parts of this plant are toxic. The symptoms of Sago poisoning include, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, seizures.
They make extremely nice focal plants, I encourage you to grow one if you can in your yard. If not, take a crack at containerizing one.

Happy Growing!


  1. Oh, these are just awesome! I like them for the same reason that I like gunnera - I like to imagine that I have suddenly been transported to the time of the dinosaur. FUN!

  2. Cycas revoluta was the photo on my blog today for "Mother Nature's Artistry"!