Cycas palms are one of the most known kinds of cycads. It’s a very impressive plant, which can become more than six metres high. However, a lot of patience is needed when it comes to growth, because young sago palms normally develop only three to eight new fronds every year.
- Plant family: cycads (Cycadaceae)
- Order: Cycadales
- Genus: Cycas
- Class: Cycadopsida
- Growth form: palm like
- Growth height: up to six metres
- Origin: Japan
- Location: bright and sunny
- Leaf formation: oppositely
- Leaf structure: simple
- Leaf shape: pinnate
Most people like cycads because of their noticeable growth. The beautiful, green, long fronds are eye catchers that anyone will look at. Depending on your wishes and which plants are available, the cycas palm can be kept as houseplant or balcony plant in summer. If you want to keep it in your room, a bright and spacious place is needed. If you care for it appropriately and patiently, you’ll be able to enjoy a very impressive plant.
Sago palms look similar to palms, but they are not related. Cyclas revoluta belong to the order of Cycadales, which are one of the few plants that date back to primeval times. Cycas palms grow really slowly and develop big rosettes. Often, one or two years have to pass before the plant produces a new wreath of leaves.
Several years need to pass before a completely scaled stem has developed. Patience is needed regarding growth. However, there is no limit to the impressive plant’s age. Therefore, you’ll be able to enjoy your Cycas revolute for a long time.
It’s not easy to care for a sago palm, because there are many specifics to be kept in mind. Extensive nurturing is needed if you want your Cyclas revoluta to have a wonderful and even growth. It would be a spectacular occurrence if your plant surprised you with blossoms. This is a case that rarely happens. The more time the sago palm is placed outside, the higher is the chance to get a pretty male or female staminate cone.
Sago palms need to be placed somewhere bright, sunny and very warm. You can put them outside in summer, but it’s necessary to choose a wind-protected place. In addition, all sides need to receive sunlight. Otherwise, fronds will only develop at one side, which might make the plant look slightly malformed. If there is not enough light, the plant will stop producing new leaves.
Soil and substrate
Cycas palms need clayey and humous substrate, which is mixed with quartz sand. The soil’s ph number should be between 5,8 and 6,9. The Cyclas revoluta does also grow in normal flower soil that was produced on compost. Customary soil mixtures should not be used, however, because they are unable to fulfil several necessary requirements, regarding nutrient regulation, power and more, permanently.
Sowing and propagation
Newly imported seeds from specialist shops can be sowed. However, the propagation of cycas palms is extremely difficult. In order to germinate, seeds need a ground heat of 30 to 35 degrees. In addition, constant humidity around 80 percent is necessary. It normally takes up to three months to develop the first visible seed leaves.
The following equipment is needed for plantation.
- enough tubs with floor openings
- clay fragments
- tub plant soil
- lava granules
- lime-free water
To lay drainage, put a shattered clay fragment into the flower tub, which enables water to flow off. After that, mix the tub plant soil with lava granules and fill the mixture into the tub’s lower third. Place your young sago palm into the middle and press the substrate down regularly. Finally, you can water the plant with lime-free water. During the next two or three weeks, you should choose a half-shaded location for the sago palm.
You only have to repot the sago palm every three to four years, because it grows slowly. The ideal moment to do so is when the Cycas revoluta’s roots grow out of the tub’s holes or press through the substrate. You should repot in February or March.
Repotting – procedure:
- take the sago palm carefully from its pot
- shake off the old soil
- remove dead roots
- put the plant into another, bigger tub
During the next two to three weeks, the plant should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
Cutting of Cycas revolute
The sago palm does not need to be cut. There rarely are new wreaths of leaves, because the plant grows very slowly. That’s why cutting should be avoided. As soon as the crown develops new leaves, the wreath below that withers automatically. You can remove those withered leaves with a sharp knife when they are dead or wait until they fall of by themselves.
The Cycas revoluta does not need much water and fertilizer. You should only use lime-free water. Soft rainwater is ideal as well. Although the plant likes neither dampness nor dryness, it can manage in the latter. It’s recommendable to spray the plant regularly, because the Cycas palm needs high humidity.
This humidity in connection with warm temperatures improves the plant’s growth and resilience. If the sago palm is kept in a room or winter garden, you should put up a humidifier or indoor fountain.
More helpful tips about watering and manuring:
- water only a little
- the substrate must not dry completely
- avoid stationary wetness
It’s important not to use mineral fertilizer, because there is a risk of salinization. During the growth periods, when new fronds are developed, it’s possible to use fertilizer for evergreen plants. You should dose the fertilizer just as the producer suggests. If you have the opportunity to get aged horse manure, you are welcome to use it for as well.
As soon as outdoor temperatures reach less than ten degrees, you should definitely resettle the sago palm into your house or winter garden. In order to overwinter, the plants need temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees and a place flooded with light. You should not manure during winter and only water rarely.
The plant abandons growing due to the small amount of light when less water is added. From April on it’s possible to put the cycas palm outside again. However, you can also keep it inside your house all year if you like.
Apart from sowing seeds, there are to more options for propagating cycas palms.
- Side shoots
- Chipping the trunk
In some cases, a cycas palm develops side shoots, which you can cut off and plant after some growth. There is another way to propagate Cycas revoluta. However, you would have to part with your plant: mince the trunk and use these small pieces to grow new sago palms. In general though, the propagation of sago palms is not easy.
Sago palms are quite resistant and not very sensitive, but care errors can still cause pests or illnesses. Pests often befall plants during hibernation.
Cycas palms are often infested by spider mites in winter. The unwanted animals feel comfortable in dry air and warmth. If you find small, netlike constructs, your plant is infested. Those mostly settle at the shoots’ tips or at the ends of fronds. Unfortunately, spider mites are invisible to the eye until there is massive infestation.
You should isolate the affected sago palm and increase humidity. Stores offer various preparations to disperse spider mites. In many cases, however, the plant can’t be saved and must be thrown away.
Mealybugs and scale insects
Mealybugs can also occur in winter. You can recognize an infestation by sticky spots, so-called honeydew drops, which are located around the tub. Mealybugs develop white, cotton-like coatings, which normally emerge at places that are hard to find. Scale insects, however, are difficult to identify. Small, brown bumps at the fronds are an indication. Many chemical preparations do not only attack the scale insects, but the plant as well. It’s more recommendable to remove nests and lice by hand or to spray the sago palm with a solution of spirit and soap.
Root rot is a common consequence of substrate that is too damp. As the name suggests, the sago palm’s roots rot. Usually, it’s even possible to smell that. There are no preparations that help against root rot. It might be possible to save the plant by repotting it if the disease is detected in an early stage. In that case, you need to remove the old soil and cut away rotten roots. Put the sago palm into a loose, permeable substrate and water it just a little. The cycas palm might recover if you’re lucky.
An infestation of powdery mildew mostly occurs in sunny and warm weather. A white, wipeable coat is visible at the leaves’ top. If your plant is suffering from powdery mildew, you should spray it with a mixture of water and milk. It is also possible to remove infested leaves, but the sago plant has only a few of those. Consequently, you would ruin its beautiful shape. That’s why removing the leaves should be avoided.
In previous times, there used to be various kinds of cycas. Only Cycas revoluta is left today. There are several varieties in Asia that grow in wildness, but those are not suited to be kept in a room. The “Zamia” is the only related genus you might purchase in stores and keep in a tub.
All parts of the sago palm are poisonous. Therefore, you should ensure that no children or animals stay near it unsupervised. You can eliminate the seed’s poison by roasting it. Thus, the seeds are even edible afterwards.