Cycas Revoluta (Sago Palm)

The Sago Palm

Cycas Revoluta is a beautiful easy care houseplant with a mischievous twist that easily fools people in three ways. Firstly, despite its common name of "Sago Palm", it's not actually a palm because it's a Cycad (although the care requirements are similar).

Photo of a young Cycas Revoluta or Sago Palm houseplantSecondly it has a reputation of being a modern houseplant (which it most definitely is). However in truth, as an outdoor plant, its been around for million of years and so it's one of the oldest plants you can grow as a houseplant. Its become more popular in the last decade as people have started to notice and appreciate its easy going nature and very slow growth, it also doesn't need to be repotted too often and there are no flowers to deal with. If treated well the leaves will rarely drop and producing only one or two new leaves a year means it will probably take ages to outgrow wherever you've put it in your home. So as an easy going, almost maintenance free indoor plant, it tends to create a perfect fit for those hectic households which don't have much time for houseplant care or attention.

Be careful - the entirety of this plant is poisonous to animals and humans

Finally, despite it's unfussy nature and harmless looking appearance the entirety of this plant is poisonous to animals and humans. A lot of houseplants have a slight toxic and poisonous trait about them, but they either taste unpleasant so not enough of the plant is consumed to cause any damage or the toxicity isn't high enough to be a problem. The Sage Palm is completely different, and while we rarely give such a warning you should not have this plant in your home (or office) if your pet(s) eats houseplants or you have young curious children.

The third point above might stop you point blank from having a Sago in your home, but if you've no inquisitive pets or young kids to worry about, this is a wonderful modern looking houseplant that you should give a second look at. The semi glossy deep green leaves are quite tough and solid so resist damage well and maintain a rigid and symmetrical shape. They look tranquil and relaxing from a distance but stand their ground well against minor damage making it a mobile, can-do and hardy house guest.

There is only one species and variety of Sago Palm available to buy to the everyday shopper and that's Cycas Revoluta. As already touched upon, Sago Palms grow very slowly and as with most slow growing houseplants this increases the asking price and limits availability. Small plants tend to be reasonable in cost for what they can provide, but if you're after a large plant then be prepared for a hefty price tag.

A Sago Palm in a bedroom looking like living art and adding to the decor

Sago Palm Care Instructions

Light

The gold standard for most houseplants is bright light but no direct sun and that's true for the Sago Palms. Too much light will cause damage to the leaves, and while too little light will not show negative consequences for quite some time, this also needs to be avoided. So bright light with no direct sun should be your aim.

Watering

The trunk and fleshy leaves will store some water so Sago Palms do well with fairly long spells of no watering. However they're not a true succulent so will perish if they're never watered. The real danger is overwatering, too much will encourage rot and that's what you need to be careful of. So water well and then don't do it again until the soil is almost completely dry. In Winter, when there is less light and temperatures are cooler you'll find you only need to water occasionally.

Humidity

Whatever the humidity levels surrounding your plant actually are will be fine, unless its been placed stupidly in a steam room or something.

Feeding

Only provide feed between Spring and mid-Summer using a general houseplant fertiliser and no more than every two months. You can use normal strength as per the instructions, but in all honestly because the Sago Palm just doesn't need that much feed, we personally dilute any fertiliser given to half strength.

Temperature

Average home temperatures would be fine all year around. To prevent damage to the leaves and the trunk no lower than 5°C / 41°F is recommended.

Repotting

Because of how slow a Sago Palm grows it takes forever for it to fill a pot and even then most are quite happy to stay crammed into their tiny pots for a while longer. So you only need to consider repotting if you're not getting any growth at all; the plant has becomes top heavy or wobbly in the existing container; or if its been a number of years since it was last done. Repot in early Spring, ideally using a free draining loam based compost.

This is truly one of the slowest growing houseplants you'll ever come across

Propagation

You can only propagate these plants through seeds, but realistically hardly anyone attempts it. Those who do will already be Cycad experts and so won't need this guide.

Speed of Growth

This is truly one of the slowest growing houseplants out there. Some plants will only produce one single new leaf each year, although it's normal to get a couple.

Height / Spread

The most popular and current houseplant style for the Sago Palm is smallish plants between a foot / 30cm and two foot / 60cm or so high. You can of course get significantly bigger plants if you search or order them from specialists. In general the plant you buy will stick at that height (or thereabouts) for a good many years. In perfect conditions after 100 years (yes you read that correctly) your plant might be 20 ft or more.

Flowers

The Sago Palm is a Cycad so will never produce flowers. Instead, these plants are either male or female and will have a corresponding sexual organ (no really, they do!), you can hand pollinate if you have a plant of each gender, but actually doing this is very rare for the average owner to attempt. Enjoy the plant for what it is.

Anything else?

We've mentioned it at the start of the article, but we're saying it again. This plant is very poisonous to cats and dogs and there is a high chance of serious damage or even death if any parts of this plant are consumed. Do not have this plant in your home if you have inquisitive pets or young children. There are many other non toxic houseplants to choose from so get something else instead.


Help! My Sago Palm is Dying

Yellow leaves on my houseplant

Sago Palm with yellowing leavesIn many cases, yellow leaves in a random spot like the one in the picture is a strong indication of some sort of burn caused by placing it in direct sunlight.

If the yellowing starts at the very tips or the very base of your plant then it's often a watering problem (normally too much).

It takes a very long time for Sago Palms to replace damaged leaves through new growth, so you need to be careful as your mistake will take a long time to be replaced by a new leaf.

My Sago Palm is hardly growing

Even if you give the very best conditions and treat your plant perfectly you won't get much growth from year to year. Sago Palms's simply do not grow quickly at all. A few new leaves each year is what most owners will get and that's your lot.

Red Spider Mites

Seeing as the Sago Palm isn't fussy about humidity it's entirely possible you've chosen a very dry spot for your plant. This may encourage Red Spider Mites which love dry air. If you notice sticky webbing check out our Pest Article for tips in getting rid of this pest.

Scale Insects

Fortunately the Sago Palm simply won't have enough "food" to support a large Colony of invading Scale Insects, but you may still get the odd solo visitor. Sometimes a simple blemish on a leaf might be mistaken for a Scale Insect so check this first. If you're sure it's Scale simply pick / scrap it off, or use a methylated spirit to dissolve it away.

My plant is just generally "sickly"

Many houseplants enjoy a spell outside of the home or office from time to time. If you think your plant is looking a bit peaky, give it a few months holiday in the back garden / yard (obviously this holiday needs to take place during the warmer months of the year). Direct sun should be avoided and if there are no drainage holes in the pot, take care rain doesn't cause it to become waterlogged. Don't forget to bring your plant back inside when Summer's over.


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