Sago Palm / Cycas Revoluta

Sago Palm / Cycas Revoluta

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Deets: Sago palm (Cycas revoluta) isn't technically a true palm tree. These fairly low-growing plants with long green fronds are cycads, a group of ancient tropical and subtropical plants that usually grow from a trunk that doesn't branch out; it produces nuts but doesn't flower or fruit. Sago palms are native to warm parts of Japan and southern China.

Names: Sago palm, King Sago, Cycad, Japanese Sago

Light: Sago palms prefer bright, indirect light. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight. The scorching afternoon sun can wilt and burn the foliage in the summertime, and too much shade can result in sparse leaves and an unhealthy plant. When grown indoors, choose a bright east-, west-, or south-facing window. Indoor plants can be moved outside in warm weather as long as the container is in dappled sunlight.

Water: Sago palms have some drought tolerance, but they prefer a moderate amount of moisture in the soil. Water whenever the soil feels dry to the touch, making sure never to overwater to the point of soggy soil. Slightly reduce watering in the winter when the plant is not actively growing.

Pruning: Only prune sago palm when the leaves have turned completely brown. Keep yellowing leaves intact. They may not look pretty, but they are still absorbing nutrients for the plant. Removing yellowing leaves may spur further yellowing and worsen the plant's health. If you must remove some of the fronds, the safest to cut away are those along the bottom circumference of the plant. Using sterilized pruning shears or hand pruners, cut them as close to the trunk as possible.

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Extra Helpful Tips: 

Yellowing Leaves: Yellowing is common in older, outer leaves and can be attributed to the life cycle of that leaf. The bottom-most, lower ring of leaves are the oldest. Do not remove the leaves until they turn brown and die.

Insects can also cause yellowing, and if you haven't noticed any bugs on the plant, you can suspect a manganese deficiency in the soil. The yellowing will appear to affect all of the fronds. You can apply manganese sulfate powder to the soil two to three times annually to correct the problem. Yellowed leaves won't turn green, but subsequent foliage should look healthy.

Wilting Leaves and Leaf Drop: Root rot is a fungal infection often caused by too much water or using poorly draining, compacted soil. The fungus gets to the roots and destroys the plant from within. Another sign of root rot is an oozing, black sore or stain on the trunk. Root rot results in leaf wilt, discoloration, and leaves falling out. If you catch it early, you can remove infected foliage and treat the plant with a fungal spray or systemic fungicide. You might be able to save the plant. If the plant has lost too many leaves, it may be too far gone to salvage, but it's worth a try.

Little Black Spots on Foliage: Even if your plant has recovered from an insect strike, you might notice small black spots that look like dirt or soot on leaves or stems. Sooty mold is a fungus that grows on the secretions that tiny bugs leave behind. This fungus can be washed off the sago's leaves with a steady stream of water on each spot. The fungus will not feed on the sago, but it will grow if left unchecked and can overtake a plant's leaves, affecting chlorophyll production and photosynthesis.