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Sago Palm Tree

Sago Palm tree in the wild

The scientific name for the Sago Palm is – Cycas revoluta.  The Sago "Palm" is actually a cycad. Cycads are known to be among the oldest plants on earth, unchanged for millions of years, originating in East Africa. This slow-growing palm is very cold-hardy and can grow in zone 7b. This palm can be grown in states like Alaska, Alabama, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and more.

Sago Palm Tree Info

Scientific name: Cycas revoluta

Common names: It is also called Japanese Sago Palm, King Sago Palm, and Sago Cycas.

Family: Arecaceae

Origin: Native to Japan.

Appearance: Young specimens have thick shaggy subterranean trunk 8-10 inches in diameter.  Trunks can branch multiple times, creating multiple heads of leaves. As the palm matures, it might produce suckers at its base forming a large multi-stem clump over time.

The Sago Palm has pinnate, or feather-like leaves that are 4-5ft long and 10 inches wide. The Sago Palm Tree is a very symmetrical plant with fronds growing in a circular pattern creating a rosette. Leaves are dark green, glossy, with stiff, pointed leaflets. Leaflets are narrow, only 4-7 inches long, and have strongly recurved edges. In late spring or early summer, sagos produce light green spikes of new leaves, called a ‘break’. They slowly unfold growing to the ultimate length of the leaf.

Flowers/Fruits: It takes Sago Palm around 13 years to start to bloom. The Sago Palm is dioecious, meaning that each plant is either male or female. The female inflorescence is feather-like, later forming a tightly packed seed head, closely covered by whitish miniature leaves. The male cone is pineapple-shaped. When it is time to pollinate, female sagos begin to flower and male sagos produce cones.

Growth Rate: Slow. Cycas revoluta is a very slow-growing palm that can get up to 7-10ft tall. It could take 70-100 years for the Sago Palm to reach its maximum height.

Outdoor/Indoor Use: Both.

Cold Tolerance: The Sago Palm can tolerate cold weather down to 5F. Leaves may be damaged and turn yellow at temperatures below 10 degrees. It is great for growing in USDA Zones 7b (5 to 10 F) to 11 (above 40 F).

Light Req: Partial shade.

Water Req: Moderate. The soil for growing this palm should be well-drained and rich in humus.

Maintenance: Easy. To prevent nutritional deficiency, apply good quality palm fertilizer that has continuous release formula twice a year during the growing season.

Insects and Diseases: If you notice that your Sago palm is getting yellow leaves, be aware that the natural course of leaves on plants, including palms and cycads, is first green, then turning yellow, and finally brown. The yellow stage is where the frond is losing its chlorophyll as it is being reabsorbed into the plant. The final brown stage is the completion of the nutrient re-absorption process and is nothing to worry about.

If you cut off sago fronds too soon, you are actually depriving your sago palm of its natural technique to conserve nutrients. The best is to wait until a frond is totally brown and shriveled up into small pieces.

The exception to not being worried about yellow or brown fronds on your sago palm is if they are occurring in the center “new growth” area. If new fronds soon turn yellow and head for brown, you have a nutrition problem. You are not feeding properly. Sometimes sago palm may take a year or two or more to develop the “quick yellowing” symptom. Don’t let that fool you.

Bugs may also be the problem, but not nearly as likely as improper feeding. Poor drainage may also be the problem, but not if your sago palm is well established in its location. Newly planted in your soil or a pot, poor drainage is a suspicion. A final suspicion for newly planted sago is that you planted it too deep.

Propagation: Propagation of sago palms is either by seed or by removal of offshoots or pups. Seeds will germinate within 3-9 months. But it may require more than three years of growth to reach a small bulb size of 1″ in diameter.

Soak the seed in water for several days, then remove the red skin, but leave the white hard seed coat. Plant the seed in well-drained soil.

Sago palms can be propagated by offsets or pups. Remove the pups growing at the base or along the sides of mature Sagos. Remove all the leaves and roots from the pups. Allow the raw spot to dry and plant in well-drained soil or a sandy mixture so that half the ball or trunk is below soil level. Water thoroughly to ensure rapid growth.

Roots will slowly begin to form and the first leaves appear several months later. At that time, apply a mild dose of fertilizer and water when almost, but not completely dry. Before re-potting, allow the new plants to form a good root system.

Top 20 Facts And Benefits Of The Sago Palm Tree


  1. The Sago Palm, scientifically known as Cycas revoluta, is not a true palm but a cycad, one of the oldest groups of plants dating back to prehistoric times.

  2. It's native to southern Japan including the Ryukyu Islands.

  3. This plant is known for its feather-like leaves and rough trunk, which gives it a palm-like appearance.

  4. Sago palms are slow growers, typically adding just 1-2 inches of height per year.

  5. It's a popular ornamental plant due to its aesthetic appeal and relatively low maintenance.

  6. Despite its tropical origins, the sago palm is surprisingly cold hardy, able to withstand temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

  7. The sago palm is dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female plants.

  8. Female sago palms produce a type of "fruit" known as a seed cone, while males produce a pollen cone.

  9. The sago palm is highly toxic to humans and animals if ingested, due to the presence of a neurotoxin called cycasin.

  10. Despite this toxicity, the sago palm has been a source of starch for many cultures, particularly in Southeast Asia, after carefully processing to remove the toxins.

  11. The starch, known as sago, is a staple food item in many regions and is used to make puddings, noodles, and bread.

  12. Sago palm's starch is gluten-free, making it a good alternative for people with gluten intolerance.

  13. Sago is also low in fat and high in carbohydrates, providing a quick energy boost.

  14. The sago palm is very resilient and can survive in a variety of soil types, from sandy to clay, as long as the soil drains well.

  15. It prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

  16. Although the sago palm is resistant to pests, it can sometimes be affected by scale insects.

  17. The plant's lifespan is extremely long, with some specimens living for several centuries.

  18. In traditional medicine, different parts of the sago palm are used to treat various ailments, though caution must be exercised due to its toxicity.

  19. The sago palm is also used in bonsai, due to its ability to withstand heavy pruning and its slow growth rate.

  20. Despite its toxicity, the sago palm contributes to biodiversity, providing food and habitat for various insects and fungi.

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