Repotting Sago Palm Trees: How And When To Repot A Sago Palm

Repotting Sago Palm Trees: How And When To Repot A Sago Palm

By: Liz Baessler

Sturdy, long-lived, and low maintenance, sago palms are excellent houseplants. They are relatively slow growing, and may only need repotting every one or two years. When the time comes, however, it’s important to move your sago palm to a new container to ensure its healthy growth. Keep reading to learn how to repot a sago palm plant.

When to Repot a Sago Palm

How do you know when to repot a sago palm? Often, the plant itself will tell you. Sago palms’ roots are surprisingly large for the size of their foliage. Even if your palm looks modest above ground, you may notice roots escaping through drainage holes, water taking a long time to drain, or even the sides of your container bulging out. This means it’s time to repot!

In warm areas, you can do this any time during the growing season. In areas with short summers, late winter or early spring is optimal. If your palm is really bursting out of its container, however, repotting it right away is more important than waiting for the right time of year.

Repotting Sago Palm Trees

When choosing a new container for sago palm transplanting, go for depth rather than width so your roots have more space to grow down. Look for a container that’s 3 inches (7 cm) wider and/or deeper than your current one.

An ideal sago palm potting mix drains very quickly. Mix your regular potting soil with plenty of grit such as pumice, sand, or peat moss. Once your potting mix is prepared, it’s time to transplant.

Because of their large, tight root balls and sturdy trunks, repotting sago palm trees is easy. Turn your current container on its side and grip the trunk firmly in one hand. With the other hand, pull on the container. It should come away easily, but if it doesn’t, try squeezing and shaking it gently. Be careful not to bend the trunk of the palm, though, as this can break the heart of the palm in the center of the trunk.

Once the plant is free, hold it in the new container and pile sago palm potting mix under and around it so that the soil reaches the same level on the plant as before. Water liberally, then place it in a sunny spot.

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Sago Palm Transplanting - Learn When And How To Repot A Sago Palm Plant - garden

Q: We added a pool to our backyard in late summer. Our landscaper planted five 15 gallon sago palms. He said sago’s can survive Atlanta winters. Now that we have had freezing weather, some are turning brown/yellow. Are they dying?

A: Wow – the damage is pretty serious. Your situation highlights the danger of assuming that global warming means that temperatures will uniformly rise. In fact, while temp’s may average higher in a year or a decade, the swings between high and low temperatures may get worse.

We had a balmy December but early January lows in the ‘teens reminded us that Georgia does have cold weather.

Sago palms are known to survive temperatures as low as 15 degrees F. but their exposure to wind and the length of the cold spell make a huge difference. Temperatures in the low 20’s and high ‘teens cause damage like you see.

Remove all of the damaged fronds and see what happens. If the woody center of the plant didn’t freeze, you might get vigorous new growth in May.

frozen sago palm

healthy sago palm

Q: How large does the root system of a sago palm get?

Q: I want to plant a couple of sago palms near my septic system but I am concerned about the roots growing into the system. How large does the root system get?

A: My first thought was to consider the environmental issue so I contacted the environmental health department in Nassau County regarding any regulation addressing the distance trees or shrubs should be planted from septic tanks. The environmental health department stated there is no regulation regarding the distance of shrubs and trees from septic tanks but roots are the main reason for septic tank damage and failure.

Sagos and other palms do not have woody roots like most of our woody ornamentals but they are massive and will continue to grow in length as long as the palm is alive. It might be best if you avoid planting shrubs and trees near the septic tank area.

However, if you want something decorative near the area you might consider planting turfgrass and we have plenty of options as long as the area is in full sun. You might also consider a small ornamental grass like muhly grass ( Muhlenbergia capillaris) since the roots are generally only 6-8 inches in length and should not interfere with the operation of the septic tank. Muhly grass is particularly attractive when it produces masses of thin plumes in colors ranging from whites to pinks to reds and purples in the late summer early fall. Various natural varieties are found in pine flatwoods, sandhills, moist hammocks, and beach dunes. I have even seen it appear locally along the roadsides and it can be grown throughout the entire state. Muhly grass grows well in a large variety of soil types, it is highly drought and salt tolerant, and can handle full sun to partial shade. It sounds like the perfect plant, right?

Houseplants forum→Fuzz on Sago Palm?

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I bought this Sago Palm on clearance several weeks ago. The fronds were yellowing and it was in a tiny pot - I decided to buy it and give it a whirl and see if I could bring it to life. The fronds are almost completely yellow at this point and I was informed that they basically couldn't be saved, but it might grow new fronds and keep living. I don't know why it started to die to begin with. When I repotted it, the roots were white so I don't suspect root rot caused the initial yellowing. Unfortunately at the time I only had regular potting soil and put it in that, I've been a bit hesitant to repot it yet again if it's still stressed. It's been next to an East-facing window for most of its time with me, and today I put it next to a South-facing window to get more sun. I've watered it maybe twice in the 3 weeks I've had it, just a little bit the second time, and made sure that the soil stays mostly dry. The soil was hard as a rock when I got it originally.

Today I found this fur on the crown, as well as the red fuzz going up the spine of the fronds. Is this normal? Is this something I can fix?

I can post other pics of the plant if need be.

Fact sheet: Sago Palm

Family: Cycadaceae, cycad family.

Genus: Cycas stems from the Greek name cyca, which means “palm.” Cycas are gymnosperms and, though palm-like, they are unrelated to true palms, which are actually angiosperms (flowering plants).

Species: The species name revoluta stems from the Latin word revolut, which means “rolled back.” The name refers to the leaflets of the sago palm, which curl under.

Common Names: Sago Palm, King Sago Palm, Japanese Sago Palm
Many common names for this and other cycads include the word “palm” because these plants have a superficial resemblance to palm trees. The term “sago” refers to a type of edible starch that can be extracted from these plants. Sago is used as a food source in Asia, particularly in New Guinea. Most sago is commercially extracted from a type of palm, Metroxylon sagu, which is sometimes called “true sago palm” to distinguish it from this cycad species.

Description: This evergreen cycad is native to the tropical islands of southern Japan, but it grows well in the subtropics of the United States, particularly in Florida, California, Georgia, and Puerto Rico. Sago palm grows well in full sun or partial shade but exhibits larger leaves in more shaded situations. Slow growing, the sago palm can reach heights of up to 15 feet in 50 years. Leaves are pinnately compound, 4 to 5 feet long, and up to 9 inches wide. The dark-green, stiff leaflets have a linear shape with a shiny upper surface. They are approximately 4 inches long, have revolute or curled under margins, and an acuminate or pointed tip. The trunk of the sago palm is dark brown and thick, and appears shaggy. Plants are either male or female and the reproductive structures are found in the center of the plant. The male organ resembles a large yellow cone that reaches lengths of up to 2 feet. The female organ resembles a yellow furry globe, and it houses many bright orange seeds that are 2 inches in diameter.

Allergen: Male plants are considered moderately allergenic, but female plants cause little to no allergies.

Commercial/Practical: Historically, the inner bark of the sago palm was used as a food source in Japan during times of famine. However, sago palm contains a powerful neurotoxin that can cause paralysis or even death if it is not prepared properly. The seeds can also be poisonous to humans and animals if ingested. Today, the dried leaves of this plant are commonly used as accents in floral arrangements.

Horticultural: This cycad can thrive both indoors and outdoors. Once it becomes established outdoors, sago palm is considered to be drought resistant but not freeze tolerant. In the Florida yard, it is a great accompaniment to other palms and thick grasses. Sago palm also makes a great walkway border, but it should be placed where bare skin will not contact or brush against the sharp, pointed tips of its leaflets. Depending on the available planting space, an important growth trait to consider is that male plants tend to branch out more than do female plants. More importantly, take caution when using this plant as an accent in home landscapes, since it contains a strong neurotoxin that can paralyze or even kill animals or humans who ingest it. In Japan, a bonsai variety of sago palm (Cycas nana) is created by packing sand around the plant’s roots and rationing the amount of water it receives. This stunts the palm’s growth, giving it a bonsai-like appearance. In Florida, one of the greatest damaging agents to this species is the cycad aulacaspis scale (Aulacaspis yasumatsui). Information on how to manage this insect can be found at the following website:

Sold at Nassau County Master Gardener Plant Sale

Watch the video: How to Relocate a Sago Palm - Cycas Revoluta