The Truth About Sago Palms

Cycas revoluta & Other Species

Sago palms are popular landscape plants in the coastal south. Cycas revoluta’s rough brown trunk and tuft of dark green fronds have deceived many people into thinking it is a palm tree.

It really isn’t. It’s a cycad.

In fact, the plant family that these palm tree lookalikes are most closely connected to are the conifers.

Cycas revoluta growing at Leu Gardens in Orlando, FL.

Cycas revoluta, the king sago, looks best when planted in groups.

Cycads are “living fossils”.

They are so called because the genus is believed to have been around since the time of the dinosaurs.

Sagos are not the only cycads in existence today, but they are the best selling cycad in the world.

They boast thick, usually straight, trunks. They are sometimes planted at a slight angle for dramatic effect.

With proper care, Sagos can live to be very old. With age, they can grow 10 feet of trunk. This can take the slow-growing types most of a human life span. The leaves can grow to lengths of 3-4 feet or longer if the plants are grown in the shade.The sago palm in the center of this front yard has formed a double crown.

The trunks can branch, though this is rare. If they do, each branch will form its own tuft of leaves.

Interesting Tidbits on Sago Sexuality

A male Cycas taitungensis, the emperor or prince Sago, with his reproductive cone at the ready.

Like all Cycads and unlike most other plants, Sago palms reproduce sexually.

I won’t go into graphic detail about the process here. If you want the saucy details, you can find them on this page about growing Sagos from seed.

I will tell you this:

Temp Tip:

Sagos are hardy to about 20 degrees F.

If you live above zone 9a, you can grow one as a houseplant.

The males sometimes have more than one reproductive organ. The plant in the picture above has 2 but I have seen specimens displaying as many as 4.

I have never noticed more than one reproductive organ on a female. Hmmm…

The males of many species in the animal kingdom go out of their way to make a spectacle of themselves during mating season. I wonder if this is just another such case.

Meet the Sago Family

Queen sago palms in a sultry central Florida garden.

This royal clan consists of a handsome king (C. revoluta), a beautiful queen (C. circinalis) and a stately price who moonlights as an emperor (C. taitungensis).

The prince Sago is the fastest growing and most cold tolerant of the 3.

The slow-growing king Sago is the most compact and the queen is the most tropical-looking member of the family.

Growing Sago Palms

Buy a 3′ Sago – Small Palm TreeBuy a 5′ Sago – Medium Palm Tree

You can buy a pup and make a bonsai out of it. Or grow a small sago tree in a decorative pot. They are slow growing and tolerant of dry air and shade. They adapt well to pot culture.

Give your potted palms a summer vacation outdoors in the shade each year and good air circulation when they are inside and these Jurassic plants will inspire conversation in your home for many years.

Sago palms are toxic to dogs, cats, horses and people. Do not ingest any part of this plant.

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