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Now is the time to start new Sago Palms

Posted: June 21, 2014 - 11:11pm
Many Sego Palms in the area froze back during the winter but most have sprouted new growth from the core of the plant.   Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Many Sego Palms in the area froze back during the winter but most have sprouted new growth from the core of the plant.

A tropical ornamental with a rough trunk and thick featherlike fronds, the Cycas revoluta, or sago palm, has long been used as a choice plant for landscapes where the tropical effect is desired.

With trunks ranging in size from 1” to 12”, the sago palm is actually related to conifer and Ginko trees, all which bear cones and date back to the ancient plants of the early Mesozoic area.

The UGA Cooperative Exten­sion Service classifies the sago palm as a medium shrub and notes that though it is a slow grower, it can reach heights of 4 to 6 feet. It grows best in sun or semi-shade and can produce fronds on a single trunk or multiple trunks. The sago palm grows well in Zone 8, which includes the CSRA.

As a hearty plant for this area, the sago palm is often used in landscape designs. And, the plant can often produce offshoots, which are also called “pups.” Many homeowners are noticing that new palms are growing from the base of their larger palm.

According to Lynn McKamey with Rhapis Gardens, an online resource for unusual palms and exotic plants, the easiest way to harvest those offshoots is to pop them off of the mother plant. Frequently, when they are still young, they are easy to remove from the larger plant.

However, sometimes a trowel or shovel is needed to dig up larger pups.

“Remove the leaves from pups since they do not yet have roots and will no longer have mom supporting them,” writes McKamey in an article on her website. “If the pup does have a few roots, take those off too.”

McKamey notes that there is no need to worry; new leaves and roots will begin to grow in a few months.

Pups should be cleaned in a tub of water, set aside for a week or so to “harden off” and then allowed to dry. If kept in a cool, dry place, the pups can be stored for several months.

After the pups have been harvested and allowed to harden, the next step is to plant them in a soil that drains well.

“One of the most important steps in rooting Sago pups is to match the size of the pup to a pot only slightly larger,” explains McKamey.

“For example, if the pup bulb is 2” in diameter, we’ll use a 4” pot. It won’t need much room or soil at first until it grows new roots and the small pot size keeps it from staying too wet in an oversized container with far too much soil.”

Once the pot is filled with soil and watered well, the pup should be pushed halfway into the soil. If planted too deep, the pup may rot; if planted too shallow, the roots may not have enough surface to develop.

“The second most important thing is proper watering,” notes McKamey. “Allow the soil to become almost dry before watering again.”

Once the plant starts to grow roots, which will take several months, then it will begin to grow and will need watering more often.

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