The sago palm plant is one of the most primitive living seed plants around today. You can recognize it by its rough trunk, topped with feathered rugged leaves. Although nicknamed sago palm, it is actually related to conifers and the ginkgo tree. According to Lynn McKamey of Rhapis Gardens, all cone bearing plants trace their origins back to the ancient flora of the early Mesozoic era. They are called “living fossils.” Cycads have changed little in the last 200 million years.
You can have your own “living fossil” because this plant is one of the easiest plants to grow indoors or out. They can tolerate temperatures from 15 to 110 degrees. They accept bright interior light or full sun. They also will tolerate some neglect. Sagos live a long time. A beautiful 220-year-old specimen is on display at the Royal Botanic Garden in England.
To propagate, you can plant from seed, but better to plant a SAGO offset called a “pup.” Cycads have both male and female plants. In our area, female sagos begin to flower and male sagos produce cones in May when it is time to pollinate. The offsets or “pups” growing at the base or along the sides of mature sagos are an excellent source of new plants. Remove them in early spring, late fall or winter by using a hand trowel to pop small ones free. A shovel or crow bar may be necessary to remove the larger offshoots. Set the pups aside to dry for a week or so after removing all the leaves and roots from them.
Plant in well-drained soil or a sandy mixture so that half the ball or trunk is below soil level. Water thoroughly. Let the soil become fairly dry before watering again. Lynn suggests starting the new pups in a shady area or bright indoor area as the roots slowly begin to form. The leaves will begin to appear several months later. Then you can add a weak application of fertilizer. When the plant has developed a good root system, you can replant into your yard or into a larger container.
Don’t bother your new sago much. Their new leaves are very tender then they harden. Low light will produce long leaves, while bright light will produce shorter leaves. If you are growing your plant in a window, a one quarter turn every day will give you a more balanced plant. Your sago will grow slowly but it could be here for a long time.Mark your calendar
More details soon on the March 20-21 Flower Show of the Magnolia Garden Club at the Phelan Mansion. Also, details to follow on the Annual Master Gardener Plant Sale on March 31 at the airport. Call Peggy at (409) 835-8461 if you are interested in a vendor booth at the plant sale.
Joette is an avid gardener and prides herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. To share your gardening news with Joette, call (409) 832-1400 or fax her at (409) 832-6222. Her e-mail is joreger [at] msn [dot] com.