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SAGO PALMS

 

 

Sagopalms add an attractive tropical touch to just about any landscape. Theircommon name implies they are a palm, but they are not.  In fact Sago Palms (Cycas revoluta) are classified as Gymnospermswhich include Conifers and Ginkgo. Sagos are members of the Cycadaceae familywhich dates back to the Mesozoic Era. They are thought to have evolved fromseed ferns millions of years ago. Why is this relevant? Because here in theDesert Southwest it is dangerous to feed them in the summer like you would mostgenuine Palm Trees.

 

Introduction

Sago Palms – Male & Female

Potential Problems and Treatments

YellowingLeaves

LeafSensitivity

FrizzleTop

Similar Symptoms – Different Causes

Fertilization

BalancedFertilization

Pruning

Insects

Cold Temperatures

Watering

Designing with Sagos

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Sago Palms are relatively easy plants to grow in the landscape. In the Desert they grow best in afternoon shade. Soils should be well drained with a near neutral soil pH (6.5 to 7.0).  Good luck finding that!

 

You will want mulch and amend your soil at least once a year with adequate organic material or sulfur. A liquid sulfur like Con-Grow is very effective. Sagos respond well to regular fertilization during the early growing season, March through May.  (top)

 

 

Sago Palms – Male & Female

There areseparate male and female plants which form their reproductive structures(cones). The female plants produce a round fuzzy mass in the center of the leafmass. Males form an elongated cone like structure. Bright orange seeds matureon the female plant in the fall. Plants can be propagated by removing androoting a side shoot (pup). Also, if you want to propagate from seed, wait tocollect the seed after the cones fall apart. Otherwise the embryo is not fullydeveloped and germination is not likely.  For best results, remove the outerpulp and treat the seed with Gibberellic acid to achieve a high percentage ofgermination.  (top)

 

 

 

 

Potential Problems and Treatments

 

Yellowing Leaves: If the plant is watered too frequently, the roots will lack the ability to obtain the nutrients (and oxygen) from the soil, and yellowing throughout the plant can occur. Most often the yellowing from nutrient deficiency will show up on leaves with the most severe sun exposure. Of course if the plant is not properly fertilized or the soil pH prohibits the fertilizer from being taken up, these same symptoms will appear. Sun scorch can occur in a weakened plant.

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Leaf Sensitivity:

Also tobe noted; the leaves of the Sago Palm are very sensitive to environment stress.They will often develop yellow speckles if battered by a hail storm or show“yellow tracks” if cold water is applied when they are in hot weather, or if injuredby a falling hose for example. These types of yellowing are usually temporaryand should not cause concern.

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Frizzle Top: One of the most frequent problems with sago palms is frizzle top caused by a manganese (not to be confused with magnesium) deficiency. It is common in high pH soils and very acid sandy soils. Early symptoms are a yellowing of the leaves, sometimes in the form of spots and eventually covering the entire leaf. New growth will emerge with a zig-zag appearance giving it the name frizzle top. 

 

If youhave this problem, check the soil pH and also check the soil moisture. Too muchwater can cause root damage so the plants are unable to take up nutrients. Tocorrect frizzle top, spray the leaves with liquid manganese sulfate at the rateof 1 teaspoon per gallon water monthly for 3 months. Also apply 1 to 5 pounds(depending on plant size) of manganese sulfate to the soil annually to keep theproblem at bay. Even if you don't have the problem, it's a good idea to applymanganese sulfate to the soil annually in September to prevent the problem.  (top)

 

 

Similar Symptoms – Different Causes

Whetherthe weakened condition is from disease, nutrient or the plants insufficientlyestablish roots, the look will be similar,, while the treatment is different.Sago Palms are a safer bet in afternoon shade as the most often will yellow inthe summer until they acclimate. Proper fertilization and sulfur soilamendments will help the plant to recover from most nutrient issues. Deepinfrequent watering (depending on soil type) is vital to plant health.  (top)

 

 

Fertilization

If youare trying to increase plant size, fertilize established plants with a highnitrogen fertilizer like our Palm Tree Food. Remember though, the instructionsfor feeding on the label are for genuine Palms, avoid summer fertilization!Refer to label instructions for fertilizer rates. The reason for using a"palm tree fertilizer" is that it contains magnesium and essentialmicro nutrients. Typically, sagos only produce one growth flush (crown) peryear but may be forced to develop 2 with regular fertilization.  (top)

 

 

Balanced Fertilization

When certain and various nutrients are used at highconcentrations, they can lock up other minor elements. There is a directrelationship between Manganese and Iron. Many people have noticed that theirpalms get a Manganese deficiency after using a fertilizer high in Iron as theonly added micro element. Make sure you fertilize with a balance of these twoimportant micro-nutrients. Adequate sulfates will also be needed to maintain areasonably decent pH level.

 

After correcting the nutrient deficiency the next newleaves that are produced should come out looking normal. It takes a few weeksfor this to work, so if by chance your sago produced leaves within a few days,then you may need to wait a bit more. Typically a plant in this condition willnot flush new leaves very quickly. If you can add some regular palm tree foodat the same time (weather conditions permitting) this will produce new leavesmuch faster.   (top)

 

 

Pruning

Often folks will cut off all the old leaves to help forceout a new flush, but if the plant is not ready to flush soon, this can draineven more energy out of the plant. If one application does not work, I wouldtake the time to check the pH in the soil. Your pH may be so alkaline that youmay need to use a product specially made to lower the pH.

SagoPalms are suspected by some to be vulnerable to various fungus disease causingleaf spots, though nutritional deficiencies may be just as likely to blame.  (top)

 

 

Insects

Scaleinsects are common on Sago Palms. Inspect the underside of leaves on a regularbasis especially if you notice leaf yellowing or a black sooty mold. Tocontrol, treat with Insecticidal Oils (weather permitting) or Spinosad®or other pesticide listed for scale. Remember: always treat the underside ofthe leaves.  (top)

 

 

Cold Temperatures  

Sagos willoften be seen draped in blankets or burlap during freezing temperatures. The leavesare quite cold sensitive and may turn brown. As long as the central growingarea is not damaged, the plants will likely recover.

The brownedleaves will not likely green up again. So, these can be removed once the threatof cold weather is over, usually April. Damaged leaves, even though unsightly,offer some cold protection in the event of another freeze. Injured or colddamaged Sago Palms will often develop side shoots in response to the injury. Ifthese are removed, treat the wound areas with a general fungicide.  (top)

 

Watering

ThoughSago Palms are not really drought tolerant plants, they do not do well when thesoil is overly wet. Watering too often, or poor drainage can produce symptomssimilar to under-watering. Deep infrequent water will produce to healthiestroot system. To know how often “infrequent” actually is, you need to knowdrainage. Use a moisture meter to find out what’s happening to the water thatyou give your plants. Read Gardening Tip #1012.

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Designing with Sagos

SagoPalms are one of natures most beautiful and showy small trees here in thedesert southwest. You can use them to create a tropical oasis in the rightlocation. Surround them with larger trees or shrubs, or add other tropical likeIris, daylilies or even yuccas to bring life to your little portion of ourdesert.

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