Sago Palm Trees, Cycas revoluta, are not technically a palm tree, even though it appears in form to be one. The Sago Palm is a primitive plant that has grown on the Earth for millions of years, and the leaves were eaten as food by the ancient dinosaurs. Very old specimens of the Sago Palm trees grow in China today, with an appearance much like palm trees, however, the largest imported Sago Palm growing in the Western world is a specimen 16 feet tall at Kew Gardens in England. The Largest specimen growing in the state of Georgia at Christ's Church, Frederica, on St. Simon's Island, Georgia, measures from the ground level to the top of the trunk (excluding the leaves) twelve feet and was planted at Christ's Church site by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in January of 1737. Christ's Church was established to offer worship services for early American Episcopalian settlers at Fort Frederica on St. Simon's Island, Georgia. John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley, pastor of Christ's Church at Fort Frederica Episcopalian Church both preached at this sacred Christian site located in Coastal Georgia. This Sago Palm tree growing at Christ's Church near Fort Frederica, Georgia, measures 15 feet tall including the leaves; numerous clones of offset Sago Palm trees are clustered at the bottom of this tree. The diameter of the Sago Palm tree is one foot at the base. After 270 years, the original Sago Palm tree growing at Christ's Church on St. Simon's Island, Georgia, has been multiplied dramatically into thousands of plants. That Sago Palm's offspring have been scattered from one end of St. Simon's Island to the other.
Sago Palm trees are reproduced in several ways, the most common being the germination of Sago Palm seeds. The Sago seed are slow sprouting and grow very slowly. Sago Palm trees grow separately on male and female plants, and many red Sago Palm seed can be produced from a female Sago plant each season. Clusters of Sago Palm plants grow around the base of the plant and may be easily removed to grow into many new plants. Large Sago Palm trees often grow leafy sprouts extending up and down the plant fully in leaf. Each Sago Palm sprout can be removed from a point on the trunk where the woody-bulb exits the mature Sago Palm trunk. These excised Sago Palm plants can be easily roots and grown into individual Sago Palm specimens. Sago Palm trees are easy to grow in full sun or even inside an office under artificial light. Occasionally, a very large Sago Palm tree will divide down the middle into two equal sized Sago Palm trees, and this phenomenon is preceded by the Sago Palm growing two or more heads.
Drought and harsh weather conditions do not appear to stress the Sago Palm trees, except when temperatures drop below 25 degrees F. If the 25*F temperatures coincide with high humidity, the leaves will, after a few days, turn brown and die, but a new flush of growing leaves will replace the dead Sago leaves in May or June. A Sago Palm tree growing at Tifton, Georgia, with a 3 foot tall trunk appeared to have frozen in the zero degrees Fahrenheit cold snap of 1984 and appeared dead until September of 1984 when the Sago Palm finally regrew due to the insulation of the hard dense outer layer of scales that surrounded the rim of the Sago Palm tree trunk.
The Sago Palm tree grows best in dry conditions, similar in treatment to desert adapted plants and normally do not show problems from a lack of water, except with the rapid new flush of leaf growth that appears in May and June. Water should be generously applied to Sago Palm plants during active growth flushes. As stated previously, the Sago is an extremely slow growing palm tree, rarely exceeding one-half inch of growth in height in a single year. This slow growth factor appears to be a contradiction, if a gardener considers the sudden appearance and lush growth of new green leaves of the Sago Palm in May and June, when the surge of cellular leaf expansion parallels the amazing growth surge of bamboo canes and banana tree maturity.
In the South, Sago Palm trees are often planted as single landscape specimens or as clusters, where cold winters are not a consideration, however, most Sago Palm trees are grown commercially for containerizing and placing outside near patios or pools for that tropical accent.
For growing in containers inside offices, few palm trees are as undemanding at Sago Palm plants that seem to survive forever, if the pot is watered once each week. The Sago Palm plant, when containerized, keeps its shape best if the container is rotated a half turn each week facing toward the light source. Fertilizing Sago Palm trees in containers should be infrequent with a liquid fertilizer, 10-10-10, once in the spring, but never during the fall or winter.
Because the Sago Palm tree grows so slowly, it is a favorite choice for bonsai growers. The planting soil or medium used on Sago Palm trees should be well drained, as a Sago Palm will not tolerate “extended wet roots.” Organic soils with sand included as a 50-50 mixture appears to favor the best Sago Palm growing.
As an easily grown landscape tree for that tropical accent in a Southern garden landscape specimen, the Sago Palm tree offers many benefits. For Northern gardeners or hosts for indoor tropical plants, the sago palm is a good choice for the courtyard, patio, pool, or office.