By: Liz Baessler
Despite the name, sago palms are not actually palm trees. This means that, unlike most palms, sago palms can suffer if watered too much. Keep reading to learn more about water requirements for sago palm trees and tips on how and when to water sago palms.
How much water do sago palms need? During the growing season, they need moderate watering. If the weather is dry, the plants should be watered deeply every one to two weeks.
Sago palm watering should be done thoroughly. About 12 inches (31 cm.) away from the trunk, build up a 2 to 4 inch (5-10 cm.) high berm (a mound of dirt) in a circle surrounding the plant. This will trap water above the root ball, allowing it to drain straight down. Fill the space inside the berm with water and allow it to drain down. Repeat the process until the top 10 inches (31 cm.) of soil are moist. Don’t water in between these deep waterings–allow the soil to dry out before doing it again.
Water requirements for sago palm trees that have just been transplanted are a little different. In order to get a sago palm established, keep its root ball consistently moist for the first four to six months of growth, then slow down and allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
Not everyone can grow a sago outside in the landscape so sago palm watering for those that are container grown is often performed. Potted plants dry out more quickly than plants in the garden. Watering a potted sago palm is no different.
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Read more about Sago Palms
Sago Palms (Cycas revoluta), one of the most primitive living seed plants, are very unusual and popular ornamentals. A rugged trunk, topped with whorled feathery leaves has lead to the common name "Sago Palm", however it is actually related to conifer and Ginko trees - all cone bearing plants which trace their origins back to the ancient flora of the early Mesozoic era. Often called "living fossils", Cycads have changed very little in the last 200 million years.
Although sago palms can grow in full sun exposure, they perform best in partially shaded areas. Too much direct sunlight can result in sun burnt foliage and plant stress. Partial shade also allows the leaves to grow larger, resulting in a bigger plant. Sago palms also need well-drained soil. Soggy conditions can cause rot problems, but the soil must retain enough moisture so it doesn't dry too quickly. A moderately sandy site amended with organic matter, such as compost, works well.
How much to give a palm each time you water? The rule of thumb is to provide as much water as the size of the container the palm is planted in. A palm, indoors or outside, in a 15-gallon container should get 15 gallons of water per irrigation. A palm in a 25-gallon container gets 25 gallons of water. The rule is only a guideline, however, and you can modify it to suit the circumstances. For example, during hot weather, the tree may need a little more.
Palms grown in the landscape also love moist soil. Water a palm grown in soil sufficiently to keep the soil moist. Keep your eye out for signs of water stress. These include slow growth and browning on the tips of the oldest leaves. In some species, you can tell the plant is suffering from water stress when leaflets wilt or fold at about the midrib. The trunk can also hollow out or collapse.
If you worry about not being able to tell, invest in an electronic soil moisture meter or a soil probe. The probe gets pushed into the ground near the palm. When you pull it out, it contains soil from below the surface. If the soil the probe removes is moist, don't water.
stux / Pixabay
To create a truly “prehistoric” indoor foliage garden, take a look at the other ancient survivors of the plant world. The “Zamia furfuracea”—otherwise known as the “Cardboard Palm”—is native to Eastern Mexico. It’s pretty spectacular, with a swollen, woody trunk and large fern-like leaves.
The “Encephalartos altensteinii” is another palm-like Cycad, native to the Eastern Cape in Southern Africa. This has a rather funny Greek-derived name that means “bread in the head”.
This name comes from the ancient practice of removing the pith from the cycad’s highly toxic stem and burying it in the hot ground for two months or so. After this time, the stem is dug up and kneaded by hand into bread, then baked in fire embers. Apparently, during the two months underground, the poisonous toxins within the pith are destroyed and all the family have a hearty meal.
I’m not sure that I’ll give this a go, but I’m still stuck on something about this pre-historic plant life!