The Sago Palm is a unique and beautiful plant that will grace any warmer garden, or it can be grown in a container and enjoyed in cooler gardens too. It is not really a palm tree, but it has a similar thick, hairy trunk and a rosette of feathery leaves at the top, indeed looking similar to a small palm tree. It is hardy in zone 7 and everywhere warmer, and can even take a little snow without damage. This beautiful plant will grow slowly into a small tree several feet tall, and eventually much taller, and will in time produce side plants, making a gorgeous clump that is an elegant feature in any garden. The leaves are like a bird’s feather, with stiff, thin and shiny leaflets growing of a central stem. They radiate from the top of the trunk in a symmetrical circle and resemble an elegant and special palm, although this plant is more closely related to a spruce tree than to a palm tree.
- Graceful palm-like specimen plant
- Grows outdoors easily in the warmer parts of the country
- Simple to grow in pots for many years and can be overwintered indoors
- Glossy, deep green leaves top a thick, dark-brown trunk
- Unique ‘living fossil’ from the age of dinosaurs
Plant your Sago Palm in a sunny or lightly-shaded spot, in well-drained soil. As it matures it will produce young side-stems from the base of the main trunk, forming a broad clump that will become a stunning feature in your garden. Mature plants are very valuable, so your Sago Palm is an investment too. It has no pests or diseases and will grow with a minimum of care, being drought-resistant as well.
The Sago Palm is instantly recognizable for its unique appearance, somewhat like a palm tree, but with shiny, stiff leaves, instead of the softer leaves seen on most palm trees. The leaves form a perfect rosette at the top of the plant, with a short, thick trunk covered with brown fibers, again like a palm tree. This is a wonderful plant to bring a special appearance and appeal to any garden, especially in warmer areas, although the Sago Palm is also a great specimen to grow in a large pot or container, where it will live happily for many years. Just bring it into a well-lit area above freezing for the winter and it will really thrive for you.
Growing King Sago Palm Trees
The Sago Palm is an tough and easy plant to grow. It will grow in any well-drained soil and is not demanding for water – in fact it is quite drought-resistant and thrives in hot, dry locations, although it will grow faster with a little more water and some general care. This is a slow-growing plant, that can take many years to reach its maximum height of as much as 20 feet, but even smaller plants are extremely attractive and valuable. A young plant can be grown for years in a pot, and then eventually transplanted into the garden to become a full-grown specimen. No matter what size it is, this is always a beautiful, dramatic and eye-catching plant.
The trunk of the Sago Palm is thick and short, covered in dense, dark-brown thick hairs and the bases of older leaves. At the top is a rosette of leaves that on younger plants are about 12 inches long, but on older plants can be 3 feet long. Each leave consists of a central stem with many thin, tough side leaves, like a palm frond. The leaves are shiny, leathery and a rich green color. Younger plants have just one stem, but older plants will grow young plants from the base, eventually making a large clump of stems of various ages, with the whole clump growing to be 6 to 12 feet across, in time.
Plant your Sago Palm in a sunny location, although it will also grow well in partial shade. It will do best in well-drained, even sandy soil, but water it regularly when first planted. Later it will thrive without any additional watering and grow steadily to become a remarkable and elegant feature in any garden. It looks beautiful planted among other exotic plants, or in a gravel-mulched bed, in an Asian-themed garden – it is after all from Japan. It also can be grown in a beautiful container as a specimen on a balcony, terrace or patio, or around a pool, where it will bring a touch of tropical elegance you will really enjoy.
Care and Maintenance
It has no pests or diseases, but do not keep it constantly wet, but let it dry out before watering it deeply. Some general fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season will help keep it with a full, rich rosette of foliage, which is its most important feature.
History and Origins of the Sago Palm Tree
Although called a ‘palm’, the Sago Palm is not actually a palm tree at all, but one of a very ancient group of plants called Cycads. These remarkable plants are living fossils, dating back 300 million years, and are among the earliest plants living on land. They were alive with the dinosaurs, but many were destroyed in the mass extinction that destroyed the dinosaurs as well. The 300 species that exist today are all that are left. Cycads are the ancestors of conifers, the needle trees that we grow, such as pine, spruce, juniper and cypress. If you keep your Sago Palm for many years it will eventually form seed heads that look a lot like giant fir cones, proving its connection to conifers.
The Sago Palm itself is a native of southern Japan, including the Ryukyu Islands. It is the most common species used for the production of sago, a starch food eaten widely in the Pacific Ocean. It requires a complex process to remove toxic compounds from the sago, which is found in the trunk – so don’t be tempted to try and eat your Sago Palm.