Although Sago Palms resemble palm trees, they actually belong to the cycad family. The name Sago Palm comes from their similarity to palm trees; however, they are genetically closer to pine trees than palm trees! Native to Japan and Southern China, Sago Palm Trees are remarkably resilient and among the oldest living plants on the planet. They are often referred to as “living fossils”, because they have existed for over 10 million years, with their genetic composition largely unchanged. 

sago palm tree indoor potted

The Sago Palm is a low growing plant with a stout trunk and long, feathery leaves that resemble palm fronds. They do not have branches and have dark green arching leaves that form in a circular pattern from the center, giving the plant a tropical and exotic appearance. This is the reason why people refer to it as a Sago Palm tree- it looks like a compact adult palm. 

Sago Palms are dioecious plants, meaning they do not flower or produce fruit; instead, they produce a nut. This nut is not edible, it is actually poisonous. Other examples of dioecious plants include Pygmy Date Palms, Asparagus, and Spinach. 

Types of Sago Plant Palms: 

There are three types of Sago Palms:

  1. King Sago (Cycas revoluta):  Also known as Sago Cycad, Japanese Sago, and some even call it Saga Palm. It is the most commonly cultivated Sago. It is ideal as a patio or indoor plant due to its compact size, ease of care and slow growth. 
  2. Queen Sago (Cycas rumphii): Native to Southeast Asia, this type of Sago grows up to 15 ft tall and is typically planted outdoors in warm areas. 
  3. True Sago (Metroxylon sagu): Also native to Southeastern Asia, this is the only Sago that is technically a palm, and grows in the wild up to 30 feet tall. It only flowers once in its lifetime, and is a source of sago starch used for cooking. 
sago palm trees for landscaping

Where is the best place to plant my Sago Palm? 

King Sago Palm trees are slow growing, easy to maintain plants that thrive both as houseplants and when planted on the ground outdoors (given the right conditions). They are often planted in containers and used as patio palms or indoor plants. They are very adaptable, and with proper care and suitable conditions, they can live up to 200 years. 

King Sagos are subtropical plants that are also moderately cold-hardy, and can withstand temperatures down to 30°F. They can be planted in three different scenarios, depending on the grow zone and and temperature:

  • Ground Planting: Best for warm climates anywhere  grow zones 9 through 11.

  • Patio Containers: Suitable for areas with mild climates, anywhere from grow zone 4-9 where they can be moved indoors when temperatures fall below 30°F. 

  • Indoors: Ideal for plant lovers everywhere! These plants love warm, humid environments so they are a great exotic looking indoor plant.

How big do Sago Palms get? 

King Sago Palms, the most compact and commonly cultivated Sago Palm, reaches sizes of up to 10-12 feet when in hot-humid weather and planted on the ground. However, they are so slow growing it takes them up to 50 years to reach their mature height. Although they can grow up to 12 feet, they are usually found at average heights of 6-7 feet, and grow at a rate of 6-10 inches per year.

group of sago palm trees

The slow growth rate and compact size makes Sagos fantastic indoor plants, in fact, they are considered one of the “10 best indoor palms”, for their good looks and slow growth. For indoor plants, slow growth is a good thing because the growth won't get out of control and they only need to be transplanted into new containers every three years. 

Sago Palm Care

Sunlight: Sago Palms thrive in many different light environments, so one might ask oneself when planting a Sago: Do Sago Palms prefer sun or shade environments? The truth is, they like a little of both. When outside, they tend to prefer a mix of part sun, part shade, although they can adapt to full sun if necessary. Direct sun can scorch their leaves, and too much shade can make their leaves grow sparse. The ideal is a partially sunny and shady area, or if indoors, near a window. 

Soil: Sago Palms can be planted in containers or on the ground and thrive in most soils as long as there is good drainage. 

Water: Palm Sagos need consistent, thorough watering, but be cautious of overwatering or using containers with poor drainage, as this can cause fungal issues. 

Fertilization: For best results, fertilize Sago Palm three times throughout the growing season (between Spring and Summer). 

Pruning: Sago Palm Trees do not need regular pruning, simply remove any brown fronds from the base to maintain a healthy appearance. Avoid cutting yellow leaves, as they are still producing nutrients for the plant.  

What are the Disadvantages of Sago Palms?

  1. Yellowing Leaves: It is common for leaves in Sagos to turn yellow at times. If this happens at the base of the plant, it is part of the natural process. Yellow leaves at the top may indicate issues such as rot, fungus, pests, or nutritional deficiencies. Don't worry it is part of their process. They will eventually turn brown and will fall off. 

  2. Poisonous: King Sago Palms are poisonous to both humans and animals when ingested, so caution is advised. 

  3. Prone to pests: Sago Palm can be susceptible to fungal diseases and cycad scale insects. These conditions can be treated with fungicide and insecticide. 

The Sago Palm is a fascinating and resilient plant that brings a distinctive charm to any garden or indoor space. Its unique appearance and low-maintenance care requirements make it an ideal choice for both novice and experienced gardeners. With proper care, it can thrive for years, adding a timeless appeal to your garden or indoor space.

Buy your Sago Palm from a reputable source such as Atlanta Palms, for expert guidance and quality you can trust. 

sago palm tree

Frequently Asked Questions About Sago Palms

Why are my Sago Palm leaves turning yellow?

The reason your Sago leaves are turning yellow depends on where in the palm this is happening. It is not a pretty sight, as long as they are in the base of the plant (the ones in the bottom) it doesn't signal there is anything wrong with your plant. Yellowing leaves on the top of the plant may signal a problem such as rot, fungus, unwanted insects, or a nutritional deficiency. 

When do Sago palms grow new leaves?

Sago Palms grow new leaves once a year during the growing season between Spring and Summer. 

How do I trim my Sago Palm?

Sago Palms do not need to be trimmed. Only the brown leaves should be removed. 

Is it safe to touch Sago Palms?

Yes, Sago Palms are safe to touch. Just as long as you don't ingest any part of the Sago.

Are Sago Palm poisonous to dogs?

Yes, all parts of the Sago Palm are highly poisonous, especially the seed.