Cycas revoluta, or Sago Palm, is a cycad native to Pacific Rim regions from Southern Japan to Java. They are believed to be one of the most primitive of the seed-bearing plants and, as gymnosperms, are related to conifers. In nature, the trunks will reach around 10 feet (3 m) in height, but in containers they stay relatively small. The glossy, deep green leaves are formed at the terminal crown and are 3 to 7 feet (1-2 m) long, producing one flush of leaves per year. They are very slow growers, which make them great Bonsai subjects. They are hardy in USDA zone 9-12.
Blooming Time: In containers, they very rarely produce cones. In nature they "bloom" in spring. They are dioecious having both male and female plants. Interestingly, sexuality in cycads is apparently controlled by sex chromosomes (unlike most higher plants).
Culture: Cycas revoluta are very adaptable. They grow well in full sun to partial shade to bright indirect light. The soil should be well drained. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 1 part peat moss to 2 parts loam to 2 parts sand or perlite. The plants are watered and allowed to thoroughly dry in between waterings. They are fertilized twice during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ½ the strength recommended on the label. Leaves will turn yellow from over-watering and from too much fertilizer.
Propagation: Cycas revoluta are propagated by the removal of offsets or by seed. Offsets growing around the base should be removed with a sharp knife or trowel. Remove all leaves and then set them aside for about a week so the wound can callus over. Then they are planted in a sandy soil with the offset placed halfway into the soil. Allow the soil to become nearly dry before watering again. Roots and leaves will slowly begin to appear. Be patient. This year, thanks to Kathy in South Texas, I got to try to grow Cycas from seed. You soak the seed until the skin is easily removed, and then they are planted with ½ of the seed above the soil line in a well-drained soil mix. Keep the soil moist but not wet. Seeds will germinate in 3-9 months from sowing.
Cycas revoluta was featured as Plant of the Week January 31-February 6, 2003.
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Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.