How to Plant and Grow Sago Palm

These ancient plants are standouts in garden containers or as houseplants.

The sago palm may look like a tiny palm tree with its glossy, stiff fronds, but it is not a palm tree at all. Sago palms are cycads, some of the most ancient of plants that have been around since prehistoric times. They are easy to grow indoors as houseplants or outdoors in containers in warm areas. Don't let the mature height of these plants frighten you off. These slow-growers take many years to reach their final height.

Able to live for 200 years or more, the sago palm makes a rugged houseplant. It is extremely slow-growing, sometimes putting out just one set of new leaves per year—and sometimes not that often. When plants do put out new growth, it is generally borne in one symmetrical ring of leaves that emerges from the tip in an attractive bronze color. New leaves are soft when they emerge, but as they expand and age, they take on their signature stiffness.

The way these plants reproduce is a relic of their prehistoric pasts. Unlike many plants, they do not flower but create large, cone-like structures instead. Each plant may be female or male, and cones are borne on each plant. It can take 15 years or more for a plant to produce cones. Both male and female plants are needed for pollination.

Be careful with placement because all parts of the sago palm are toxic to pets and humans, including seeds and fronds.

sago palm cycas revoluta
Ed Gohlich.

Sago Palm Overview

Genus Name Cycas revoluta
Common Name Sago Palm
Plant Type Houseplant, Shrub
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 3 to 8 feet
Width 2 to 12 feet
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Special Features Good for Containers
Zones 10, 11, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Drought Tolerant

Where to Plant Sago Palm

In the United States, sago palms are usually grown as houseplants or container plants. Indoors, they need a bright, indirect light location. They can tolerate some direct sun on their foliage in all but the hottest summers; a southern window or other bright area is ideal. Sago palms can also be planted in large containers and moved outside in warm seasons to add a touch of the tropics to a patio or other seating areas. Outdoors they appreciate a little shade on hot afternoons.

How and When to Plant Sago Palm

The best time to plant nursery-container sago palms is late winter to early spring when the plant is semi-dormant. Select a container slightly larger than the nursery container and fill it part way with well-draining potting soil or garden soil amended with compost. Transfer the plant to the new container and backfill while pressing down on the soil. Water it well and put it in a bright—but not full sun—location to recover.

Gardeners who grow sago palms from seeds must start the process indoors and wait months before they have robust houseplants or transplants strong enough to go into a garden container.

Sago Palm Care Tips


Sago palms appreciate bright, indirect light, which makes them a perfect plant for a sunny windowsill in a house setting. They also make great container plants outdoors as long as some shelter from direct sun is provided. While they can take some shade, too much shade ups the risk of rot and causes plants to have sparser foliage.

Soil and Water

Sago palms do well in pots and containers because they like well-drained soil; use well-draining potting soil amended with organic matter or add compost to regular garden soil. Don't overwater this drought-tolerant houseplant. One of the surest ways to kill a sago palm is to overwater it. Although they don't like being overly moist, they appreciate consistent moisture and humidity. If they are allowed to dry out too often, the tips of the foliage may become brown and have some dieback.

Temperature and Humidity

Sago palms thrive in humid environments, so if plants struggle indoors, try placing them over a humidity tray to create a more amenable environment.

When growing a sago palm as a houseplant, put it in a south-facing window or another bright area. It has no problem tolerating typical household temperatures.

When you grow a sago palm in a container outdoors, be ready to move the container indoors if the temperature is expected to drop to 50°F or lower.


Fertilize a sago palm a couple of times a year in spring and fall with a slow-release fertilizer designed especially for use with palms. For the amount to use, follow product label instructions.


Sago palms seldom need pruning. Remove dead, diseased, or badly damaged fronds when they occur.

Potting and Repotting Sago Palm

Sago palms like to be somewhat rootbound, and they don't tolerate soggy soil, so select a terra-cotta or unglazed pot that is only 2-3 inches larger than the nursery container. Make sure it has suitable drainage holes. Partially fill the container with compost-amended garden soil. Remove the sago palm from the nursery container and set it in the new container. Backfill with more soil, pressing gently on the soil as you work to eliminate air pockets.

Sago palm is so slow-growing that it is unlikely you'll need to repot it for several years. When you do, select a pot that is only slightly larger and use fresh planting medium.

Pests and Problems

Sago palms are generally low-maintenance and pest-free, but a common issue is scale, a problematic insect that feeds on the leaves. Scales are white or brown and generally do not move. They can be tricky to control because they have a hard, waxy coating that protects them from most insecticide sprays. The best way to control scale is with a systemic insecticide.

The leaves of sago palm are susceptible to fungal rot, which shows up as brown spots on the leaves. While this will not kill your plant, it is not exactly a good look. Removing affected foliage is the best way to eliminate the fungus.

The plant's stiff leaves can be a problem for gardeners. Wear gloves when handling sago palm and avoid the sharp thorns and leaf tips that can cause injury.

How to Propagate Sago Palm

Gardeners who have both male and female sago palms can propagate their plants by separating pups or suckers that grow at the base of the plant. The parent plants must be mature (which takes about 15 years) before they produce pups. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the sharp leaves, and separate the pups as soon as you notice them; the smaller they are, the easier the process. You may be able to wiggle off small pups. Otherwise, use a sharp spade or knife to sever the connection of the pup to the parent. Dig deeply beneath the pup so as not to damage its tap root. Plant the pups in peat pots a couple of inches large than the pup and filled with a perlite/peat moss mix.

Gardeners with male and female plants can grow sago palm from seeds they buy at the nursery or harvest from a plant. When seeds are harvested, only the pollinated ones will germinate. Place all the seeds in a bowl of warm water. The ones that sink to the bottom are the ones that are pollinated. Soak the pollinated seeds for 24 hours to soften the membrane that covers the seed and remove it. Fill 4-inch pots with a mix of perlite and peat moss. Place a seed on its side and pull the potting mix around it until only about a third is visible above soil level. Moisten the soil and add a plastic bag to each pot. Place the pots in an area that is at least 70°F and check regularly that the soil remains moist. When growth shows in one to three months, remove the plastic bag and keep the pot in a warm area. When four leaves can be seen emerging from the soil mix, transplant to a larger container and leave it in a bright, warm location for several months as it develops its root system. Transplant it to an outdoors container in early spring or enjoy it as a houseplant.

Types of Sago Palm

King Sago Palm

sago palm

BHG / Evgeniya Vlasova

Cycas revoluta is the most common species. It is relatively small, growing 8 feet tall and wide. Slow-growing sago palm grows best in well-drained soil and is drought-tolerant. Sago palm makes a stately indoor plant in a bright spot. Zones 8-11

Queen Sago Palm

queen sago palms in garden bed
Paul Craft

Cycas rumphii is more treelike than king sago palm. It grows 15 feet tall and 12 feet wide with a swollen trunk 18 inches in diameter. Male plants may form side branches on the upper trunk or from the base. It is less hardy than king sago, growing in Zones 9-11.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you tell if a sago palm is male or female?

    A male sago palm has a slender cone-shaped stucture that should remain on the plant until it opens and releases its pollen. After that, it can be removed at any time. The female sago palm has a dome-shaped structure that is eventually filled with red seeds waiting to be pollinated. These two structures are the "flowers" of the sago palm.

  • Are sago palms easy to care for?

    These plants are easy to care for if you meet their basic requirements: warmth, bright indirect light, and well-draining soil.

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  1. Sago Palm. ASPCA

  2. Cycas revoluta (Sago Cycad) Exposures. National Library of Medicine

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