Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Saga of the Sago, Cycas revoluta

This garden has boasted a single Cycad Cycas revoluta for more than ten years. The last two winters were unkind to it and left more than the usual number of brown fronds. I trim the worst first, then when new fronds emerge I trim the second worst and leave the old fronds that still have lots of green on them. Some people trim off all the fronds with any brown parts.

My Sago after worst damaged fronds cut off, 2011

New growth in a previous year.

Emerging growth, May, 2010

Late May, 2010

Late spring, a new set of fronds emerges. When my Sago was a very small pup from under Nurse Gwen's MIL's big cycad it started out with 4 new fronds. The next year it had 8 and the following year, twelve. After that it increased with multiples of 8 each year.

My neighbor's yardman cut off all the fronds on her Cycad this spring. There were numerous 'pups' she said and I could have some. I was shocked when I got there and the offsets were huge, big enough that one fits into a 2 gallon or more pot. I had to go home for bigger tools. Heavy! Those pups were heavy. When I finally hacked off the first caudix it was almost too heavy to lift into the car.

The pups have no root. They were growing from the mother plant. I researched a number of reliable sources for information on rooting the offsets. I let the wounds where they were cut away dry for more than a week. When I was ready to pot, I applied liquid rooting hormone, then  dusted the dried cut edges with fungicide. I potted them in lava rock and perlite. Pumice is the potting medium of choice, not easily found in a small town so I improvised. 

All that is left to do is wait for roots, then fronds. April 10, 2011.
The little twist at the top is where new fronds come out.

There were some little chips that looked as if they might root as they had a piece of the basal part and a stem where a frond came out. I tucked them in around the big pups just to see if roots will form.

Living fossils! According to what I read, there is ample food stored in the caudix to sustain the life of the cycad until roots form followed by fronds emerging from the top, which can take a year or more.
I'm willing to wait and water and bring inside this winter to protect them from the cold.


  1. Wow - how fascinating! They can live like that for over a year? Good luck with them. They DO look heavy!

  2. Fascinating! I had no idea how to root cycads, and it sounds unlike anything I have ever done before... Thanks for such an informative post.

  3. I agree, Fascinating. This is not something we grow up north unless indoors, and so I feel I learned something of interest.
    I am also fascinated by your post on fire ants. Thank goodness we don't have them! The thought of tearing off your clothes while out gardening is (sorry) quite funny.

  4. My aunt has a huge one that I admire. I tried one once, but I can't remember what happened to it! Yours is gorgeous. Great information.

  5. So excited to see you post on my site! How are you sweet one? I love that you are rooting cycads! Best of luck my friend! Pamie G.

  6. That's really cool! I'm way too far north to have anything like those grow here--I had no idea what they were or how their growth was encouraged/managed--very interesting.

  7. I was so excited to see a sago planted in front of the house we bought when we moved to Florida. The excitement wore off the first time I had to trim the darn thing. Ouch! Still, it's an amazing plant, and I've had plenty of those "pups" to share.

    Good luck with yours.

  8. Here in the Pacific Northwest there are a lot of sword ferns which can also be trimmed to the base in the spring with no apparent ill effects.

    You asked about mixing tulips and daffs in a bouquet. I have never heard of a problem, or experienced one either, from mixing them. I do see them mixed all the time, so I wonder what sap difficulty you heard about. Happy Spring to you! We are sill waiting for ours here.

  9. Thanks for this very educational post.

    I though when Sago palms produce pups they will also have roots. I've never seen our Sagos with pups so I didn't know that. At least now I know how to transplant pups.

  10. Hmmm, now I have to figure out how to grow some of these – OK, even one of these – up here in Connecticut.

    Meanwhile, I'll enjoy them vicariously. Thanks for the terrific show.

  11. C revoluta grows so slowly through time, yet they are resilient. They grow well here in the tropics but slowly too. So i think those pups are really very big for a C revoluta. I have a very big C circinalis at home in the province. It produced lots of nuts and i have seedlings now which we sometime just throw away.

  12. these cycads are slow growers I think but incredible survivors. Of all the pics above I was taken by the shrimp plant - unknown to me - but with divinely delicate petals.

  13. Your Cycas is very graceful. Its like green heaven is emerging from the center. I bought Cycas Revoluta 1 month ago with trunk diameter of 8inchs and it is very heavy. The sales man told that it already had a new flush of leaves 4months ago that I haven't seen it. He said it will take 2 weeks for the leaves to grow to its full length right from the time where it tears out from the center. To avoid yellow leaves never overwater them.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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