Cycas revoluta Thunb. is the correct and accepted scientific name of this species of palm. It was first described by Carl Peter Thunberg in… Hmmm…. The 2013 version of The Plant List and Llifle (Encyclopedia of Living Forms) says he described it in Nova Acta Regiae Societatis Scientiarum in 1783. Plants of the World Online, Tropicos, International Plant Names Index, etc. says he first described it in Verhandelingen Hollandse Maatschappy in 1782. (That’s the short version of a LONG title). That is one of the few times there is a discrepancy in the publication and date.
I bought this plant from Lowe’s in 2009. It was pretty small when I bought it and it turned into a beautiful plant. I always kept it in a pot and brought it inside every winter. In the summer of 2012 a good friend and fellow plant collector, Walley Morse, took me to his sons home in Leland, Mississippi to look at a shrub growing in the backyard. I was shocked to see a good sized Sago Palm growing right in his backyard. The manager of the Farmer’s Co-op in Leland also overwintered a HUGE Sago Palm in his store.
Sago Palms are very easy to grow in pots or outside if you live in areas where they are cold hardy (USDA Zones 8b-11). Cycads, in general, prefer very bright light but they also tolerate low light. Mine grew in the backyard of the mansion in direct sun for a few hours in the morning until around noon until they were shaded by the HUGE Magnolia and the mansion.
Information states they like a temperature of around 75 degrees F during the day and 65-75 at night. There were many times during the winter mine were in cooler temperatures, but they didn’t seem to mind. During the summer months in Mississippi, there were a lot of days that were in the 90’s and even over 100.
Origin: Southern Japan
Zones: USDA Zones 8b-11 (15-40° F)
Size: Up to 15 feet tall.
Light: Light to part shade
Soil: Average, well-drained soil.
Water: Should water when soil surface is dry
I grew my Sago Palm in Miracle Grow potting soil amended with extra organic matter. The Missouri Botanical Garden recommends using a “soil-based potting mix amended with sand and peat. They also say they need regular consistent moisture with the soil surface nearly drying between watering. Other sites state the soil should dry out between watering… I can honestly tell you, mine dried out plenty of times, especially over the winter.
Younger Sago Palms produce several new sets of leaves in a circular pattern in the center of the plant called a break. Older plants typically only produce one set of leaves per year. After about 15 years, they may flower and produce a cone. Plants are either male or female and the female will not produce a seed without a male. Potted Sago Palms rarely flower.
My Sago Palm was one of my favorite plant companions. I hated giving it up when I moved from the mansion in Mississippi back to the family farm in mid-Missouri in February 2013. I didn’t know what the conditions would be like there, but afterward I found out I possibly could have taken it. Someday I will buy another.
I hope you found my tribute to the Cycas revoluta helpful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you.