Sago Palm Winter Care: How To Over Winter A Sago Plant

by johnah on November 3, 2020

Sago Palm Winter Care: How To Over Winter A Sago Plant

What Is Sago Palm?

The name “sago” comes from the Spanish word for “plum”. The plant’s scientific name is Solanum melongena (or Melongena solandri). Its common names are black saguaro, red saguaro, white saguaro, and red plum. The species is native to Mexico, Central America, and South America. It grows up to 25 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 6 inches. The fruit of the sago palm is edible when ripe but it does not taste very good when raw or undercooked.

It is one of the most popular palms in North America due its attractive foliage color and its edible fruits. There are many varieties of sago palm available today including the California variety, which have been grown commercially since 1879.

How Does Sago Palm Winter Care Affect Your Plants?

In general, sago palm plants thrive during the warm months because they do not need much water. However, if your plants are suffering from drought conditions then you will want to provide them with extra watering. If you live in a dry climate where there is little rainfall year round, then you may wish to consider growing sago palms indoors in containers rather than outdoors.

Sago palms thrive in the sun but they can handle some shade. If you live in an area that receives full sun all day long, then you may want to consider moving your sago palm to a location that gets either morning or afternoon shade. This will give it some relief from the harsh sun and it may help prevent sunburn.

If your palm gets too much water, then its trunk may start to rot. If this happens, the entire palm will most likely die because it is a monoculture. This means it has no resistance to disease and pests because they only attack one kind of plant. If this happens, you will need to remove the dead trunk and then disinfect any tools that came into contact with the rotting trunk before using them on other plants.

How Do I Keep My Sago Palms Healthy?

Sago palms can get several different kinds of pests. Scale insects, mealybugs, and caterpillars all attack sago palms. You can treat your plants for these pests using special sprays or by wiping them off with a cloth that has been soaked in soapy water. Be sure to read the directions on the package because some of these pesticides must be diluted before use.

Your palms may not get many diseases but they can suffer from a condition caused by the accumulation of salts in the soil. This is known as “salt damage” and may result in yellow leaves that fall off prematurely. You can prevent this by making sure that you do not over water your plants and providing good drainage.

How Do I Know If My Sago Is Dying?

Sago palms are not long-lived plants. They do not last more than ten years in the ground before they become too tall and weak to support their own weight. If you notice yellow leaves or brown leaf edges, this could be a sign that your palm is dying. It could also be due to a pest or disease so you should have it inspected by a professional.

If your sago palm has a thick trunk with a diameter greater than one foot then it may be time to transplant it into a bigger pot or into the ground. Palms that have outgrown their pots will not be able to absorb enough water and nutrients from the soil so they start to decline.

If your sago palm is more than five years old and it has a trunk diameter of less than one foot, then you don’t need to do anything except enjoy its beauty and give it some shade during the summer months.

How Do I Care For My Sago Palm After It Is Transplanted?

If you have just transplanted a sago palm, then it will need at least a year to recover from the trauma of being moved. During this time, you should keep the soil consistently damp but not soaked and never allow it to completely dry out. The palm will shed most of its leaves but new ones will eventually grow back.

Once your sago palm has recovered and new leaves have sprouted, you can begin watering it less. Water it whenever the soil gets dry to the touch but don’t over water it!

Do not fertilize a sago palm while it is indoors because this might cause an explosion of growth that depletes the soil of important nutrients. This could make the plant weak and could also damage furniture or windows.

When you take your sago palm outdoors, it is important to protect it from the hot sun during the summer. If you live in a warm climate you can leave it in its pot and set the whole thing in a shallow hole filled with pebbles. Keep the top of the potting soil just above the level of the pebbles. Alternatively, you can place the pot in a bucket or a shallow hole that you’ve dug in the ground.

If you live in a cold or temperate climate, you can place the whole pot outside. Just place it in a shady location and surround it with gravel, rocks, or mulch to protect it from the cold.

What Pests And Diseases Does It Get?

Sago palms rarely get pest or disease problems but they are prone to mealybugs and loss of leaves. Mealybugs are small little insects that resemble cotton and they suck the sap from your sago palm.

Caterpillars can sometimes be a problem. They can turn your beautiful plant into a skeleton in just a few days. Keep an eye out for them and remove them by hand or with a jet of water.

Some the problems that sago palms have to endure are natural and always occur at certain times. For example, losing a few leaves during the hotter months is quite normal for sago palms.

Sago Palm Winter Care: How To Over Winter A Sago Plant |

Leaves that turn yellow or brown and fall off naturally is also quite common. You can help prevent this by keeping the soil consistently moist.

Pruning Your Sago Palm

You prune a sago palm just like any other variety of palm. The most important thing to remember is not to over prune it. You can prune it back hard each year to keep it short if you wish but this is not generally necessary.

As they grow, sago palms produce large bulbs at their base. These are very sharp and can easily cause severe cuts. Take care when trimming the plants and always wear protective gloves or your hand will be in a lot of pain!

Other Common Names

Another name for sago palms is cycad. This name is more commonly used in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Sometimes you will see these plants sold under the misleading name of “fan palm” but this is not actually a palm at all! While they do resemble palms, they are their own unique genus and should not be called by that name.

Buying Tips

Sago palms are readily available at many nurseries and garden centers and you can even buy them online. They are usually available year round.

Because they are such common plants, sago palms are generally inexpensive and you should be able to find a nice one for less than twenty dollars.

Sago Palm Winter Care: How To Over Winter A Sago Plant - Image

Make sure the leaves are green and not yellow or brown. The trunk should also be green without any brown patches. Avoid any plants with scale insects or mold.

Sago palms are not extremely difficult to grow. They can even be grown in flower pots indoors if you wish. If you can keep a plant alive, then you should have no problems with this one. Just remember to keep it watered and never to over-water it!

Common Myths

There are many myths about sago palms and we are here to dispel them!

One myth is that feeding them fish emulsion will make them grow faster. This is not true. It won’t hurt them, but it also won’t make them grow faster or be healthier.

Sago palm plants do not need sunlight to grow. This is a common myth and not true at all. These plants can actually rot and die if they do not receive enough light.

Sago palms are not poisonous to pets. Many people think the tips of the leaves are poisonous but this is just an old wives tale. The truth is, sago palms are completely non-toxic to animals and people. If your cat likes to chew on house plants, sago palms are as safe as any other plant.

Sago palms are not related to yucca plants. Again, this is just an old wives tale and not true at all. These plants are both in the cycad genus but that’s where the similarities end.

Sago palms are not native to the United States. This is also just a myth. While they are not indigenous, sago palms and have been in the country since the 1800s so they are certainly no more of an invasive species than your average dandelion.

Sago Palm Winter Care: How To Over Winter A Sago Plant - Image


Sago palms are easy to grow and maintain which makes them a great house plant for people who lack green fingers! They are also a good choice for people who want a taller indoor plant without having to worry about their pet trying to eat it.

Sago palms do best in bright locations and should be kept out of direct sunlight since this can burn the leaves. They should also be placed somewhere that they can receive indirect sunlight throughout the day. This means a bright window but not in direct sunlight all day.

If you follow these tips, your sago palm should stay healthy and happy for many years to come.

Happy houseplanting!

Sources & references used in this article:

Photosynthetic characteristics of sago palm, Metroxylon rumphii Martius by N UCHIDA, S KOBAYASHI, T YASUDA… – Japanese Journal of …, 1990 –

Nutritional characteristics of sago palm and oil palm in tropical peat soil by M Matsumoto, M Osaki, T Nuyim, A Jongskul… – Journal of plant …, 1998 – Taylor & Francis

Evaluating sago palm (Metroxylon sagu Rottb.) photosynthetic performance in waterlogged conditions: utilizing pulse-amplitude-modulated (PAM) fluorometry … by A Azhar, D Makihara, H Naito, H Ehara – Journal of the Saudi Society of …, 2020 – Elsevier

Metroxylon amicarum, M. paulcoxii, M. sagu, M. salomonense, M. vitiense, and M. warburgii (sago palm) by W McClatchey, HI Manner… – … Trees of Pacific …, 2006 –



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