By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS
Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, August 30, 2008
palms are not really palms. They look
like a small palm, but they are a cycad.
Cycads are primitive cone bearing relatives of conifers. In South Texas and
other climates where temperatures rarely fall below 20°F, Sagos are used as
container plants or in beds as ornamental plants that give the patio or pool
area a tropical look. Sagos look good on
the patio as individual specimens or surrounded by other containers with
light-colored blooms that contrast with the dark green foliage.
are slow growing to ten feet tall with frond like leaves that emerge from a
growing point at the top of the trunk. The
larger size specimens can be very expensive.
Some of the most impressive specimens in area gardens are protected from
cold by their own greenhouse structure.
palms will tolerate sun, but seem to do best in partial shade such as on a
patio with an Eastern exposure that is shaded from the Western sun. Sagos are very tough in terms of survival,
but the foliage often reacts to changes in season and light exposure by yellowing
of some leaves. During some rain periods
a leaf spot also shows up. The plants
grow through both problems as long as we do not over react by adding excessive
amounts of fertilizer or water, neither of which the hardy Sagos require.
can also show up on Sago palms. If the
population of scale is allowed to grow large, the leaves can lose their dark green
color and appear faded and speckled with yellow. Scale is something most gardeners forget
about, because it is so discrete. If you
see faded speckled leaves, rub your fingernail over the back of the leaflet and
leaf rib. If there are grayish bumps
that come loose with the fingernail rubbing, you have scale insects that are
sucking the juices from the plant.
usual way to kill scale is to apply a horticultural oil which suffocates the
scale within its calcium shell. Good
control requires good coverage of the insect.
Speed up the control by mixing acephate with the horticultural oil. Whichever treatment you use, the scale will
not drop off immediately.
like Sago palm have male and female plants.
The male produces a central cone like-structures with scales. The female fruiting body starts with feathery
organs that eventually produce smooth, red seeds shaped like, but slightly
smaller than Brazil nuts. The cone and
seed stalk are very interesting to observe if you decide to allow them to
complete the process, or you can cut them off to let the plant concentrate on
leaf formation. Sago palms also
reproduce vegetatively. “Pups” are
produced at the base of the plant. They
can be allowed to produce another stem for the parent plant or they can be
removed to start another plant.
the pups like a palm transplant. Remove
it with a sharp shovel or even a machete and after letting the wound cure for a
week, place it in a container of potting soil.
The healed bottom can be pushed into the soil, but should not be planted
deeply. Prop the pup up with stakes so
the base can eventually send out roots into the potting soil. Rooting hormone is not necessary and do not
use any fertilizer. Water sparingly when
the soil dries to two inches into the container. Place the pup and its container in partial