Growing Sago Palms from Seed

The Joy of Propagating Cycads

Growing sago palms from seed requires patience but is an interesting process to watch. The propagation tips here apply to all Cycads (Zamias and Dioons) not just to Cycas revoluta, C. circinalis and C. taitungensis (the king, queen and emperor sago palm trees).

An unusual thing about these plants is the way in which they reproduce. If you like to experiment, try cross-pollinating 1 species with another.

You have to have a male and a female in close proximity for pollination to occur.

The sex of a sago is designated by its cone.

The male cones are torpedo shaped and begin to protrude when they are ready to reproduce.

The female cone is more of a cabbage shape and it opens up when she is ready to receive pollen. It will close again, if pollination was successful.

If you have several females that you wish to pollinate by hand, you can remove the male cone (just snap or saw it off, this won't hurt the plant) and shake it over each of the open female cones.

Wait until you can see the pollen on the male before you do this.

The female cone of Cycas revoluta bearing ripe seed.

The male cone of Cycas taitungensis ready for action.

If all the females are not ready, the male cone can be stored in a zipper bag for a few days until they are. Keep the bag someplace cool.

Be warned, the male cone may develop an unpleasant odor during storage.

To insure that you get viable seed, shake the male cone over the open females every day until they begin to close. You can watch the seeds develop inside the female cones.

Sago palm seeds will swell to the size of walnuts and turn from yellow to orange as they ripen. This process normally begins in the summer. The seeds will be ready to harvest by the following spring. You can easily pull the seeds off the plant when they are ready.

Soak the seed in water for several days. Discard any that float, they are not viable.

Don a pair of latex gloves to protect your skin and peel the orange skin off the seeds.

Let the seed dry for a day or two before planting it. Sago palm seeds can be stored for several months before planting and there is disagreement among people growing sago palms as to whether it is better to plant fresh seed or store it first.

Plant each seed so that the flat side is facing up and visible above the soil. Two thirds of the seed will be buried. Water gently so as not to dislodge them and wait. You won't see top growth for three or four months.

Growing Sago Palms from Pups

Sago palm with pups.

Pups arising from the soil at the base of the mature sago's trunk.

Sago seedlings are really cute, but they grow quite slowly. Most people prefer growing sago palms from the pups or offsets that form at the base of mature trees.

Use a pruning saw to separate the baby and be careful not to damage the mom's trunk.

You can treat the cut (on both plants) with a fungicide or seal it with wax.

Place the pup into fast draining soil in the shade. Keep the soil slightly moist, but try to keep the pup itself dry.

It can take as long as a year for a newly transplanted sago pup to root and leaf out.

If it collapses or becomes very soft, it has failed.

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Related Pages

Ideas for Growing Sagos in the Landscape

Return to The Truth About Sago Palms

How Risky is Transplanting Sago Palms?

Go from Growing Sago Palms back to Sago Palm Care

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