Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

July 14, 2012

A neat trick for feeding your cycads (sago palms)

Cycads, such as sago palms, like all tropical plants, need food. And, yes, you can spend a lot of money on expensive plant food that has been labelled *for cycads*. And that's great. In fact, you can visit websites and read discussions on forums about the best mixture for cycads. But in the meantime, if your plants are out there starving to death, you're better off giving them something.

One of the neatest tricks that I have been using for years is houseplant fertilizer spikes. These are inexpensive (I just bought a bunch at the dollar store) and cycads love them. Unlike most dry plant food, which you sprinkle on the surface and then just wash away, these go down into the root area. And not only do they bring in much needed food, they also loosen up the soil a bit to help bring in moisture. And these plant food spikes provide continuous release for two months, which is just perfect for cycads.

When to feed.
Cycads only grow once a year, in growth spurts called *flushes*. That's when the new leaves begin to emerge. That is the time to feed them. Feeding at any other time is just a waste of time and money. So, be prepared to feed them in the spring and early summer.

How to feed.
Grab a handful of these little spikes and push them in around the plant. Don't worry about hurting the roots - you won't. And if the soil is so hard that you can't push them in, push a hole about the same size and then insert the spike. And if the soil is that hard, chances are you haven't fed or watered the plant properly for years.

I also do foliar feeding with Miracle-Gro through a hose-end sprayer at about the same time. Now go feed your cycads!


Anonymous said...

PK!!! I will go feed my cycads.....dammit.....heeheehee, I love the part about hard ground, you make it so obvious where you

Brad Hall said...

Yes, the ground is hard here in the desert, and so is the water, which makes it even worse! Even if there was a lot of organic material in the original planting, it goes away quickly here.

gillian cummins said...

my cyclad has not had a flush this year but the growth has turned very pale. I have repotted it do you think it will survive. It looked as if it was going to flower but hasn't moved in months now.

Brad Hall said...

Gillian - I've seen this sort of thing before and it can be fatal to the plant. The lack of growth and paleness is an indication of root failure, which is usually caused by overwatering. Your repotting it is the best thing you could have done. Put it in a nice shady area and give it a chance to regrow its roots. I've seen it happen. As long as the caudex is firm, and not mushy, the plant is alive. May take another season or two.