This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

September 11, 2013

Preparing a sago palm for bare root transplant

The first step in preparing a sago palm (cycas revoluta) for bare root transplant is to cut off all of its leaves. In the case of the one pictured at left, it needs to have the cones removed as well. An experienced gardener can do this for you safely. The leaves on a mature sago like this one are sharp and spiny, and the cones are toxic, but only if you eat them. Still, it's a good idea to wear gloves while handing them, and to dispose of them promptly. If you have a dog that likes to chew things, don't even think about leaving them on the ground.

Cycads can be removed to be transplanted at any time. In an established landscape like this one, it's best to treat them as "bare root". That is, there is no need to dig up a huge rootball and make a mess. The plant needs to be "undercut", which starts with removing the "pups" along the bottom and then carefully digging and cutting the roots. Removing the pups and doing the undercut of the roots is best left to someone with some expertise with these plants.

Once the plant is out of the ground, the "torpedo" can be treated much like a bulb. It doesn't need to go in the ground right away. In fact, it shouldn't. It should be left to heal over for a time and then placed in a mixture of volcanic pumice and free-draining potting soil.

My post on transplanting a sago palm bare root 

Timing is not important for the trimming of the leaves and the removal of the cones. It's simply a matter of aesthetics - since the plant won't be putting on new leaves for a while, you can wait to have it trimmed if you don't want it to look at a "torpedo" in your back yard.

Cycads, like sago palms, live for hundreds of years, so consider that you really don't own it, you are simply its custodian during your lifetime.
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