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

June 25, 2014

What to do if your sago palm is growing leaves from its sides

If you're fortunate enough to have a sago palm that looks like this one (no, it's not mine, I wish it was), with leaves growing out of the sides, you have a very healthy and robust plant.

On some plants, this type of sucker growth is a bad thing, but on a sago palm, it's a good thing. These are *pups*, and it simply means that this plant is growing so well that it's bursting out all over!

Like all cycads, sago palms live for hundreds of years and grow very, very slowly. That's the reason that they are so expensive! So, if you have a gem like this, either you spent a lot of money for it, or it has been on the property for decades. But you may be wondering what to do with the pups?

Personally, I would remove them. I like seeing the trunk of a cycad. Cycad collectors show off how magnificent their plants are by showing the trunk. And you can grow more plants from the little pups, too, if you have the know-how. But mostly it's a matter of making the plant look better. No, it won't harm the mother plant to remove the pups. Here is how you do it:

Sago palm pup removed

• Cut off all of the leaves from the pups. Wear gloves! They're sharp! I usually get a heavy-duty trash bag and throw them in there. Then I carry the bag to the trash. Did I mention that the fronds are sharp?

• Then remove the pups. I use a nice sharp curved saw. There is no need to *dress the wound* - cycads don't have sap. It will heal up on its own. At this point I would recommend doing some more trimming to the trunk, just to tidy it up. Regular hand-held garden snippers are best for that.

If you have a green thumb, and know a bit about rooting plants, you can root the pups (like aloes and agaves) and they will grow into plants of their own. Of course, since it's a cycad, it may take several decades before they look like much, but hey, time passes!

So there you go. Remove the pups and show off that trunk! Cycad collectors love to see the distinctive diamond pattern on trunks of old cycads. Anyway, that's what I would do.

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