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

September 28, 2014

Planting a sago palm bare root

One of the really cool things about cycads, including sago palms, is that they can be planted bare root. In fact, cycads are often shipped this way, with no leaves, and no dirt. It does no harm to the plant, and it's a very clean and safe way to ship them.

If you're about to plant a bare root sago palm, just be sure to do it right. First of all, it's a good idea to trim it down as much as possible. Leave the roots alone, but trim the leaf stubs down as closely as possible. The new growth will come through the middle of the top, so all of what you're seeing now will be the trunk of the tree. Doing this trimming before you plant it is much easier than after. I did it last night while it soaked in a bucket of water.

Be sure that the soil is free-draining, wherever you decide to plant it, and never, ever, at the bottom of a slope. If in doubt, plant it on a little hill. I've found that the best way to treat a sago palm is as if you were planting a cactus, but be sure to give it access to water.

The next step gets a little messy, and you will get your hands dirty. The hole needs to be no deeper than where the plant was originally planted, and you can see that line on the trunk. Gently place it into the hole, and then, using your fingers, push the soil completely in and around the roots. Obviously, all of the roots from this plant are not there, as it was taken out of the ground. But you do want to keep as much of them as possible.

I have piled up the soil around the hole and will begin by pushing that soil back in, along with some new potting soil. I'll add in some dry fertilizer (I like Osmocote) and water it in well with Miracle-Gro. No, these companies don't pay me to say this, I wish they would!

And there it is, planted. Yeah, it's supposed to look like that, kind of like a fire plug. Doesn't look like much now, but when it pushes out its first flush of leaves (which I calculate will be next summer), it will be fantastic!

Update June 30, 2015. The first leaves are just beginning to emerge (yeah, you gotta look closely). It will be OK!

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