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

October 24, 2014

Potting sago palm pups to get more plants

A friend of mine recently needed to remove a sago palm which has grown too big for its space, and he was kind enough to give it to me. It's great to have friends like that! I gave him instructions on how to remove the sago palm so that I could plant it bare-root, which I did last month. And there was the bonus of a lot of little sago palm *pups*, too!

Sago palm pups are little the little plants that all cycads (like sago palms) grow along their trunk after they have reached a certain maturity. Most people just cut them off and throw them away, but if you don't mind going to a little extra trouble, they can be saved and turned into new plants.

The first thing that you will need to get is Volcanic Pumice. I bought a bag of it for twenty bucks at Baker Nursery in Phoenix yesterday. This stuff isn't easy to find - I've never seen it at my local Home Depot, or maybe I haven't looked hard enough. I use it along the top layer of my big pots (as you can see) more for visual effect than anything else. But for rooting sago palm pups, it's essential.

This morning I found a bunch of stray pots that I had sitting in my side yard, and potted the pups (where Macintosh, the good little wiener dog, is looking). The trick is to get them to develop roots, which they don't have yet. And the reason you need Volcanic Pumice is that if they rot (which they will in ordinary potting soil) before they grow roots, they will die.

So, pot them with about half of them showing. Find a pot size that is just a little bit larger than the pup. You know, not too large, not too small, just right. I fill the pot and then measure the distance by placing the pup, then add, or remove to adjust the height. Then I fill around the pup with the rest of the Volcanic Pumice.

Then, you water thoroughly. It's October, so the weather is cooling off, and these plants won't be doing much until spring. At a certain point, I'll move them over to the side yard, as these really aren't display plants. I'll water them about once a month until the weather gets cold, then stop watering for a while, and resume when the weather warms up.

The first sign of a healthy, rooted, pup, is new growth. If the pup never grows, even after a season, go ahead and pull it out and inspect it. If it's rotten, throw it away, it's dead, and it probably smells bad and attracts bugs. If it's growing, well, congratulations! It will now be a perfect clone of the mother plant. Cycads grow very slowly, so it may take another 25 years or so to look like the plant is came from, but, hey, time goes by! Why not give it a try?
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