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



May 31, 2015

Rescuing a gigantic sago palm from the bulldozers


Here in the Phoenix area, properties that were *waaaaayyyy out in the country* just a generation or so ago, often have become quite valuable. What was once a place for horses to graze becomes an area worth subdividing for luxury homes. Progress marches on. I understand, and things can't remain the way that they were forever, but as someone who likes trees, well, it just kind'a makes me sad.

I visited a place like that yesterday, tucked away in a very desirable location in Phoenix. And, thanks to some friends of mine, who did all of the work, I rescued a sago palm. Well, as of this morning it's safely here in Glendale.

I can't really recommend doing this, in spite of that fact that I'm making the attempt. Although I've transplanted different cycads before (a sago palm is technically a cycad), I've never seen anything like this one. It's huge! but I have high hopes, and am gonna give it my best try.


This plant, which is about six feet tall, is very heavy. I haven't weighed it, but it took three strong men to get it into the back of the pickup, and unload it here. Right now it's in the courtyard, where I trimmed off the pups (with an axe!) and did some general cleanup of the trunk. Yes, I wore gloves, and yes, I bled. Those things are beautiful, and sharp!

Sago palm in the courtyard, during the process of removing the pups.

I have the hole dug for its new home, and the next step will be to get it from the courtyard, along the side of the house, and into the garden. It's only about fifty feet, but this will be the most difficult part of the whole operation. I have no heavy equipment, nor do I have the room to use it, nor the budget for it, so I'm hoping that a friend of mine, who used to work as a UPS driver, will be able to figure out a way to use some type of magical leverage to get it to move.

Sago palm in my courtyard when it first arrived. For scale, my dog's legs are over two inches long!

When people tell me about the size of a cycad, it always seems to be like a fish story. That is, people tend to exaggerate. Mostly they they seen looking like a large fern, growing on what is commonly called the *pineapple*. Take a look at some sago palms at Home Depot, even the big ones, and you'll see what I mean. When the plant is large enough to have a real trunk, it's pretty darn big, and starts to look less like a fern and more like a miniature palm tree. The one that is waiting to be planted this morning, sitting in my courtyard, has 77 inches of trunk. Now that's a big miniature (like Jumbo Shrimp?)!

Sago palm trimmed and ready to be planted. Fungicide and root hormone have been applied.

As much of the roots on this plant were saved as possible, but its taproot, which must have been gigantic, is gone, so it will need to regenerate more roots before it starts to send out more fronds. It may have a year or two. And when it does, it will be spectacular! I hope that it likes its new home!

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