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

August 29, 2015

The strange way that cycads, like sago palms, grow

If you've planted a sago palm (technically called a cycas revoluta) recently and it doesn't seem to be growing, don't worry, they're weird.

Sago palms are part of a group of plants called cycads. Cycads are an extremely ancient type of plant, which existed before flowering plants. You know, back in the day of the dinosaurs. Like a lot of weird plants and animals, they have survived to this day, in spite of the fact that they never quite "got with the program" of how most plants grow.

Cycads grow in something called "flushes", usually only once a year. That is, they sit doing absolutely nothing for eleven months of the year, and then all of they start putting out leaves, which usually only takes a couple of weeks to complete. It's kind of fun to watch, and it's why cycad collectors, like me, are always thrilled to see the little tiny bit of growth that you see in the photo up there. It's a flush! We post the photos on our Facebook pages and just generally act as if it were the biggest event of the year. Which for a cycad, it is.

But wait, it gets weirder. Some years a healthy cycad won't flush at all. And some years, there are two flushes. That's actually what's happening here. And now you know why I'm so excited! This is the second flush of the year for this one! Woo-Hoo!

Once your cycad has been living with you for a couple of seasons you'll see. And like all cycad collectors, you'll be grabbing your camera at the first sight of flush. And fellow cycad collectors will understand!
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