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

August 13, 2016

The strange way that sago palms grow

If you have a sago palm, it won't grow much. The reason for that is that, in spite of its common name, a sago palm isn't a palm at all, it belongs to a group of plants called cycads. And instead of growing continuously, like a palm tree does, a cycad grows in short, fast spurts only once (and sometimes twice) a year. These are called flushes, by the way.

Cycad collectors just love seeing a beginning flush, which is what you seeing here on a cycas revoluta (sago palm) in my backyard here in Glendale, Arizona. In the next week of two the leaves will grow all of the way out, and then it will stop growing until next summer.

Now be careful during the flush - the leaves will start out very soft and any damage that happens to them is permanent. When they harden off, they will stay that way, so make sure that they're not bumping up against another plant or something or the leaves will get all squished, and they stay that way.

And during a flush is the time for water and fertilizer. This is the "monsoon" season in the Phoenix area, so the air is humid and we're getting some rain, but flushing cycads can always use more water. Be absolutely sure that your cycad is planted on a slope so that the water flows away, and never puddles (cycad roots will root is the drainage is poor!), and go ahead and give it water. I fill a big plastic watering can with water mixed with Miracle-Gro and give it a drink daily while it's flushing. I also sprinkled some dry fertilizer at the base and scratched it in.

So there you go. If you're new to watching flushes on cycads, it may come as surprise to you how fun they are to watch grow. And next summer, you'll be out there looking for signs of a flush!
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