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

August 16, 2016

Why you should call your sago palm a cycad

If you have a plant that looks like the photo here, and you're still calling it a sago palm, you're missing out on a lot. That's because you're calling it by the wrong name.

No, I won't correct you just for the sake of it, and I know that a rose by any other name will smell as sweet! But if you want to take the best care of this plant, being able to Google the word "cycad" will be very helpful to you.

And that's because (and you may have had a suspicion about this!), sago palms aren't palms at all. They aren't related to palms, and their requirements are different from palms. They're in a category called cycads. And they do some unusual stuff that palms don't do.

Once you start calling your sago palm a cycad, a whole world will open up for you. There will be web pages about the care of cycads, there will be Facebook groups, there will be books. There will be a LOT of great information out there. And (here's the best part!) you will find that "sago palms" are just one kind of cycad. Look at the photo again - those are all cycads (except for the one in the back, which is a palm). They come in different sizes, different shades of color (I like the bluish ones best), and different leaf texture.

Now that you're a cycad person, let's talk about flushing, which is what's happening in the photo. Unlike palm trees, which grow continuously, cycads only grow in spurts, called flushes, usually only once a year. Yeah, it makes them kinda dull to watch most of the year, but at least you know that they're healthy! And in summertime (it's August 16th today), they flush. And it's a lot of fun to watch as the leaves grow so fast it's amazing.

Oh yeah, and cycads produce cones. Yes, like pine trees. Palms don't do that. So don't freak out if you see something that looks like a cone on your cycad - it's supposed to do that. Google "cycad cones" and you'll see a lot of them.

Welcome to the world of cycads! You can call me Cycad Brad!
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