Sago palm in pots

Repotting Sago Palm Trees: How And When To Repot A Sago Palm

Sturdy, long-lived, and low maintenance, sago palms are excellent houseplants. They are relatively slow growing, and may only need repotting every one or two years. When the time comes, however, it’s important to move your sago palm to a new container to ensure its healthy growth. Keep reading to learn how to repot a sago palm plant.

When to Repot a Sago Palm

How do you know when to repot a sago palm? Often, the plant itself will tell you. Sago palms’ roots are surprisingly large for the size of their foliage. Even if your palm looks modest above ground, you may notice roots escaping through drainage holes, water taking a long time to drain, or even the sides of your container bulging out. This means it’s time to repot!

In warm areas, you can do this any time during the growing season. In areas with short summers, late winter or early spring is optimal. If your palm is really bursting out of its container, however, repotting it right away is more important than waiting for the right time of year.

Repotting Sago Palm Trees

When choosing a new container for sago palm transplanting, go for depth rather than width so your roots have more space to grow down. Look for a container that’s 3 inches (7 cm) wider and/or deeper than your current one.

An ideal sago palm potting mix drains very quickly. Mix your regular potting soil with plenty of grit such as pumice, sand, or peat moss. Once your potting mix is prepared, it’s time to transplant.

Because of their large, tight root balls and sturdy trunks, repotting sago palm trees is easy. Turn your current container on its side and grip the trunk firmly in one hand. With the other hand, pull on the container. It should come away easily, but if it doesn’t, try squeezing and shaking it gently. Be careful not to bend the trunk of the palm, though, as this can break the heart of the palm in the center of the trunk.

Once the plant is free, hold it in the new container and pile sago palm potting mix under and around it so that the soil reaches the same level on the plant as before. Water liberally, then place it in a sunny spot.

Cycas Revoluta (Sago Palm)

In general the plant you buy will stick at that height (or thereabouts) for a good many years. In perfect conditions after 100 years (yes you read that correctly) your plant might be 20 ft or more. Remember Sago Palm’s living indoors grow very slowly.


The Sago Palm is a Cycad so will never produce flowers. Instead, these plants are either male or female and will have a corresponding sexual organ (no really, they do!), you can hand pollinate if you have a plant of each gender, but actually doing this is very uncommon for the average owner to attempt.

Is the Sago Palm Poisonous?

We’ve mentioned it at the start of the article, but we’re saying it again. The Sago Palm is very toxic to cats and dogs and there is a high chance of serious damage or even death if any parts of this plant are consumed. Do not have this plant in your home if you have inquisitive pets or young children. There are many other non toxic houseplants to choose from so get something else instead.

Anything else?

This is a very slow growing houseplant. Take it easy with anything you give your Sago, from light, water, heat and feed. You won’t encourage it to grow more by increasing the quantity or frequency of these things and in fact if you do, it may cause more harm than good.

How to Care for a Sago Palm Summary

  1. Moderate Light No harsh sun. No dark spots. Suitable plant for semi bright locations.

  2. Occasional Watering Once a week in Summer and once every two or three weeks in Winter.

  3. Temperature Average indoor room temperatures.

  4. Feeding Fertilise once or twice a year.

Sago Palm Problems

Sago Palm has yellow leaves

Even with the best possible care yellowing on older leaves is normal (eventually the very old leaves are replaced) and not a concern if it’s just one or two. Any other kind of yellowing needs to be investigated,

In many cases, yellow leaves in a random spot on your plant like the one in the picture is a strong indication of some sort of burn caused by placing it in direct sunlight.

If the yellowing starts at the very tips or the very base of your plant then it’s often a watering problem (normally too much).

It takes a very long time for Sago Palms to replace damaged leaves through new growth, so you need to be careful as any mistakes will take a long time to be replaced by a new leaf.

Sago Palm is hardly growing

Even if you give the very best conditions and treat your plant perfectly you won’t get much growth from year to year. Sago Palms’s simply do not grow quickly at all. A few new leaves each year is what most owners will get and that’s your lot.

Red Spider Mites

Seeing as the Sago Palm isn’t fussy about humidity it’s entirely possible you’ve chosen a very dry spot for your plant. This may encourage Red Spider Mites which love dry air. If you notice sticky webbing check out our Pest Article for tips in getting rid of this pest.

Scale Insects

Fortunately the Sago Palm simply won’t have enough “food” to support a large Colony of invading Scale Insects, but you may still get the odd solo visitor. Sometimes a simple blemish on a leaf might be mistaken for a Scale Insect so check this first. If you’re sure it’s Scale simply pick / scrap it off, or use a methylated spirit to dissolve it away.

Sago palm is just generally “sickly”

Many houseplants enjoy a spell outside of the home or office from time to time. If you think your plant is looking a bit peaky, give it a few months holiday in the back garden / yard (obviously this holiday needs to take place during the warmer months of the year).

Direct sun should be avoided and if there are no drainage holes in the pot, take care rain doesn’t cause it to become waterlogged. Don’t forget to bring your plant back inside when Summer’s over.

About the Author

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.

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(Article / Gallery) Photo credit of the Sago looking down into it’s heart Matheus Natan

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Cycas Revoluta

Sago palms are slow growing plants that take a fair few years (5 or more) to reach their maximum height of appoximatly 2ft, when grown indoors. A plant may only produce one leaf per year, so don’t expect lot’s of new foliage to appear during it’s growing period.

The bad news is propagation by seed will take years to produce a 2ft tall plant; however, the good news is mature plants are sold at many garden stores and they can last for years and years.

Foliage: A woody type base (called a caudex) which is the stem produces pinnate fronds (multiple leaflets on a stalk) similar to a fern plant. These stiff and kind of brittle fronds grow over a foot long in an upwards fashion then arch over.

Do take care when handling – fronds get bent quite easily and it takes a long time for new fronds to appear.

Ease of growing: The sago palm is easy enough for most growers to care for and maintain, but not quite a beginner plant. You will need to provide plenty of bright light, above average humidity levels, do not over-water and have plenty of patience with a young plant.

Ancient Ancestors

The cycads genus, which this species belongs to has an amazing history dating back before dinosaurs roamed the earth. The discovery of fossils from cycads provides evidence of the existence of their ancestors dating back to over 300 million years ago.

The sago palm is best suited for growing in a bright conservatory, but it can also be placed in other rooms where there is enough light and room for the wide fronds.

Pets: This plant is poisonous and one you really don’t want cats or dogs grazing on. If ingested some of the possible reactions can be extreme including death, according to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and other sources. One problem is the leaflets are quite slim which does attract the attention of cats, so cat owners may not want to risk having one of these plants in a home.

A Sago Palm is a very poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets. houseplant with a #4 levelThese are general guidelines that describe how poisonous certain houseplants are. It’s possible for an allergic reaction to occur from contact with any houseplant, toxic or non-toxic. If there is ever a concern, call: Poison Control Center: ******1-800-222-1222****** Level #1: Houseplants with low toxicity, may be mildly irritating, especially the sap of the plant. Level#2: Houseplants with medium to severe toxicity. Eating parts of these houseplants may result in vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, skin irritations, and breathing difficulties. Level #3: These houseplants are very poisonous. When eaten, especially in large quantities, severe vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, skin irritations, and breathing difficulties can occur. Level #4: These houseplants are extremely poisonous. Eating parts of these houseplants can be be life threatening. Every plant listed in our Popular HousePlant guide has a section explaining whether or not it is poisonous and, if so, how poisonous. Amaryllis, alocasia, dieffenbachias, crotons, ivies, azaleas, lilies, and philodendrons are just a few of the highly poisonous plants we use in our homes and offices all of the time. If you don’t know whether your houseplant is poisonous, go to Ask Judy on the website, send her a picture of your plant, and she’ll let you know if the houseplant should be kept away from small children and pets. See colorful pictures and get more information about poisonous houseplants in Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat! A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants toxicity. All parts are poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets., especially the seeds. Keep a Sago Palm out of the reach of children, dogs, and especially cats who love to play with the fronds of the plant.

On a recent trip to St. Croix, my wife found herself taken with the palm trees that blanket the island. Now, it evokes images of beach vacations and exotic locations anytime she sees this. And so, I’ve been looking into the possibility of planting palm trees in our backyard.

But the clay soil we have is an important consideration. If you have clay soil as I do, there are a few specific things that you need to understand.

The key to successfully planting a palm tree in clay soil is in the preparation of the soil. Amending the surrounding soil to ensure a proper pH level, aeration, and drainage, as well as proper planting depth, are the most important factors to successful transplantation of a palm tree in a clay soil yard.

All plants, including Palm Trees, are picky about where you plant them. Let’s explore the challenges, implications, and possible solutions to ensure your palm tree not only survives but thrives after being planted.

Where to Begin?

Before we even deal with the clay soil, keep in mind that this may not be the only issue you are facing when planning to plant a palm tree.

Cold Tolerance

The first consideration is where you live. Every Palm has a slightly different tolerance for cold. When you look at a Palm Tree, the sales information should include its USDA Hardiness Zone. Then you check to see if your region lies within that area. If not, you will need to research a Palm that could thrive in your yard. If you live in an area where cold temperatures get into the 20s, you can look to Saw Palmettos, Sago Palms, and European Fan Palms as options.

Soil Preference

Palm Trees prefer light soils with good drainage. Sandy loam is the best foundation for Palms because it supports root growth.

I think you can see where I’m going with this…

Planting a Palm Tree in clay soil can be very challenging. The reason for this is that clay soil does not drain well without significant amendment.

There is a simple way of checking your soil drainage. Just dig a hole in the area where you envision your Palm Tree. Fill it with water. Once it completely drains the first time, fill it again. This time, take note of how long it takes for the water to absorb into the soil. You want a relatively fast rate so the Palm’s roots don’t drown.

If you are having problems with clay soil drainage, .

Soil pH

Palm Trees prefer an alkaline range of 5.5 to 7.5. How do you know this? There are commercially available soil pH tests. Also, many areas have local educational cooperatives who will check your soil for free, or reasonable prices. There are ways of adjusting your soil’s pH, but you will need to monitor the soil regularly for changes.


Finally, you have to think about placement. Will your palm need full light or partial? Does it need substantial space between it and other plants or trees? Your gardening center can answer these questions for you insuring greater satisfaction and success.

An Expert’s Recommendations On Planting Palm Trees In Clay Soil

Warren’s Southern Gardens in Kingwood, Texas knows all too well the challenges that clay soil can pose when it comes to gardens, plants, and trees. They provide expert guidance and advice for their customers.

Diane Bulanowski, a representative from the company, was kind enough to offer helpful insight into a successful palm tree planting for homeowners with clay soil.

Diane recommends planting the palm tree “using a mixture of native soil, compost, and expanded shale”. Expanded shale helps to aerate the clay and quite frankly, was not something I had thought of using. In the case of palm trees, she recommended using liberal amounts of expanded shale in the soil mixture. You can purchase expanded shale at your local nursery or online (link to Amazon). But shipping prices are often high so buying locally is a good choice if you going to need a lot.

Incorporating compost into the mix will improve the texture, quality, and nutrient content of the soil. We’ve written previously on the pros and cons of homemade compost vs bagged options, but either will serve this purpose so it’s really a matter of availability and convenience.

What’s really important is that you are not simply planting the palm tree into the clay soil and calling it done. You are preparing and conditioning the surrounding soil to provide a nurturing environment for the tree to thrive.

and learn how easy it is to make your own!

When planting, Diane recommends setting the root collar at or slightly above the soil’s natural grade. She cites planting the tree too deeply as “the leading cause of unsuccessful new tree plantings”. She also cautions to handle the tree by the root ball, not the trunk.

As a final tip, Diane recommends planting slightly higher than the natural grade. This will allow for settling. The root flare will be exposed if the depth of planting is correct.

Special thanks to Diane at Warren’s Southern Gardens. You can visit their website by clicking here.

Planting A Palm Tree Step By Step

Below are generally accepted guidelines for planting a palm tree. I have included incorporation of our soil mix in step 4.
1. Create a hole as deep as the root ball and three times as wide.
2. Remove the Palm from its container. If it gets stuck, use gardening shears to cut it out. Loosen the root ball by gently squeezing the sides.
3. Put the Palm into the hole so that the root ball edge sets about 2” above ground level.
4. Once centered in the hole, fill in your amended soil mix evenly around the roots. Tap it down as you go.
5. At the halfway point, soak the soil then continue filling the hole until it nears the top of the root ball. You do not want to cover this completely.
6. Deeply water the hole again. If you wish, add a root simulator to your water. It supports healthy root development.
7. Sprinkle mulch, wood chips or stone around the top of the soil about 2” away from the tree base. Make this 2” deep and add to it annually.

Below is a walkthrough of the planting process from This Old House. They are backfilling with the same native soil but obviously, they aren’t dealing with the clay soil challenges. In any case, there is some interesting discussion prior to the planting which begins around 5:00 minutes in.

Care & Keeping for a Palm Tree

Once you planted the Palm Tree in clay soil, there’s still work to be done. Initially, unless you get significant rain, water your Palm two times a week. The soil should never completely dry out, but don’t soak it. After 6-months you can water twice a month.

Remember that clay soil can become tightly compacted and retain water longer than other soil types, so it’s good practice to check the moisture level of the soil while your palm tree is newly planted.

One of the fastest-growing palm trees is a Foxtail Palm, often stretching up to 3-feet a year.

It’s also a good idea to test your soil regularly. Every six months use a soil nutrient test kit like this one (link to Amazon). Palm Trees require potassium, magnesium, and manganese (source). You’ll be fertilizing quarterly but you still want to keep an eye on these nutrient levels in case an increase in a specific nutrient is needed.

It’s important to note that the potassium required by palm trees is often not sufficient in common lawn fertilizers, so don’t try to save a dollar using what you already have on hand (source). Stick with a fertilizer formulated especially for palm trees.

Nutrition Deficiencies

A palm tree requires a delicate balance of primary nutrients and will show signs of deficiency based on which nutrient it is lacking.

Magnesium Deficiency – If you notice yellowing around the edges of the older leaves but the newer leaves are still bright green, it likely that your palm tree is deficient in magnesium (source).

Potassium Deficiency – Often characterized by yellowish spots on the leaves, potassium deficiency is one of the most common nutritional imbalances of palm trees. The spots can actually appear translucent when viewed from underneath. A deficiency may also present as dying tips on the leaves (source).

Preventing Nutritional Deficiencies

Proper fertilization is the key to preventing deficiency issues with palm trees. Palms should be fertilized quarterly using a mixture that includes slow-release nitrogen. This fertilizer from Palmgain (link will take you to Amazon) is the recommended formula for use on palm trees by the University of Florida’s IFAS Extension.

Helps & Hints

  • Hardy Palms grow as far north as Zone 6 (-10F low temperature in winter). These include the Needle Palm, Windmill Palm, and Dwarf Palmetto.
  • It is often easier to buy a more mature Palm Tree as it won’t be as sensitive to the planting and watering process as a young one.
  • Brace your palm, protecting it from high winds. These supports improve root anchoring. 2X4s work well, equally spaced around the Palm with the top edges wrapped in burlap. If storms are a big issue in your area, add metal bands or another type of tie vertically around the wooden anchors. Nail these ONLY into the anchors, not the Palm Tree itself.
  • If your Palm Tree leaves lower or turns yellow/brown, it may not be a nutritional deficiency. It may simply need more water. Try this first.
  • When dead fronds appear, prune them, cutting as close to the trunk as possible. Make sure there is NO GREEN left on it.
  • Protect your palm from cold winter winds using a windbreak. You can also drape a blanket over the base of the Palm for heat retention.


Planting a palm tree in clay soil does present challenges, but they not insurmountable. I’m entertaining adding a couple of palms around my pool and if I do I’ll be sure to share that experience. I recommend consulting with a subject matter expert in your area before planting. They will have knowledge of the clay soil that you are working in and can offer specific recommendations unique to your situation.

Authors note: Warren’s Southern Gardens provided excellent insight and suggestions and we appreciate their assistance. If I have misspoken on any point in this article, those errors are mine and mine alone.

Palm Tree Symbol and Meaning

In the Near East and the Mediterranean, a Palm branch represents triumph, peace, and victory. In Mesopotamia, it was a sacred plant that stood for immortality, sacred marriage, and fertility (particularly the Date Palm). Greeks use Palm Fronds for celebrating winning athletes, and Christians brought Palm Branches out to greet Jesus when he entered Jerusalem.

An Assyrian myth tells us that Palm Trees connect the Heavens and the Earth. Egyptians carried Palms for funeral processions as an icon of the soul’s immortal nature. Alchemists saw the Palm Tree as the perfect embodiment of masculine and feminine characteristics in balance.

Did you know…
Words associated with the Palm Tree include truth, health, resurrection, purposefulness, and honor.

A guide to potting, planting and caring for your palm tree


Click the thumbnails below to view image gallery:

Potting palms to some is an easy task. However, when dealing with such an intricate plant, it is important to have a set of steps to ensure optimal growth. The most important part of potting a palm is to know what species it comes from, the conditions that it requires for growth, and the level of maintenance needed to keep it healthy.

Certain aspects such as pot types, soil mixes, watering and fertilization, affect the patterns of growth of a palm, below is a guide to potting.

Choose the Right Pot for your Palm

Having the right pot for your palm is extremely important. Young palms prefer smaller containers for warmth and drainage. The palm would benefit from potting into a larger pot if the soil is exhausted or the roots are coming out of the bottom. This also depends on how large you would like the plant to grow.

If contained in a pot too small, it can die from roots breaking off resulting in internal rotting of the wood. The bigger your pot the better in most cases because the palm will grow to a vast height and weight.

In addition to finding the right sized pot, it is essential that you make sure it has a drainage hole at the bottom to drain excess water.

Know the Best Soil Mixes which is Appropriate for your Palm

Providing the right soil mix for your palm is also crucial. Buy a good quality soil potting mix to match your quality palm. A common misconception is the belief that any kind of soil will work.

Use a soil mix that is free draining but still retains moisture to keep the soil damp and fertile for the growth of the roots. If the soil mix frees too much liquid, you will have to water your palm more frequently and potentially risk drowning it.

Furthermore, make sure to not overfill your pot with soil. There should be at least an inch between the soil and the top of the pot.

Have a Proper Knowledge on How to Water Your Palm

You may be thinking that watering your palm is the easiest part of the process. On the contrary, this is where it pays to know specific details about your palm. Some species of palms require that not only do their roots need watering, but also their leaves. There are some that respond to watering patterns according to the weather and then there are some that do not need to be watered often.

It all depends on the species of the palm. Of course, it is ideal to water your palm on hot dry days. However, suppose it is a cold day with no kind of moisture in the air for the palm to cultivate itself with. It is still crucial to water, taking care to not water the foliage as much because it will increase the chances of crown rot. If the potted palms are inside and are usually watered through the soil as opposed to the foliage, then they will benefit from an outside hosing to remove dust.

Watering with a hose versus watering with sprinklers is at the planter’s discretion. However, keep in mind that sprinklers do not have a concentrated like a hose. Pay close attention not to over or under water.

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