How To Plant and Grow Sago Palm Seeds

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Although Sago Palms are not true palms, they are popular as indoor container plants that can bring life into any room. 

Sagos are tropical and sub-tropical, low-growing plants that can be grown through cuttings and using their seeds.

Sago Palm seedsPin
Sago palm (Cycad) seeds starting to ripen | PlantCareToday

Sago palms are native to warm parts of Japan and southern China. In cooler climates, they’re often grown as houseplants. When grown in the garden, plant them in the early spring or late fall. 

Since these plants tend to grow slowly, they make excellent indoor plants and garden specimens. 

It takes between five to six years for your plant to reach a height of 2′ feet, so it won’t crowd your space even if you have a small room.

While “palm” is part of their common name, sago palms are not really palm trees at all. They’re cycads, a group of seed plants with ancient roots related to cone-bearing conifers.

But how can you grow a Sago Palm from seeds? It’s an easy task, and by reading this article, you will learn growing sago palm from seed like a pro.

Learn How to Plant Sago Palm Seed

Sago Palms represent an excellent choice for those who live in warm to moderate climates. They add the necessary visual interest without occupying much space.

Sagos are common among potted plant enthusiasts, although they can also be grown outdoors.

When growing a sago palm as a houseplant, put it in a south-facing window or another bright area. It has no problem tolerating typical household temperatures.

Despite the name and palm tree-like appearance, sago palm plants actually aren’t true sago palms at all. Instead, they’re more closely related to pine trees. 

If you’re trying to grow the plant from an existing Sago Palm, we’ll explain the most straightforward steps to help you grow your new palm from seed.

For the first method, you may notice new clusters forming near the base of the plant. These pups can be cut off, planted elsewhere, or shared with fellow gardeners. 

Don’t procrastinate if you are going to attempt this process.

Select the Seeds

The first step on how to grow sago palm from seed is to select the right seeds from a flowering plant. You can get the Sago seeds from a nursery or collect them in the early fall.

Sago palm fruit plays a significant role in the reproduction and propagation of sago palms.

Farmers and gardeners often collect ripe fruits to extract the seeds or sago palm nuts and use them to grow new sago palm plants.

The sago palm tree fruit is typically spherical and has a fleshy pulp surrounding the seeds.

Before touching or collecting the seeds, put on protective gloves as the Sago Palm plant and all its parts are toxic.

It’s worth noting that the sago palm tree seeds obtained from the sago plant fruit may take some time to germinate, and proper care must be provided to ensure successful growth.

Moreover, if you plan to collect and plant sago palm seeds, it’s important to ensure they are fully ripened and in good condition for the best chances of successful germination and growth.

Examine the Seeds

Sago palm seeds have distinct characteristics that can help identify them. Identifying the characteristics can help distinguish sago palm seeds from other seeds or nuts. 

So, what do sago palm seeds look like?

Here’s what sago palm seeds typically look like:

  • Size and shape: Sago palm seeds are relatively large and generally round or oval in shape. They have an average diameter of 1-2 centimeters, although sizes vary slightly.
  • Outer shell: The seeds have a hard, woody outer shell, which is usually brown. The shell is rough and may exhibit some texture or ridges.
  • Color: When mature, sago palm seeds are dark brown or blackish. However, the color may vary depending on the species and level of ripeness.
  • Texture: The outer shell of sago palm seeds is rough and textured, protecting the embryo inside.
  • Inner content: On the inside, sago palm seeds contain the embryo, the primary part responsible for germination and growth. The embryo is typically light-colored, usually creamy or pale yellow in appearance.

To produce viable sago palm seeds, mature male and female plants must be present. Instead of available plants, ordering seeds from a reputable seed supplier will be key in obtaining seed that is likely to germinate.

After collecting the seeds, you need to check for the pollinated ones, as these are the ones you can use to grow a new Sago Palm.

Place the seeds in a bowl of warm water. The Sago seeds that sink to the bottom contain endosperm and are ready for reproduction. Those that float are not suitable for replanting.

Clean the Seeds

A fruit wall wraps the Sago Palm seeds. To remove this membrane or outer husks so the seeds can grow better, soak them in water for at least 24 hours before planting them. 

If this membrane is hard to remove, you might need to soak them a little longer.

Too much water can promote bacterial growth and eventually damage the seeds. To avoid this problem, wash the seeds in water and bleach the solution in a ratio of 10:1. 

After cleaning the seeds with this solution, rinse them carefully with water.

Planting the Sago Seeds

So, how to plant sago palm seeds?

Plant Sagos in well-drained soil. A simple 1 part perlite and 1 part peat moss is a good starting mix.

Allow the seedlings to grow in the tray for at least three to four months before attempting to transplant them into larger pots.

Start planting sago palm seeds in a 4″ inch container while sowing them sidelong in the ground.

The best time to plant nursery-container sago palms is late winter to early spring when the plant is semi-dormant. 

Select a container slightly larger than the nursery container and fill it part way with well-draining potting soil or garden soil amended with compost. 

Leave about one-third of each seed above the soil level. Next, moisten the soil with water and cover the pot with plastic wrap to help retain the moisture.

If you are lucky enough to have both a mature male sago palm and a female sago palm, this will not present a problem for you. 

Pollination can be achieved by the wind or insects, but you can get in the act and ensure pollination by dusting pollen from the male to the female flower yourself. 

Related: Sago Palm Problems – Leaves Turning Yellow

Cycad with orange seeds and textured leavesPin
Photo Credit: Instagram @christinazellerdesign

Maintain the Right Temperature

A Sago Palm grows best in moderate temperatures between 70° – 100° degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures help the Sago seeds grow without allowing the excess water to evaporate.

The pinnate leaves are typically about four to five feet long at maturity, reaching their greatest length when grown in partial shade. Shiny, new leaves sprout from the top of the crown in a circular pattern, located above a woody trunk. 

If the temperature is too low, use a heating mat to supply constant temperature and help the seeds germinate. They will start to show the first signs of growth between one and three months.

Sago palms thrive in humid environments, so if plants struggle indoors, try placing them over a humidity tray to create a more amenable environment. 

Avoid harsh sunlight; though sago palms appreciate a warm and bright environment, too much sunlight can damage the foliage. 

Once the seeds have started germinating, remove the plastic wrap while maintaining the temperature between 70° and 80° degrees Fahrenheit.

Transfer the Plants

Keep an eye on the sago palm seeds until you can see about three to four leaves emerging from the soil. When the seeds germinate, it will be time to transfer the plant to a larger container.

You can choose a special palm soil to help your Sago Palms grow faster. But, these plants aren’t picky and will do well in any soil, as long as it has good drainage and is slightly acidic to neutral PH.

Sago palm seed germination will first rely on the seed itself. Sago palm plants can be either male or female. 

To produce viable sago plant seeds, both mature male and female sago palm seeds will need to be present. In lieu of available plants, ordering sago palm tree seeds from a reputable seed supplier will be key in obtaining seed that is likely to germinate.

Use an adequate liquid fertilizer to help the plant grow better, especially in the early growth period. It will help it blossom and grow healthier.

How to Maintain Sago Palms

After starting your Sago Palm seed, there are a few things you need to do to keep the plant in excellent health:

Cycad cone with red seeds, surrounded by green fronds.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @plumeriaplantation
  • Sagos need bright yet indirect light. Too much direct sunlight can burn the plant, while too much shade will hinder growth and cause the leaves to wither. Place them next to a window that faces the west or south for the best results.
  • Once a month during the growing season, an 18-8-18 water-soluble fertilizer may be applied to keep your sagos at their best, at a rate of one teaspoon per gallon of water or according to package directions.
  • These plants can tolerate drought, so they don’t need much water. Touch the soil and water when it feels dry. Too much watering can cause root rot.
  • Sooty mold is a fungus that grows on the secretions that tiny bugs leave behind. This fungus can be washed off the sago’s leaves with a steady stream of water on each spot. 
  • The fungi you see growing in the organic matter are helping to decay it and turn it into compost, along with some bacteria you can’t see.  
  • Reduce the amount and frequency of water in winter when the temperature is low and the plant isn’t overly active.
  • Fertilize a sago palm a couple of times a year in spring and fall with a slow-release fertilizer designed especially for use with palms. For the amount to use, follow product label instructions. Pruning Sago palms seldom need pruning.
  • Use a suitable type of liquid fertilizer in spring and fall to help keep your Sago Palm in the best shape.

Related: More on Sago Palm fertilizer.

Types of Sago Palm

Other plants use the common name of sago palm, though Cycas revoluta, also known as king sago palm, is the most widely cultivated. 

Palm tree with dense fruit cluster.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @lauritzengardens

The other types of sago palm include: 

Cycas rumphii (queen sago): This type grows more like a tree than a shrub, reaching about 15 feet tall. 

Cycas circinalis (queen sago palm): This tree-like palm reaches nearly 10′ feet tall and is native to India. 

Metroxylon sagu (true sago palm): This is a true palm and is part of the botanical family that contains other popular palm trees. 

Sago Palm Poisoning

The toxin causes gastrointestinal irritation as early as 15 minutes after ingestion of sago palm parts, followed by liver damage. 

Gastrointestinal signs include hypersalivation (drooling), abdominal pain, reduced appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Sago palm roots and fronds close-up.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @laurielehnert

Signs of liver damage also include symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, gastric lavage, liver failure, abdominal pain, and reduced appetite, as well as increased drinking and urination, dehydration, lethargy, weakness, jaundice (yellow cast to the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eyes), and ascites (fluid in the abdomen). 

Patients with liver disease can show neurologic signs in more advanced stages within 2–3 days of sago palm ingestion. 

Patients may also have depression, circling, unsteadiness, confusion, muscle tremors, seizures, and paralysis, with neurologic signs culminating in a coma or even death. 

Wrap Up

A Sago Palm is an excellent indoor plant because it doesn’t take much preparation or maintenance and grows slowly. You can grow this plant from sago palm tree seeds if you have picked the right ones.

The parent plants must mature (about 15 years) before they produce pups. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the sharp leaves, and separate the pups as soon as you notice them; the smaller they are, the easier the process.

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