Sago Palm Turning Yellow: 7 Reasons Why

Is your Sago Palm leaves turning yellow? If so, you are not alone!

First, understand that the Sago palm tree (Cycas revoluta) is not a true palm tree at all.

In fact, it is a relative of the pine tree that has been around since prehistoric times.

Sago growing at Disney Springs, Orlando, Florida 2018

These hardy, slow-growing Asian trees look quite tropical but can survive temperatures down to 15° degrees Fahrenheit.

Hardy though they are, Sago plants can fall prey to a number of different problems and all of these may manifest as yellowing leaves.

In this article, we will share information to help you figure out what is plaguing your plant and what you can do about it.

#1 – Sago Palm Yellowing From Insect Infestation aka Plant Scale

Scale insects may attack and slowly turn the leaves yellow. The Asian scale is one pest often found in Florida.

We can usually find these types of pests on the undersides of the leaves where they attach themselves and suck the sap.

When you find cycad scale, remove the infested leaves and destroy them. Don’t toss them into your compost heap.

Treat Sago with a horticultural oil spray to prevent further infestation. However, it is best to simply prevent introducing scale insects to your collection.

As a part of your Sago palm care inspect any plant you’re considering buying for pests before you bring it home and scout regularly for pests.

NOTE: There has been some success controlling Asian scale using coffee. Our PlantCareToday article looks at Sago Palm scale and Asian scale.

Asian scale covering leaves of sago plant

Revoluta leaves covered with Asian cycad scale bugs

#2 – Soil Nutrient Deficiencies Equals Leaves Turning Yellow

Sago palms lacking in manganese or magnesium may also exhibit yellow leaves. Feed your Sago cycas with a slow-release fertilizer high in magnesium and potassium.

If the color change manifests in streaks and spots, suspect a manganese deficiency.

Chelated manganese applied in a foliar application can help remedy this problem as can manganese sulfate applied as a soil drench.

Be sure that any fertilizer applied contains trace minerals and chelated iron for plants to help keep the leaves green.

As your plant begins to display green, new growth, cut back the yellow older leaves.

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#3 – Too Much Fertilizer

Excessive fertilizing can cause Sago fronds to turn yellow.

Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and follow them.

Excessive fertilizing can lead to the buildup of mineral salts.

When the plant uptakes too many minerals, it can burn both the leaves and the plant tissues.

When this happens, the edges of the leaf become discolored, turn brown and curl first, and then the damage moves in toward the mid-rib of the leaf.

#4 – Sago Palm Sunburn

Too much sun can burn or bleach the leaves. It’s possible to grow Sagos in full sun, but you must give sagos plenty of time to acclimate.

It’s really best to locate your Sago in an area with bright light and partial shade. In this sort of setting you will get larger leaves with better color.

Be sure to keep newly propagated plants and seedlings protected in a cooler, filtered shade or low light setting.

#5 – Freezing

Even though revoluta cycads can survive extreme cold, they may still suffer ill effects.

Cold weather can cause leaves of Sagos to become yellow.

This happens because the roots are not able to uptake nutrients from the soil is well in cold weather.

When this happens, you simply have to wait for warmer weather.

Leaves may even freeze and yellow or brown.

If this happens, leave the dead leaves in place until the weather turns warm then cut all the leaves off back to the trunk.

New leaves should soon take their place.

#6 – Over Or Under Watering

Both under watering and overwatering can cause Cycas palms to develop yellow leaves.

When you water too much, you run the risk of root rot which results in nutrient deficiencies.

When planting in containers use well-drained soil. Keep it moist, but don’t allow the plant to stand in water.

When watering, water completely and allow the potting soil to dry completely before you water again. Typically, you should water your Sago palm about once a week.

#7 – Disturbances

Shock can cause leaves to yellow. If you disturb the root ball by digging and moving the plant abruptly from one setting to another, expect the leaves to turn yellow and even fall off.

After adjusting to its new home and roots become established, the plant should put out you, green leaves.

Once you have your Sago palm in place, it’s best to leave it there as these are similar to ficus trees in that they will lose their leaves if you move them around too much.

When Sagos are moved from one place to another, the leaves may be bruised.

When you purchase a Sago and bring it home, it may take some time for this slow grower to adjust, and it may already have bruised leaves which will manifest as fading leaves.

Locate your Sago in an area where it won’t encounter a lot of foot traffic with animals or people brushing up against the limbs.

Summary

The Cycas (Sago) are popular gardening landscape plants in southern California and Florida. You can find them in most garden centers.

They are slow healthy growers. When you encounter your palm tree leaves starting to turn yellow it will take some time to recover.

Be patient! These wonderful plants are worth the effort.

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