Is your Sago Palm 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.
These hardy, slow-growing Asian trees look quite tropical but can survive temperatures down to 15° degrees Fahrenheit.
Hardy though they are, Sago palm 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 Turning Yellow From Insect Infestation aka Plant Scale
Scale insects may attack the Sago palm. However, the Asian scale is one pest often found in Florida.
These types of pests can usually be found 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 palm with a horticultural oil spray to prevent further infestation. However, it is best to simply prevent introducing scale insects to your plant 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 your plants 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.
#2 – Soil Nutrient Deficiencies Equals Leaves Turning Yellow
Sago palms lacking in manganese or magnesium may also exhibit yellow leaves. Feed your Sago palm with a slow-release fertilizer that is high in magnesium and potassium.
If the yellowing 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.
#3 – Too Much Fertilizer
Excessive fertilizing can cause Sago palm fronds to turn yellow. Be sure to read fertilizer manufacturer’s instructions carefully and follow them.
Excessive fertilizing can lead to the buildup of mineral salts.
When the plant uptakes too many minerals (fertilizer), 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 Sago palm in full sun, but you must give sagos plenty of time to acclimate.
It’s really best to locate your Sago palm 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 Cycas revoluta palms 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 turn 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 revoluta palms to develop yellow leaves.
When you water too much, plants 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 plants 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 yellowing 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.
The Cycas revoluta (Sago) are popular landscape plants in southern California and Florida. You can find them in most garden centers.
They are slow growers. When you encounter your Sago palm turning yellow it will take some time to recover.
Be patient! They wonderful plants are worth the effort.