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Thursday, 21 April 2016

Is there something wrong with my cycad?

Cycad - Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm)

I'm a bit worried. More than a bit actually. My Cycad (C. revoluta) is not looking so well. Above is a picture taken last winter, July 2015, and he was growing in leaps and bounds for the past year.

Over the past couple of weeks, however, I've noticed the branches flattening more and more, totally exposing the centre, which is usually hidden by all the leaves. Could it be dying? Maybe too much shade? It has been under this Celtis africana for 10 years now. The tree has obviously grown much bigger over the years, giving much more shade.

Or could it be a female getting ready to flower? Or maybe a male ready to produce a cone? But Sagos are like people... reproduction takes two - a male and a female. In late spring, a mature male Sago produces a golden cone, shaped like a giant pine cone which may grow over 2' tall.  A female produces a huge golden flower which slowly opens when it is fertile, then closes, and begins to produce viable seed if pollination from a male sago was successful.

I read somewhere that most Sagos must be at least 15-20 years old before they are mature enough to bloom, and they also must be well established in the garden or landscape. Usually they will have a 10" - 14" (30cm) diameter trunk and a leaf spread of 5' - 6' (2m).  My Sago is now 10 years old and still has no trunk.

I've been considering digging him up and moving him to full sun or planting him in a big pot, but apparently they do not bloom in a pot. And disturbing him by transplanting him means it will take a long time for him to get "established" again.

One website says, "Sagos grow in full sun, but adapt to outdoor shade or an indoor area which receives bright light or a few hours of morning or afternoon sun." And mine does get afternoon sun, more so in winter.

Every spring, my Cycad would produce new leaves, but this past spring (Sept 2015) there was nothing.

Can anybody help? If you have an explanation, I'd love to hear from you.



  1. Hi Maree

    I'm quite confident that there is absolutely nothing wrong with your cycas. It is quite common for them to skip a season without flushing, sometimes stress related, but I doubt this is the cause. With cycas you can almost always tell if something is wrong by looking at the colour of the leaves - like if there was a mineral shortage they would turn yellowish or show signs of burns at the tips of the leaves the most common problem and cause of death with them is root-rot, this can also be picked up by looking at the leaves - the base of the leaves becomes a darkish rot-like brown, which progresses towards the tip of the leaves as the root rot becomes worse and goes untreated. Just as a side note - you won't be able to see changes in the current set of leave if you try and correct the condition by adding compost or whatever, it will only show in the new set.

    But with yours, I suspect the answer might relate to the age of your plant - as the plant gets older the flush gets larger and preparing for the larger flush takes more time and nutrients. So I think it would be safe to say that you can expect a nice large one before December this year. You can also try feeding it with Seagrow or just a healthy dose of compost from your heap and watch it prosper.

    1. Hi A, I am delighted to hear that you think there is nothing wrong with Mr. Cycas and I certainly will give him a good dressing of compost and then keep a watchful eye on him. I will be SO pleased if this year there is a good flush, I'm holding thumbs and thanks for taking the time to pop in with your advice! Have a nice day!


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