sago palm tree

Sago Palm Tree Bonsai: How to Grow and Care

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Although the name might be a bit confusing, when it comes to growing the bonsai palm tree, very few growers actually grow true palm trees. Instead, they are growing Cycas revoluta, or the sago palm. 

Despite the common name, sago palms are actually part of the cycad family. These ancient plants are found growing in the wild in southern Japan and have quite a storied past – they existed back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth!

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When you grow your own palm bonsai tree, it probably won’t live 150 million years – however, it will live for decades if cared for properly. Here are tips on how to do that. 

Interesting Facts about Sago Palm Tree

Height8-10”
Width3-5”
SunlightFull sunlight
Flowering Time LengthDoes not flower
Lifespan100+ years
Scientific NameCycas revoluta

Growing Bonsai Palm Tree from Seed or by Propagation

The easiest way to grow a sago palm tree is from seed. If you choose to start from seed, it’s best to soak it in water for a few days, then remove the red skin so that all that remains is a hard white seed coat. You can plant your seeds immediately, doing so sideways in well-draining, moist soil. It can take up to nine months for seeds to germinate.

You may find that propagating via offshoots, known as pups, is a faster method of starting your bonsai palm tree. These pups should be stripped of their leaves and roots and allowed to dry for one week before planting in a sandy soil mixture. 

sago palm care

How to Care for Bonsai Palm Tree

Here are some important tips when it comes to sago palm care:

Sunlight

The sago palm tree produces stiff, palm-like leaves. These leaves are designed to withstand a  wide variety of temperatures and can handle a range between 15-110 degrees Fahrenheit. For best growth, though, you will want to keep your sago palm tree at temperatures above 50 degrees. 

It can also tolerate a wide range of lighting conditions, but is best grown in full sun. Ideally, your bonsai palm tree should be placed in a location where it can receive at least three hours of sun per day. While you can certainly grow your tree in darker conditions, the leaves and branches may become laggy and weak. 

Watering

Just as the bonsai palm tree can handle a wide variety of temperature and lighting conditions, so, too, can it tolerate a variety of watering situations. It can handle a bit of neglect, and in fact, is best treated just like a cactus or succulent.

It’s perfectly fine to allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Just make sure your soil is well-draining and that you do not allow your plant to sit in water for long periods of time.

Fertilizing

The sago palm trees require very little when it comes to fertilizing, too. These plants are slow-growing, so just use an organic liquid fertilizer, diluted to half strength, about three or four times per year. 

You should fertilize when new growth begins in the spring along with later on in summer, which will harden off new growth and prepare the plant for the more dormant winter months – you should never fertilize during these months, when your plant is not actively growing.

Potting and Repotting

As with fertilizing, less is more when it comes to repotting a bonsai palm tree, too. These plants are slow-growing and prefer being root-bound. Therefore, when you repot, you only need to do so into a container that’s about one size larger than the previous container. Don’t fertilize after you repot. 

Pruning Bonsai Palm Tree

Because this tree grows so slowly, minimal pruning is needed. You also do not need to train it with wire. All you need to do is occasionally prune throughout the year, ideally by removing leaves that have turned brown or yellow.  Just cut the leaf stalk near the trunk or remove individual sections starting at the midrib area of the leaf. 

Pests and Diseases

The most common pest that you will have to deal with when growing a sago palm tree as a bonsai is scale. These pests can form a hard crust and can be removed with hydrogen peroxide. You may also notice mealy bugs, which can be controlled for with insecticidal soaps. Keep your plant properly watered and turn it regularly to prevent leaf burn and you shouldn’t have any other problems. 

One other important note related to the Japanese sago palm tree – make sure you do not put your plant where cats, dogs, or children can reach it. The leaves contain a toxin known as cycasin, which can be dangerous if ingested. 

Where to Buy Bonsai Palm Tree

You can purchase a sago palm tree in bonsai form from most specialty bonsai shops. You can also purchase a tree as a small seedling from a tree nursery and grow it in miniature form. 

For more bonsai trees to grow, check this list of bonsai.

*Image by Ga_Na/depositphotos

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