The oriental Cycas have long been a favourite in our local area because they make such a statement and look good all year round. Well suited to containers and planter boxes the Sago Palm as it called, loves a shady spot making them the perfect statement plant for a small garden or shady patio.
Many people confuse them and call them cycads because of their growth habit, they are also not palms but when mature and tall they can look palm like so hence the common name of Sago Palm. All very confusing but in the end that is just semantics as they remain popular because they look like a cycad and are so easy to grow that even an inexperienced gardener will have success.
Although they are water wise they do come from Japan where they do not get as hot as we do and they certainly don't grow in the same conditions as our South African cycads. As such one gets the best results from thinking of them as cool garden lovers.
Where to plant:
With a Cycas revoluta not liking the African extreme heat the best spot to plant one is where they get some shade from the heat of the day. We recommend morning sun and afternoon shade or at least shade from 11am- 2pm in the summer months. They will grow with more sun but then care and looking after them becomes more important.
In the garden plant them with a generous amount of bone meal for strong root development as well as BioGanic to promote general growth. They are also well suited to being container grown. In a container make sure that the container drains well as they do not like being root bound. A 2cm layer of river sand in the bottom of the container will assist with drainage and ensure that you don't get mud water running out the base. Only use potting soil to fill up the container for planting.
Once planted mulch around the base to help for moisture retention and to keep the Cycas cooler.
As cool garden lovers they do better if watered more frequently. Cycas revoluta will happily grow with regular irrigation or a little less but as long as they don't get too hot. In the garden we like to feed them with BioGanic alternated with BioOcean.
In containers they really do like a high nitrogen liquid plant food. Nitrosol or Seagro will do the trick and a monthly feeding is all that is required.
If you don't feed them often they will still grow well and put out new leaves every summer but if you do feed them, you get many more leaves which will be a lot more lush and your stem will get taller and bigger faster.
What can go wrong:
- White or light brown bumps on the stem and along the underside of the leaves. Cycas can get scale and in fact they often do as the scale insects like the protected spot against the stem between the leaves. Spray with ready to use Garden Gun contact insecticide or the softer BioKill. Because they don't mind water one can also use a systemic insecticide as a drench to combat scale.
- Yellow dots on the older leaves. This is a trace element shortage which is brought to the fore when the plant gets to hot in the afternoon. Cycas growing in more shade rarely get the symptoms. To fix this feed the Cycas with Trelmix which is a trace element supplement regularly through summer and this will keep the new leaves from developing the spots.
- Yellowing of the complete leaf or of individual leaves. This is almost always outside damage. By this we mean the leaves have been damaged by being handled to rough most commonly. When one is cleaning up around them, we've seen how the leaves are pulled up to make access easier and this damages the leaves. One should never tug or stroke the leaves. Sometimes this is also as a result of being handled at transplanting. The yellowing of just older leaves is most often from not enough water but remember that they do die off from the base as the new leaves mature to give the characteristic stem.