Skip to main content

Your complete sago palm maintenance guide

Not only are sago palms not true palm plants, they’re also low-growing! With these subtropical houseplants, you won’t have the same kind of look offered by those tall trees. Instead, the green fronds grow directly from the trunk without branching out. Although they can reach up to 10 feet tall, this can take up to 50 years and only happens when they’re planted outdoors. As a houseplant, sago palms usually average around two to three feet in size –– and they aren’t that hard to take care of. Sago palm maintenance is fairly simple, relying most on proper growing conditions.

A close-up of the fronds on a sago palm

Care requirements for your sago palm

Because they’re native to tropical regions, sago palms prefer to be in warm, humid environments. This is why, for the most part, they’re grown as houseplants outside of these areas. Sago palms grown indoors should be protected from any drafts or air flowing from heating and AC units as the extreme shift in temperature can cause damage.


Sago palms prefer bright, indirect lighting and shouldn’t be placed in direct sunlight. The direct lighting, especially on hot summer days, can cause sunburn damage and result in wilting leaves. As a houseplant, sago palms will favor east-, west-, and south-facing windows so long as they receive a lot of lighting throughout the day. Keep in mind that too much shade will also cause adverse effects, most noticeably spare foliage.


Like most houseplants, all sago palms need in regards to soil is one that drains well (and of course a pot with a drainage hole for excess water to escape through)! There are potting mixes made specifically for palms grown in containers, and although the sago palm isn’t a true palm, this should do the trick.


As a tropical plant, sago palms prefer moderately moist soils. They can tolerate some drought, but not very well. Proper sago palm maintenance requires watering the plant whenever the soil is dry to touch; however, be mindful of how much you’re watering to avoid soggy soil and leaving your plant susceptible to root rot.

Diseases and pests to be aware of

Luckily for indoor gardeners, sago palms don’t have any specific issues with pests or diseases. Scale and spider mites are always a concern (as they are with most houseplants) and can be taken care of with a natural insecticidal soap that’s safe to use on houseplants. Natural insecticides should always be used first before resorting to harsher chemicals that could have other adverse effects.

If your sago palm is infected with scale or spider mites, you’ll be able to identify them due to discoloration and damage to the foliage, as well as tiny bugs on the fronds. To help prevent infestations in the future, make sure your sago palm has enough humidity and airflow in its environment.

A sago palm as a home accent

Common discoloration

The ease of sago palm maintenance means that when there is a problem or something unsatisfying about the environment, you’ll know. As the plant grows, the older leaves will start to yellow and brown in order to put energy toward new growth. This is perfectly normal and happens with a lot of plants. To help keep your sago palm healthy, simply prune off the dying foliage!

There is some discoloration, however, that isn’t normal. When the yellowing happens on newer growth, there may be a nutrient deficiency. Nutrient deficiencies happen a lot in houseplants since their soil is contained, so regularly fertilizing (roughly once a month) can help combat nutrient issues. On the other hand, if you just potted your sago palm and the soil hasn’t had time to be drained of the nutrients, you may be overwatering your palm. Make sure you pot your plant in a container with good drainage and with soil that drains easily. When overwatering is the culprit, simply repot your sago palm in new soil and in a pot with a drainage hole and tray.

Be aware: this plant is quite toxic

Perhaps the most important part of sago palm maintenance and care is making sure you keep it out of reach of any curious kids or pets. All parts of the plant are toxic (especially the seed). The toxin found in sago palms, cycasin, starts by attacking the liver and causing a variety of symptoms including vomiting, lethargy, drolling, and seizures. If any part of the sago palm is ingested, you should seek medical attention immediately.

This doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t have a sago palm as a houseplant! Just be sure it’s out of reach of anyone that would be tempted to eat it. A sago palm simply existing in a sunny location makes for a beautiful accent and as long as proper growing conditions are met, you should have minimal trouble as is grows.

Editors' Recommendations

Kiera Baron
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kiera Baron is a freelance writer and editor, as well as a budding digital artist, based in Upstate NY. She is currently one…
How to care for crocosmia – get stunning red and orange flowers all summer long
Caring for your own crocosmia flowers
Orange crocosmia flowers

A summer garden full of bright, vibrant flowers is a delight to behold, and there are so many colors to choose from. From sunny yellows to cheerful pinks, there are flowers in practically any color you could want. If you’re looking for orange and red flowers that really stand out, then crocosmia might be just what you need! Also called coppertips, these flowers are easy to grow and lovely to look at. Just follow these tips to grow your own.
Planting crocosmia
Begin planting your crocosmia in mid-spring, after the last chance of frost has passed. If you want to get a head start you can plant them in starter pots indoors or in a greenhouse. Then, transplant the crocosmia into your garden once the weather is warm.

Choose a planting site that's in full sun or light shade. Crocosmia does best in rich and well-draining soil. You can improve your soil before planting by adding compost or leaf mulch. The organic matter breaks down, leaving gaps in the soil for water to flow through as well as adding nutrients to the soil for your plants to use.

Read more
Ornamental grasses add texture and color to your garden – how to grow these 6 different varieties
Caring for these ornamental grasses in your yard or garden
Pink muhly grass

Although there are countless varieties of grass, so many of them look the same. It can be difficult to find grass that really stands out in your garden. That’s where ornamental grasses come in. Ornamental grasses like pink muhly grass, purple fountain grass, and switchgrass can add color and texture to your garden borders just like flowers would. Wondering which ornamental grass to choose for your garden? Here are a few of our favorites!
What makes a grass ornamental?
You may think that all grass is ornamental. After all, we grow lawns because they look nice, not because we use them for food. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong in thinking that. Ornamental grass is still grass; it’s just grass that looks different. However, ornamental grass includes grass-like plants such as sedge, as well as true grass varieties.

Ornamental grasses come in a range of appearances besides the short, green look of classic lawn grasses. Often, ornamental grasses are tall, with some growing to 15 feet tall or more. Many are colorful and patterned, and they may have an interesting flower or seed head. Since there are so many varieties, there are ornamental grasses that will fit almost any garden or yard. Many gardeners use ornamental grasses as borders, but some varieties can make great additions to container gardens or flower gardens.

Read more
Quaking aspens are tall, beautiful, and easier to care for than you might expect
Read here and learn how to grow quaking aspens
Quaking aspen trees

Quaking aspens are native deciduous trees with striking and easily recognizable silhouettes. They have tall, thin trunks wrapped in white or silver bark. Although they are stunning all year long, with small white flowers in the spring and round green leaves in the summer, quaking aspens are perhaps most famous for their brilliant gold color of fall foliage. In addition to their beauty, quaking aspens are also extremely good for the environment. If you’re thinking about planting a quaking aspen tree in your yard, this is the care guide for you.
How to plant a quaking aspen
When choosing your planting site, there are a few key things to look for. First, your planting site should be well away from power lines, buildings, or other structures that tree growth could damage. Quaking aspens typically grow to between 30 and 50 feet tall (although some can grow much taller) and their longest branches can grow up to 30 feet long, so make sure your tree has plenty of room.

Your location should also be in full sun with rich, moist soil. Quaking aspens need at least 4 to 6 hours of sun each day in order to grow properly. In addition to the sun, a quaking aspen needs plenty of water and nutrients. Adding compost to your soil before you begin planting can help improve poor soil. Although it needs moist soil, avoid planting your quaking aspen in wetlands or dips where water pools, as too much standing water can lead to fungal infections.

Read more