The Q&A Archives: Minature Sago Palm

Question: My minature Sago palm is starting to yellow. I currently water a little once a week after soaking and draining once a month. The plant has been indoors and not in direct sun. How should I care and water this plant?

Answer: Caryota, or Sago palms, are small to medium-sized palms that grow best in shady sites, in rich, moist soil. They should thrive in regular potting soil and the moisture you're giving them, so I'd suspect the site is not bright enough for yours. Sago palms may or may not retain their old leaves, so if the yellowing is only on the oldest or lowest fronds, it is normal for the plant. They can be cut off if they're unattractive to you. It's not unusual for palms to have just one row of leaves at the top of the trunk. If your palms are acting differently than they have in the past, they may need to be fed, or they may need a deeper soaking than you are giving them. Periodic deep soakings will also leach salts away from the roots. If you inspect the leaves, you may find spider mites (look for webbing between the leaf fans and the stem). An infestation of spider mites can turn leaves brown prematurely. To avoid the problem, hose the foliage down every few weeks to remove the dust and any spider mites that might have taken up residence. If you want to feed your palm, you can spread several inches of organic matter over the roots so the nutrients released as the organic matter decomposes will trickle down into the soil, or you can broadcast an 8-8-8 complete fertilizer over the root zone. Palms are sensitive to salts, so don't apply any more fertilizer than the label recommends or you'll burn the roots. Your palm may not start growing again until later in the spring, but if you feed it, and water it regularly, it should perform well.

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