Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cycas Revoluta

New growth on Cycas revoluta

Full view of Cycas revoluta
     I have mentioned in my post on Cypriprediums that they could be expensive annuals.  Well, in my gardening career the most expensive annuals I have grown have been cycads.  For those who don't know, cycads are a group of plants very primitive in origin which many uninformed people confuse with palms.  They are not palms, however, but are in their own grouping of plants.  There are over 200 different kinds of cycads, many of which are endangered species.  The most commonly grown cycad is the one pictured above--Cycas revoluta, also commonly known as Sago Palm (although it is not a palm).  Cycas revoluta, being so commonly grown. is not endangered.
     Many years ago when I first discovered cycads I became enamored of them and spent a lot of time and money trying to figure out if there were any that would be hardy in our climate.  The message boards concerning growing exotic plants in temperate climates were filled with discussion of which cycads might be hardy and how to find them.  I have spent what seems like a fortune in the quest to find a hardy cycad and I can now report to you that there are none that are hardy in our climate.  The dead cycads I have grown will attest to this fact.
     Although some nurseries in southern states, located in zone 8 just like us, say that some cycads are hardy for them, the difference in summer heat between those states and Bainbridge Island is what dooms cycads here.  There simply is not enough heat here for them to grow well if they are left outside year round.  To illustrate this difference in summer heat, in the recent heat spell which has gripped much of the country, our high temperature has been in perhaps the high 80s (Fahrenheit) and that only lasted for a day or two while other parts of the country have seen temperatures well above 100 for days on end.  Even Portland and the Willamette Valley only a few hours south of us have much more summer heat than we do.
     As of last year, after killing countless cycads, I was cycadless and so when I saw a fairly full and well grown Sago Palm at Bainbridge Gardens for a reasonable price, I bought it.  Several months ago I noticed that it was starting a new growth flush.  This was exciting, because even though I have grown many cycads in the past, they have rarely done well enough to put out new growth.  I believe cycads require heat and sun to put out new growth in our climate.  Of all the plants that I have grown cycads have most puzzled me about what they require to grow well since I have never succeeded in getting them to grow well.  So when I read somewhere on the internet that the Sago Palm appreciates lots of water and fertilizer when it is putting out new growth I seized on that tidbit and have been making sure it is well watered and have been generous with the Fox Farm fertilizer.  So far so good as you can see from the pictures.


  1. Isn't this a gorgeous plant! so wonderful it's putting out new growth for you. How are you planning to overwinter it? I've a friend who has one that is twenty years old now but he has heated greenhouses....

    1. Hi Deanne- Thanks for all the nice comments. Yes, I will have to winter this cycad in my sunnroom. I also know people who have been successful with these if they grow them in heated greenhouses. I don't really have a heated greenhouse--only a sunroom which is not heated and does not have as much light as a greenhouse. Also it does not have a drained floor so I cannot use a hose to water plants in the sunroom. That said I have previously grown Cycas revoluta by wintering it in my greenhouse and it lived for many years, but it rarely,if ever, put out new growth.