Sago palms in Florida: Know before you grow.

Sago palms
This Cycas revoluta, also known as a Sago palm, thrives at a Lakewood Ranch residence.

Sago palms add a stunning exotic vibe to Florida properties, but several landscape companies – ArtisTree included –will only recommend them with caveats. In the early 1990s, Asian cycad scale wiped out nearly 60 percent of sagos in Southeast Florida. In 2002, this airborne scale popped up again in the Tampa Bay area and to this day has never been totally eradicated. Sadly, the sago has become a no-go for many homeowners throughout the state.

ArtisTree was reminded of the sago’s troubled saga after seeing infected ones on Sarasota and Venice commercial properties. (Incidentally, the sago isn’t a true palm but instead a member of the cycad family.) Our landscape designers advice? Think twice before adding a sago palm to your landscape.

Sago palms
The sago palms affected by Asian scale are in serious decline before dead leaves are removed.

Why Sago palms are so often a no-go.

  • Asian scale created by hungry, tiny white insects causes white spots/leaf discoloration and stunts growth. Unattended wilting plants often die. The taxonomy for these insects is available here.
  • Even if you’re ready to do battle with drench treatments (leaves and roots), multiple applications will be required. Watch for distress signs.
  • Strong neurotoxin can paralyze humans and animals, possibly killing if ingested.
Top dead leaves removed before treating rest of distressed plant.

Still interested in Sago palms?

Still, some homeowners who closely monitor their sago palms have success stories to share. They’ve managed to guard against Asian scale. If you’re willing, perhaps you can, too.

You’ll need to plant your sago palms in a well-drained area and water regularly. Be sure to let them dry out between waterings as they do not like “wet feet.” Fertilize in spring, summer and fall with a slow-release granular. These slow-growing cycads thrive in full sun or partial shade but will give you bigger leaves with more shade. They’ll grow to 10 feet or more but are more often seen at about six feet in Florida.

In return, the Sago palm’s majestic beauty is yours to enjoy – whether you plant as an accent, a single specimen or in a container. Just remember the caveats. We offer you two other viable choices below.

An office park in Venice: This Sago palm with browning leaves needs close attention.

You DO have other options.

ArtisTree has two other cycad choices for homeowners who love the look of sago palms but don’t want to mess with Asian scale problems. Consider the dioon, a genus of plants that commands attention. Here are two types that add a nice tropical touch and are easy to maintain.

ArtisTree HOA landscape maintenance

To get your landscape renovation started now, browse ArtisTree’s portfolio and then call Jenni Lassen at 941.488.8897, ext. 312, to meet with one of our award-winning designers. We proudly serve Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties.

ArtisTree also provides complete landscape maintenance services for HOA communities throughout Southwest Florida. Contact Michael Casper at 941.488.8897, ext. 321, for your custom proposal.  

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