Sago Palms - Care Article

onlineplants plantcare planttips sagopalm

Why Is My Sago Palm Being A Jerk? What Can I Do To Fix It?

If you’re an aspiring plant collector like me you know how cool these plants look. Their strong fronds stand out, the sago palm is a statement piece. Native to Southern Japan there are several different varieties plant collectors can get their hands on here in North America. I was first introduced to their beauty about two years ago when I was browsing a nursery and stumbled across them and I all but screamed: “YOU ARE COMING HOME WITH ME”.


Rushing home I read up on its care and repotted it as lovingly as possible. After flooding my Instagram with photos from every angle a couple of weeks went by and to my horror, my Sago palm was turning yellow before my very eyes. I panicked, had I over watered it? Under-watered it? What was going on? And how do I remedy this fast?! Sadly bad turned to worse and worse turned to the stuff of nightmares and eventually, my pride and joy Sago was on it’s way to the compost bin. Broken-hearted it was a while before I ever thought of adding another one to my collection. If they were THAT easy to kill, who's to say the next one wasn’t going to fall victim to my touch of death.

This summer however I snagged another Sago from my friends at the Urban Botanist hoping that this would be my time to redeem myself. No sooner do I bring this little one home and the leaves start turning yellow! This time it’s personal so I did some research and this is what I came up with


What exactly is happening here?


Many issues could be at work here, even a combination of a few. Yellowing Sago leaves is caused by the following;


  • Completely normal plant reaction as the plant is conserving nutrients and making room for new growth.
  • Too much water.
  • Too little water.
  • Low light conditions
  • Shock, such as repotting and disturbing the root ball.
  • Nitrogen, magnesium, or phosphorus deficiency.


To the normal plant collector, mineral deficiencies can confuse and even terrify us. And if it’s receiving too much water letting the soil dry out isn’t helping then what is really at play here? Or is this plant quite simply just a jerk and we’re not destined for one another?


What Can I Do?


  • Change lighting conditions, Sago’s prefer bright indirect sunlight indoors so move it to a spot where this is optimal. Probably were the plants that are doing the best are situated.
  • Water less, I don’t know how many times I have to remind myself “when in doubt don’t water” Sagos are susceptible to root rot and prefer a drier soil. Make sure the soil is drying completely in-between watering and water sparingly.
  • Fertilize the plant with an all-natural fertilizer such as worm manure. Worm manure improves soil drainage, balances ph, provides nutrients, and improves water retention (less watering) amongst other benefits.
  • Do not cut the yellowing fronds, if the plant is indeed “stockpiling nutrients” cutting off the fronds leaves it vulnerable to infection and could stunt plant growth.


The best advice is “patience” which I know a lot of plant parents (myself included) may not have a lot of especially during peak summer growing months when now is the time for new leaves and blooms. Trial and error is the best way to get to know the ins and outs of new plant species. And perhaps with a little bit of patience and some TLC you and your sago or fingers crossed for me and mine will be able to live together after all. However, for right now mine is still a jerk.


- Kat, Bad Plant Mom @_badplantmom


Older Post Newer Post