Sago Palm Flower: Everything You Need To Know

Sago Palm with Flower
Sago Palm with Flower (Source: Instagram)

Whenever I recall my grandmother, the glimpse of her smiling face with a sago palm appears and for her memory, I always keep one sago with me.

I love this plant for its long arching green palm-like fronds but you can also grow it for its cone-like flowers.

Generally, sago palm blooms once every three to four years from the month ranging from April to June with either male or female flowers, which are called cones. The plant takes 15 to 20 years to reach maturity and bear flowers.

Sago Palm with Blooms in a Pot
Sago Palm with Blooms in a Pot (Source: Instagram)

If you have planned to grow sago palm, it won’t cost you much effort but you may need to be selective in keeping the flower.

You need not go with unnecessary speculations until you finish reading this article.

How Often Does the Sago Palm Flower?

Be patient! You can witness the first bloom in your Sago Palm only after 15 to 20 years.

Sago palm produces a long, golden, cone-like structure and is somewhat reminiscent of a large pinecone, bearing an elongated and erect male flower and a furry ball-like female flower. 

The male Sago Palm plants produce a flower once every two years, while female Sago Palm plants produce a flower once every three years after their first bloom, during the summer seasons.

Image represents Male (Left) and Female (Right) Flower of Cycas revoluta
Male (Left) and Female (Right) Flower of Sago Palm

The male flower dries within 7 to 14 days after maturity, while the female flower stays for a longer period of time (more than 10 months).

Sago palm flowers bloom in wild under the USDA zones 9 to 11 and you can also grow indoors, placing them in a bright east-, west-, or south-facing window. 

Sago Palm: Flower Overview

Do you know that Sago Palms are dominating the earth’s vegetation for 100 to 200 million years? Hence, they are also known as “living fossils.”

Sago Palm, as known as Cycas revoluta is a species of gymnosperm in the Cycadaceae family and native to southern Japan including the Ryukyu Islands

Take a look at the table to understand the flowers of Sago Palm.

Flower AttributesCharacteristics
AppearanceMale Flower: Large Cone Like
Female Flower: Furry Globular
SizeMale Flower: 50 to 70 cm in Length
Female Flower: 30 to 50 cm in Length
ColorBoth Male and Female Flower: Yellow
ScentBoth Male and Female Flower Produce Strong Scent At The Time of Pollination
Color VariationsMale Flower: Orange to Brown
Female Flower: No Color Variation
Color ChangeNo Change in Color
SeedsOrange to Red Coated (approximately 3 cm wide and 4 cm long)
Seeds Harvesting MethodHand Picking or Harvesting The Entire Flower
PollinationWind and Insects
IdentificationMale Flower: Elongated
Female Flower: Globular
ToxicityContains Cycasin and Is Harmful To Humans and Animals
Blooming PeriodMale Flower: Once In Every 2 Years.
Female Flower: Once in Every 3 Years.
Life Span of FlowersMale Flower: 7 to 14 Days
Female Flower: More Than 10 Months

Female Sago Palm flowers produce several large seeds that are orange to red in color.

Germination of Sago seed is a tedious task to observe and a single seed may take about three months to germinate.

Pollination of the Sago Palm Flower

When the sago plants are sexually matured, the female sagos begin to flower bearing a basketball-sized structure while the male sago produces a long thick structure or the male cone.

At this point, you have the opportunity to propagate and get new sago plants elsewhere in your yard or share them with your friends.

The natural pollination process in Sago Palms is not complex however, hand pollination requires more effort.

1. Natural Pollination

Wind and Insects, especially sap beetles are two natural agents for the sago palm flower, which help in the pollination process.

Wind pollination is only viable if female and male plants are 2 meters apart so, keep your palm couples near to ensure a successful pollination process.

During the months of pollination, male and female plants release a strong odor containing a chemical compound, Estragole, that attracts the insects to assist in the pollinating act.

Sago Palm with Flowers
Sago Palm with Blooms in a Pot (Source: Instagram)

Moreover, insect pollination is helpful in rainy seasons, when pollen availability in the air becomes low due to the rain.

2. Hand Pollination

Hand pollination can helpful when male and female plants are far from each other and you can successfully perform this from April to June.

Cut the male cone and rub it over a female flower when the flower opens. 

Follow the steps below to complete the successful hand pollination of sago palm.

  • Wait for the time when your male flower produces pollen and the female flower opens.
  • Wear gloves and a mask at all times during the process.
  • After pollens appear in the male flower, cut the entire flower from the base using a saw.
  • Take the male flower to a nearby female flower and rub the cone or tap it with your hands to sprinkle the pollen over the female flower.

If you have two male flowers, rub them together over the female flower to sprinkle the pollens.

Check out this video below if you need visual guidance!

It is ideal to pollinate the plant within two weeks after the female flower blooms as female flowers remain receptive only for a short period of time.

How to Make a Sago Palm Plant Flower?

Although the plant can sustain itself after it attains a certain age, always take certain requirements into account for making a Sago Palm bloom to its fullest.

Below is a list of tips you may need to consider to get a good grasp on the flowering of Sago Palms.

  • The potted Sago Palm requires 4 to 6 hours of dappled sunlight. If you live in the low light region, you can provide your plant with grow light.
  • For proper flowering, maintain humid conditions indoors between 40-50%. You can use artificial humidifiers or put the potted plant on a water tray for adequate humidity.
Sago Palm with Blooms in a Pot
Sago Palm with Blooms in a Pot (Source: Instagram)
  • Dry manure containing some portion of phosphorus when the plant is ready to bloom. You can also use a bloom booster in the blooming time, besides slow-release 18-6-8 fertilizer during the growing period.
  • Sago Palm grows and blooms in well-drained, sandy, and loamy soil with a 5.5–6.5 pH level. 
  • Water your Sago plant once every one to two weeks but you need not water it on a rainy day. 
  • Keep the plant under temperature between 15 degrees to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

What Should You Do with Sago Palm Flowers?

The flowers of the Sago Palm are not as beautiful as the flowers such as roses, lilies, or tulips. However, it is totally subjective to decide either to keep or deadhead the flower.

The male flower provides pollens at maturity while the female flower provides the plant with seeds to get new plants. 

Sago Palm with Flowers
Sago Palm with Flowers (Source: Instagram)

Many people find the sago palm appealing indoors as pot bonsai and the best use of the Sago Palm flower is its ability to deliver ornamental assurance on sidewalks and gardens.

But, here’s the catch. It will be beneficial to cut the flowers for some valid reasons.

  • The flowers contain the highest levels of Cycasin, which is toxic to humans and pets.
  • Sago Palm diverts the essential energy from foliage to cones and may run out of nutrition for the entire plant’s growth.

Besides offering seeds, I don’t see any other reasons for keeping the flowers.

If you are worried about the aesthetic decline of your sago palm due to barren flowers, the foliage will be enough to give a beautiful vibe to the plant.

How to Cut the Sago Palm Flowers?

Follow the steps to get into removing the sago palm flower.

  • Safety first! Wear gloves before removing them as the flowers contain toxins.
  • Take a saw and sterilize it to make it ready for cutting.
  • Hold the male cone at the center and snap it off or cut it with a saw. Snapping it directly will not cause harm to the cone once it gets old.
  • For the female cone, cut the entire stalk of the flower with a saw.

Pro Tip! If you find empty pollen sacs in the male flower,  it suggests that the flower may have already released the pollens and the flower is ready for cutting.

Consider the following precautions to avoid harm to the plant.

  • Remove the female flower before it opens as it will be difficult to remove once it is fully blooming.
  • Be careful not to cut the leaves in the process.
  • Leaving the bloom alone is the best option unless you want the pollens or seeds for germination.
  • If you want to allow the flower to bloom, take extra care by not letting your pets go around it.

Uses of Sago Palm Flowers

Though sago palm flowers cannot serve the ornamental value for every eye, they can offer the following benefits.

100 grams of sago palm contains 332, <1 gram of protein, <1 gram of fat, 83 grams of carbs, < 1 gram of fiber, and the remaining 11% of zinc.

  • Sago starch serves culinary purposes. Also, “Date miso” is a delicacy that comes after mixing the dried powders of seeds with the brown rice in Japan.

However, you should not consume the flowers or any parts of the plant through the mouth directly. Eating sago before it is processed may cause vomiting, liver damage, and fatal symptoms like death too!

Cat Sitting in the Pot of Palm Tree
Cat Sitting in the Pot of Palm Tree (Source: Instagram)

ASPCA also confirms that the sago palm contains cycasin which can be toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.

When consuming the plant, your pets may develop some symptoms such as vomiting, melena, icterus, increased thirst, bruising, coagulopathy, liver damage, liver failure, and death.

If any unfortunate accidents happen to you, your family member, or to your pets, you can instantly contact the helpline numbers given below.

Conclusion

Sago palm can be an essential gardening property, which increases decor value with its green lustrous feathery foliage. 

It also produces flowers that may not induce the needed ornamental value but can offer seeds for new sago palms.

If you own Ponytail Palm, you may also like to read Watering, Pruning, Propagating Ponytail Palm and Growing Ponytail Palm from Seeds.

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