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Why You Shouldn't Plant Sago Palms

sago palm

Sago Palms are one of the most common plants in our Tampa landscapes. You probably have one in your yard. But, did you know that it is probably one of worst plants that you could possibly have in your yard?

There are two reasons why I can make such a bold statement:

Cycad Scale

The first thing that you need to know is that the sago palm is not really a palm at all. It is a type of plant called a cycad. It may look like a palm but it isn't!

These sago "palms" will eventually get infested with insects known as cycad scale. This will show up on the undersides of the fronds. It looks like white powder on the fronds. These insects will turn the fronds yellow and then to brown. The plant will eventually die if it isn't treated.

And that's one of the problems.

There are no long term chemical treatments available. Most recommend using a horticultural oil to get rid of it. I've tried this and it does work to some extent but you have to keep on spraying it over and over again to control it. The reason for this is that the scale will hide out in the soil where the roots are and then re-infest the plant. And to make matters worse, this scale spreads from other sago palms in your neighborhood by wind!

So, even if you get rid of the scale on the fronds, it is just a matter of time before the plant becomes infested with the scale insects again. The only practical solution for dealing with cycad scale is just to cut off the infected fronds when the new growth develops.

Here is the biggest reason why I don't like sago palms...

Sago Palms Are Highly Poisonous

It may surprise you to learn that every part of the sago palm is poisonous - to humans and pets. I've read several heartbreaking stories of cats and dogs getting into these plants and dying. A petition has even been started to require retailers to disclose the poisonous nature of this plant!

The ASPCA lists these clinical signs:

  • vomiting
  • melena
  • icterus
  • increased thirst
  • hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
  • bruising
  • coagulopathy
  • liver damage
  • liver failure
  • death

Even with veterinary treatment, it is estimated that 70% of pets will die if they ingest any part of this plant - especially the seeds of the female plant which are the most toxic (and the most likely to be eaten by one of your pets).

There are many poisonous plant myths out there (the poinsettia is one example). But the sago palm being poisonous is not a myth. I can't think of anything good to say about this plant. Not only is it difficult to maintain but it can be downright dangerous!

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