The thick trunk and dense fronds of a sago palm can make you feel like you walked onto the set of Jurassic Park. And there’s a very good reason for that.
The sago palm, or Cycas revoluta, has been around for at least 300 million years. That’s before the first known dinosaurs walked the earth!
However, this prehistoric palm tree is not really a palm at all. Instead, it’s a type of gymnosperm (cone-producing plant) known as a cycad.
- Best Fertilizers For Sago Palm
- Choosing Fertilizer for Sago Palm
- 5 Best Sago Palm Fertilizers Reviewed
- Do Sago Palms Need Fertilizing
- How to Fertilize Sago Palm Trees
- When to Fertilize Sago Palm
- Verdict: Best Sago Palm Fertilizer
- FAQ’s Sago Palm Fertilizer
Cycads may not be related to palms in the botanical sense. But they require nearly identical nutrition. Most fertilizers advertised for palm trees and other tropicals will meet the needs of sago palms. There’s nothing wrong with using a general-purpose palm fertilizer on this plant in a pinch.
With that said, custom-tailored nutrition is a must if you want to give your sago palm the best care possible. If that sounds daunting, no worries! I’ve broken down everything you need to know about feeding sago palms — including some of my own go-to fertilizer formulas — to eliminate all the guesswork.
Best Fertilizers For Sago Palm
If you’re in a hurry and looking to make a snap decision on choosing the best sago palm fertilizers, then here are my top picks at a glance. Otherwise, keep reading until the end to get familiar with when, how, and why Sago’s palms need fertilizing.
Choosing Fertilizer for Sago Palm
Sago palms perform best when fed with a similar ratio of nitrogen and potassium. Ideally, your chosen fertilizer should also contain the micronutrient manganese (a common deficiency in sago palms).
Granular formulas tend to be the best option for in-ground sago palms. You can feed potted sago palms with liquid, granules, or fertilizer spikes.
Sago Palm N-P-K Ratio
All store-bought fertilizers are labeled with three consecutive numbers divided by hyphens. This sequence is called an N-P-K ratio, and it represents the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in any given formula.
N-P-K ratios are always in the same order. The first number stands for nitrogen, the second for phosphorus, and the third for potassium.
For example, a palm fertilizer labeled 6-4-6 contains 6% nitrogen, 4% phosphorus, and 6% potassium.
Fertilizer manufacturers place so much emphasis on these nutrients because they are the most important for plant health. But that does not mean fertilizers contain these three compounds and nothing else!
Things like iron, manganese, and zinc are all examples of micronutrients. These and other nutrients are not part of the N-P-K ratio. Instead, you’ll need to look at the “Guaranteed Analysis” section typically found on the back of fertilizer packaging for specific details.
Types of Fertilizer
Fertilizer granules, liquids, and ready-to-use spikes are all viable options for feeding a sago palm. Each of these formulas delivers the same type of nutrients. However, they go about it in slightly different ways.
Understanding the pros and cons of each type of fertilizer will help you decide which one is best for your sago palm:
Granules are my go-to choice for feeding any large landscape tree. This is true of shade and fruit-bearing trees as well as palm varieties like sago palm.
On average, fertilizer granules are the most affordable option available. They’re also convenient to store between feedings.
You can safely use a granular formula on nearly any sago palm. However, I find that the risk of overfeeding and fertilizer burn is greater when using these products. Opting for a slow-release formula can help a great deal in this regard.
Fertilizer spikes are solid, concentrated blocks of fertilizer that slowly release nutrients into the soil when watered.
In theory, fertilizer spikes work much the same as granules. The problem, in my opinion, is that you can’t evenly distribute spikes the way you can fine pellets or powders. So, you end up with pockets of extremely concentrated nutrients while other sections of the soil go completely unfed.
Another issue with fertilizer spikes is that it’s neither convenient nor economical to feed a large tree with them. Instead, I reserve fertilizer spikes for small sago palms in containers.
Liquid fertilizers tend to be less cost-effective than granular formulas (though aren’t as expensive as most fertilizer spikes). This doesn’t matter much when feeding small sago palms but can make a big difference to your wallet if you have several large specimens.
I think liquid fertilizers are a lovely option for container sago palms because they make it easy to saturate the entire root system. There’s little need to worry about uneven distribution causing fertilizer burn or root damage.
While liquid formulas are super convenient at the time of application, they don’t offer the long-lasting nutrition of granules or spikes. If you opt for a liquid palm fertilizer, you should expect to feed on a more frequent schedule.
Synthetic Vs Organic
In the world of store-bought fertilizer, the difference between synthetic and organic formulas is in how they are sourced.
Synthetic fertilizers are made from inorganic resources like minerals or gasses. Meanwhile, organic fertilizers are made from biological resources like animals waste. While the nutrients in each type of fertilizer come from different places, they feed your plants in exactly the same way.
The term “organic fertilizer” is also commonly used to describe minimally processed things like backyard compost or blood meal. However, plenty of organic fertilizers are made in industrial factories!
I’d caution anyone from assuming all organic fertilizers are better than synthetic ones (or vice-versa). As long as your sago palm’s nutritional needs are being met, however, the choice is ultimately yours to make.
5 Best Sago Palm Fertilizers Reviewed
When selecting a sago palm fertilizer, keep in mind that more isn’t necessarily better! The job of a quality fertilizer is to fill nutritional gaps in the soil. So, the best fertilizer for your palm will largely depend on the type and quantity of nutrients it already has access to in its garden bed or container.
- Can be applied as a granular or liquid fertilizer
- Meets several organic material standards
- Gives off a strong odor
Dr. Earth’s Exotic Blend fertilizer is a fan favorite among tropical gardeners – myself included – for very good reason. If you can get past the smell (a small price to pay for rich, organic fertilizer), then your sago palm is sure to thank you!
You can use this fertilizer as a granular product by applying it directly to the soil around your sago palm. Or you can follow directions (provided on the packaging) to create a potent fertilizer tea that can be added to the soil or used as a foliar spray.
If you care about the source and overall sustainability of your chosen fertilizers, then this formula is my top recommendation. Dr. Earth strives to meet a variety of organic standards and formulate products that are child- and pet-safe.
How To Use: Apply ½ to ¾ cups of fertilizer per foot of height for sago palms planted in the ground. Potted palms should be fertilized with approximately 2 tablespoons per 6 inches of container diameter.
- Mess-free design is perfect for indoor sago palms
- Continuously feeds for several months at a time
- May not evenly distribute nutrients throughout the soil
Pre-measured fertilizer spikes are ideal for feeding outdoor containers and indoor plants and these spikes from Jobe’s are specifically formulated for palm trees (including sago palms).
While liquid or granular formulas are typically more cost-effective when compared to fertilizer spikes, there’s no denying the sheer convenience these have to offer. I’d especially recommend these for sago palms kept as houseplants. No one wants to deal with the mess of applying traditional fertilizer indoors.
These mess-free and easy-to-use fertilizer spikes are also a great option if you tend to forget to feed your potted plants. Just set a reminder twice a year and your sago palm will be fed for the entire growing season!
How To Use: Insert spikes into well-watered soil a minimum of 24 inches from the sago palm’s trunk. The recommended quantity is determined by trunk diameter — you can find detailed instructions on the fertilizer packaging.
- Combines the benefits of a liquid and dry fertilizer
- Formulated to minimize salt build-up
- Not the most airtight packaging
This water-soluble formula by JR Peters is economical and easy to store while still offering all of the benefits of a regular liquid fertilizer. It’s designed to help prevent salt build-up in the soil, which is a common concern when fertilizing potted palms. And, you can easily strengthen or dilute the fertilizer as needed.
The high ratio of potassium will support healthy root growth and ward off temperature stress and diseases. And, the inclusion of magnesium will help to prevent manganese deficiency – a commonly occurring issue in palms when soil pH is either too acidic or too alkaline.
How To Use: Dissolve the fertilizer in water per feeding guidelines (each container includes a measuring spoon for ease of use). For the best results, dampen the soil around your sago palm with plain water before applying the fertilizer mixture.
- Fortified with readily available micronutrients
- Helps soil retain nitrogen and moisture
- Not specifically formulated for sago palms
Pennington might be more famous for its lawn care products than for creating palm tree fertilizer. But that’s no reason to skip over this granular option.
I’d reach for this formula for larger, outdoor-grown varieties to ensure your sago palm gets the balanced ratio of nitrogen and potassium it needs. It includes several micronutrients, including iron and magnesium, which may help address common deficiencies in the soil.
This fertilizer is also ideal for other tropical plants, especially flowering varieties. In fact, it’s a great option for fertilizing hibiscus. Keep this in mind when stocking up on garden supplies. It’s nice to opt for a multi-use fertilizer whenever possible!
How To Use: Distribute the recommended amount of fertilizer over the soil. Each package includes detailed measurements for outdoor palms (based on plant size) or potted ones (based on container size).
Gently scrape the surface to work the granules into the soil to prevent run-off. This step is more important for landscape sago palms than those in containers. Water thoroughly around the plant to activate the fertilizer.
- Formulated with slow-release nitrogen to prevent overfertilizing
- Addresses common sago palm deficiencies
- Cannot be dissolved in water
If you’re nervous about overfeeding your sago palm, this granular formula from Miracle-Gro is what I’d reach for.
The highlight of this fertilizer is its inclusion of slow-release nitrogen. This prevents your sago palm’s roots from absorbing too much in a short time — the most common cause of fertilizer burn symptoms — and ensures the tree has access to key macronutrients for up to 6 weeks.
It also includes micronutrients sago palms are often deficient in, including manganese.
How To Use: Distribute granules evenly over the soil’s surface using the feeding chart on the product packaging. Measurements are provided for landscape and potted palm trees. The final application should equal about ½ cup of granules per 4 square feet.
Water immediately starts the release of nutrients and prevents fertilizer run-off. Avoid placing granules in contact with your sago palm’s trunk.
Do Sago Palms Need Fertilizing
Sometimes — it all depends on soil quality. But there are a few different factors that can help you decide how critical fertilizer is to your particular sago palm.
Depending on the native soil in your region, a sago palm planted outdoors may have access to everything it needs. This is where a soil test can be invaluable!
Even if your native soil is full of nutrients at the time of planting, it’s a good idea to continue testing periodically. It’s very common for some nutrients to be absorbed much faster than Mother Nature is able to replace them. So don’t be surprised if you need to start fertilizing when your sago palm is several years old.
Sago palms in containers are a different story. Again, high-quality potting soil generally contains everything a plant could possibly need. But those nutrients can be absorbed surprisingly fast (and, unlike in-ground garden soil, there’s no natural process replacing them).
How to Fertilize Sago Palm Trees
Apply a slow-release palm tree fertilizer with balanced percentages of nitrogen and potassium during the active growing season. Opt for a formula supplemented with manganese, magnesium, and any other micronutrients your soil may be lacking.
Sago palms growing in sandy soil or full sun generally need more fertilizer than those growing in clay or full shade.
Be wary of garden beds and lawns near in-ground sago palms. After all, fertilizer doesn’t necessarily stay in the exact place it was applied! If your sago palm is located adjacent to other plantings, the typical advice is to use palm tree fertilizer on the entire area.
How Often to Feed Sago Palm
Sago palms generally respond well when fertilized every 1 to 2 months throughout the growing season. However, you’ll need to reference your fertilizer’s directions to determine the exact frequency.
Potted Sago Palm
Once established, potted sago palms require routine feedings to replenish nutrients in the soil. However, they’re also more vulnerable to fertilizer burn than plants growing in the landscape.
One application of slow-release granular fertilizer (applied in early spring) is often enough for potted sago palms. Liquid fertilizer can be applied in early spring and then again in summertime.
Applying fertilizer to already dampened soil will protect your sago palm’s roots from potential damage. I recommend doing this with both liquid and granular formulas.
Signs of Fertilizer Burn
Fertilizer burn generally occurs when a plant receives too much nitrogen at one time. Common symptoms include yellow or brown and wilting foliage.
There are two forms of fertilizer burn — that which is caused by too much nitrogen being absorbed by the roots and that which is caused by fertilizer coming into contact with the leaves. Be cautious not to spray fertilizer directly on your plum tree’s foliage to prevent the latter.
If you do notice signs of fertilizer burn on your sago palm, flush the soil as soon as possible.
For palms planted in the ground, saturate the overfertilized soil with clean water for several days to carry the fertilizer deeper into the soil. Do not oversaturate the soil, as this can cause the fertilizer to run off into adjacent properties or nearby water sources.
For potted sago palms, saturate the soil so that water flows through the drainage holes of the container for several minutes. Depending on the health of your sago palm, you can also replace some of the overfertilized soil with fresh material.
When to Fertilize Sago Palm
Sago palms should only be fed during the active growing season. For most plants, this means fertilizing between April and September. Do not fertilize in fall or winter.
Space applications evenly throughout this window, following your sago palm’s specific needs and the feeding guidelines included with your chosen fertilizer.
Verdict: Best Sago Palm Fertilizer
Well, there you have it! My ultimate guide to the best Sago palm fertilizers. Including first-hand user experience and reviews from gardeners just like you. Plus, tips and recommendations on exactly when, how, and why to fertilize.
The nutrition requirements of Sago’s palms are based on their ability to produce vibrant foliage and strong, healthy roots plus a little know-how about balancing soil pH and addressing any deficiencies that may arise.
Remember, an even balance of potassium and nitrogen is usually the right combination and the inclusion of micronutrients such as magnesium and iron will help with those soil discrepancies. So, my final recommendations are to choose Dr. Earth Exotic Blend Palm Fertilizer for larger, outdoor palms and Jobe’s Palm Tree Fertilizer Spikes for container or indoor varieties.