By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
Do sago palms flower? Yes, they do though this normally occurs in mature plants at least 15-20 years old. In fact, you may have noticed an unusual looking structure protruding from the center of your sago plant. This is actually the sago palm flower.
Being a cycad rather than an actual palm, sagos are either male or female. Therefore, unless you have more than one plant, you have one or the other, each having different looking flowers—a round, fuzzy mass or a large, cone-like structure.
Sago Palm Female Cone
Female flowering sago palms produce a round, fuzzy mass that is golden in color. When the female is ready to be pollinated, the flower will slowly begin to open up. This usually happens around late spring or early summer.
Without a male nearby, however, pollination will not occur. Therefore, the orange, walnut-sized seeds will not be viable. If a male is present and the flower is pollinated, it will result in seeds. The chances are good that the seeds will be able to produce new plants.
You can test this by placing the seeds in water. Those that float to the top are usually no good. Those that sink are viable and should be allowed to soak for a few days to soften the outer skin for removal. Once the skin is removed, the seeds should dry out for a couple days prior to planting them.
Sago Palm Male Cone
Image by Stan ShebsIf you have a male sago palm flower, it will produce a long, golden cone-like structure, somewhat reminiscent to a large pinecone. On rare occasions, males may produce multiple cones. If no female is nearby or you don’t plan on propagating additional sago plants, you can simply remove this structure from the plant without causing it any harm.
For those wishing to pollinate plants, you’ll have to wait for the scales to open (usually in late spring) to reveal the sweet-smelling pollen inside. Then you can either wait for natural pollination through wind or bees to take place or remove the cone and gently shake it over the receptive female plant.