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Transplanting Sago Palms – How To Transplant Sago Palm Trees

Transplanting Sago Palms – How To Transplant Sago Palm Trees


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By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Sometimes when plants are young and small, we plant them in what we think will be the perfect location. As that plant grows and the rest of the landscape grows up around it, that perfect location may become not so perfect anymore. Or sometimes we move to a property with an old, overgrown landscape with plants competing for space, sun, nutrients and water, choking each other out. In either case, we may need to transplant things or do away with them all together. While some plants transplant easily, others do not. One such plant that prefers not to be transplanted once established is sago palm. Should you find yourself needing to transplant a sago palm, this article is for you.

When Can I Transplant Sago Palms?

Once established, sago palm trees do not like to be moved. This does not mean that you can’t transplant sago palms, it just means that you must do it with extra care and preparation. The timing of transplanting sago palms is important.

You should only attempt to move a sago palm in late winter or early spring when the plant is in its semi-dormant stage. This will reduce the stress and shock of transplanting. When semi-dormant, the plant’s energy is already being focused on the roots, not top growth.

Moving a Sago Palm Tree

Approximately 24-48 hours before any sago palm tree transplanting, water the plant deeply and thoroughly. A long slow trickle from a hose will allow the plant plenty of time to absorb the water. Also, pre-dig the hole in the location where you will be transplanting the sago palm. This hole should be big enough to accommodate all the roots of your sago, while also leaving plenty of loose soil around the roots for new root growth.

The general rule when planting anything is to make the hole twice as wide, but no deeper than the plant’s root ball. Since you have not dug up the sago palm yet, this may take a bit of guess work. Leave all soil dug out of the hole nearby to back fill once the plant is in. Timing is important, as again, the quicker you can get the sago palm replanted, the less stressed out it will be.

When it is actually time to dig up the sago palm, prepare a mixture of water and rooting fertilizer in a wheelbarrow or plastic container so that you can place the plant in it immediately after digging it up.

While digging up the sago, take care to get as much if its root structure as possible. Then place it in the water and fertilizer mix and quickly transport it to its new location.

It is very important to not plant the sago palm any deeper than it was previously. Planting too deep can cause rot, so backfill under the plant if necessary.

After transplanting the sago palm, you can water it with the remaining water and rooting fertilizer mixture. Some signs of stress, like yellowing fronds, is normal. Just carefully monitor the plant for several weeks after transplanting it and thoroughly water it regularly.

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Read more about Sago Palms


How to Transplant a Palm Tree

Palm trees create a distinctive outline on the horizon, creating a tropical vibe while adding appeal to the space. Whether you’ve picked up a palm tree from a nearby nursery or are moving it from one location to another, it’s important to pay attention to the details when settling it into its new home. While transplanting a palm tree is not difficult, you must take precaution not to damage the plant. Before you bring a new tree to your yard, pick out a spot that receives full sun and has well-draining soil. With the right location picked out, follow these steps to transplant your palm tree.

Step 1 - Dig the Hole

Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball of the palm. Make sure it is deep enough to partially cover the roots. The aeration in the soil will keep the palm happy and help prevent transplant shock.

Step 2 - Prepare the Transplant

If you are digging up the plant that you are transplanting, start by creating a circle around where the main root supply is. Tenderly dig the root ball out of the ground. When pulling the plant out, try not to damage the roots. Wet the burlap cloth and wrap the root system while you finish preparing the new hole.

Step 3 - Lift the Palm Tree

Lift the tree from the base of the roots with support up to the top of the tree. Take care not to damage the bud of the tree as this is where new growth comes in.

If you are using machinery, still lift from the bottom and allow for support at the top. Keep the tree in an upright position throughout the move.

Step 4 - Place in Shallow Hole

When you transplant, make sure that you do not plant the palm too deep. The top of the root system should be above the top of the soil. Fill the hole with a good quality compost mixed with added fertilizer and some sand for drainage.

Step 5 - Water

Give the new transplant lots of water, and let the water compact the dirt down into the hole. Add more dirt, and let that settle in as well. Keep the soil moist, but do not overwater.

Check the water level weekly to make sure that the soil is not too wet. Too much moisture will cause root rot that can decay the root system and lead to the tree falling over or dying.

Step 6 - Mulch

Add about three inches of mulch around the base of the tree but not touching the trunk. The mulch will break down over time and act as a fertilizer as well as keep the exposed roots healthy and safe until they establish themselves.

Transplanting palm trees is similar to moving other plants. Growing palm trees after they have been transplanted takes just a little extra care to prevent transplant shock. The soil preparation and the new location for the tree are very important. Be sure to take all of this into consideration before you start a transplant project.


Pruning and moving large sago palms

Q. The sago palms we planted a few years ago are beginning to get too large for their locations and starting to crowd other bushes. Can they be pruned so they stay at their current size or can they be moved?

A. It's fine to prune older leaves that have broken or turned brown. But it's not a good idea to remove all the green parts. If pruning to keep the plants within boundaries is going to be a major yearly thing, you might consider moving the plants.

You can move a mature sago July-October, but the plant, with its deep, tuberous root system, is usually so heavy you'll need one or more persons to help. You might want to ask a landscaper to do this for you. Do not move during the period a plant is producing cones or putting on new foliage.

To ensure you will maintain a supply of sagos, propagate any pups. When the offsets are well-developed with a few roots at the base, they can be removed from the parent plant with a clean, sharp knife. Make your cuts where the offset emerges from the trunk. Remove all the ragged edges on the parent as well as the offset. Seal both by rubbing in lime or powdered sulfur.

Dip the offset into a broad spectrum fungicide. Then plant the offset in sharp, sterile sand, covering only the base. Protect from direct sun and keep the sand on the dry side until new roots grow.


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