Is it time to cut off dead palm and sago leaves?

 The month of May should be a good time, now that it is warm enough to see if there is new growth emerging on these plants: true palms and sago palms (which   arecycads, not a palm relative) and the succulent, sub-tropical yuccas and agaves. The cold this past winter really hurt some of these plants. Then again some   of these plants are incredibly tough. Palms with hand, or palmate-shaped, leaves are typically the hardiest; palms with feather, or pinnate-shaped, leaves are less hardy. The center at the tip of the stem is the growth area where new leaves should emerge. Before you cut back all the old dead leaves or fronds on palms or cycads, check to see if this area is alive. If it appears mushy, stinky or if the central growth pulls out with rotted material, the plant is probably dead. Then it will have to be totally removed and replaced. Sagos often grow “pups” surrounding the mother plant, and these may be alive. Yuccas and agaves can also send out pups at the base of the main plant. Some yuccas have tall stems, and leaves may appear on the living section of the stem. Cut back the top of the stem to the area with healthy tissue; the dead area will be gooey. These plants make dramatic architectural accents in gardens so you hate to lose them. Once pruned, fertilize lightly, do not overwater, and hopefully they will be looking good for the summer.

Suzzanne Chapman
Author: Suzzanne ChapmanEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Suzzanne Chapman, retired botanical collections curator at Mercer Botanic Gardens, promotes organic gardening, growing native plants, and protecting the environment. Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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