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>>Cycads >>Cycad Help & Advice >>Cycad Potting Mix

Cycad and Sago Palm Potting Mix
by Phil Bergman

Special Points of Interest

Rot Prevention

Potting Mix Recommendations

Drainage Solutions

Jungle Music's Potting Mix

Sago Palm, one of the cycadsThe key to growing sago palms or cycads successfully is remembering that cycads like a well-draining soil, either in the garden or in a container.  There are differences among different cycads, but they all like drainage.    Cycads die from too much moisture resulting in rot, especially around the roots.  Therefore, any potting soil used for container culture of cycads must guarantee good drainage.  A sago palm is very versatile and can live in many soils.  A more difficult plant to grow would be a tropical Zamia.  It demands warmth, good drainage and air humidity.  Remember, cycad culture begins with the potting or garden soil.  Clay soils tend to have poor drainage, and often need addition of items to help with drainage.  Sandy soils tend to have better drainage. 

In recent years, I've had many phone calls from the East Coast about finding a source for pumice.  If you can't find it, find a similar substitute.  The cost of shipping pumice far outweighs the cost of the pumice.  Although you can substitute perlite for pumice to root offsets, I've found it is inferior to pumice. If available, you may be able to substitute "Scorea" or "small lava rock". 


1.     General Recipe for Cycad Potting Soil
1. One part pumice (one can substitute scoria)
2. One part 1/8 to 1/4 inch redwood orchid bark (make sure it's not fine)
3. One part course sand (grit # 12 best).
4. One part coarse peat moss.

2.       Jungle Music's Cycad Potting Soil

To the above mixture we also add 1/2 part of horticultural charcoal and 1/2 part of perlite #2. This improves drainage and "sweetens" the mix.

3.       To a one yard volume of either mix above

One should add approximately one to two pounds of dolomite lime, one pound of microelements (such as Ironite), and one pound of a slow release fertilizer (such as Osmocote). 



To Increase Drainage

One would add more pumice, bark or perlite

 To Slow Drainage

One would increase the amount of sand in the mix.


Tend to like a sandier mix.

Tropical Zamias

Like a more “open” mix.  We add additional bark, moss, and some perlite.  As the mix with Zamias ages, root rot may occur at the bottom of the pot.  Therefore, it is advisable to change their mix about every two years.



Microelements are important. As the mixes above are “soil-less”, remember to add the microelements.


Container Growing

With container growing of cycads, other formulas or mixes can also be successful. Try to avoid leaf mold, routine garden mulch, or other substances that might decay quickly and promote a “boggy” mix.

Pure Pumice

Pure pumice is an ideal medium for rooting out a cycad caudex or reviving a troubled plant.  Sago palm pups can be done this way.  In some areas of the country, pumice is hard to find. 

Avoid Overhead Watering!

Avoid overhead watering into the crown of the plant. This can promote rot.

Deep Pots

Are preferred by most cycads especially Encephalartos.  Sago palms also like deep pots.

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