Sago palms, also known as Cycas revoluta, are very attractive. However, they take years to grow and are more pricey than most plants. But they turn your front yards into a spectacle.
On Nairobi's Ngong Road, Margret Nyambura, who sells the sago palms among other plants says their demand is picking up fast. When buying it, she says, be aware that they come in male and female species.
“The male (king sago) has a smaller palm that reaches full size at eight feet in height and width while the female one (queen sago) will continue to grow and flush at the centre as it gets taller each year,” the florist says.
So, how then do you differentiate the two? She says if you are buying a sago palm pup, it may be hard to determine whether it is male or female since the gender is clearly known after five to seven years.
The plant does well in a mild, well-drained soil with ample sun. It can be grown either in a container or on the ground.
“During propagation, the moist end needs to be dried first, then put it into the soil only two inches in, leaving the prickly spines exposed. Thereafter, water it often until roots sprout,” she says.
Margret buys the sago palms from Mombasa at Sh1,500 each, then nurtures them and sells at Sh2,500 for one.
“This plant is so delicate and thus it requires utmost of care and if not it will wither and die,” she says.
The tree is also poisonous to both humans and animals if ingested.
“If eaten, it causes nausea, diarrhoea, weakness, seizures and liver failures,” she says.
The plant, just like other trees, is susceptible to diseases and insects attacks.
“When sago palm turns yellow this may be as a result of deficiency in nutrients, improper propagation or poor drainage. Moreover, the plant is susceptible to insects as well as harbouring pests like bugs,” she says.
Because of its relatively high cost compared to other plants, not many people buy it.
“But nowadays, I receive numerous orders from customers who would wish to grow the plant in their homesteads and sometimes offices,” Margret says.