Why Are My Sago Palm Leaves Turning Yellow? (Plus Care & Tips!)

If you notice your sago palm leaves turning yellow then the most likely cause is nutrient deficiency. But, if you’re sure that your plant is receiving a healthy dose of all necessary nutrients, there are some other possible culprits. Yellowing leaves may also be a result of watering levels, temperature, and signs of pests.

This popular houseplant is known for its feathery leaves and easy care. I used to call it my favorite palm tree to grow before I found out it’s technically not a palm, but a cycad- one of the oldest plant groups in the world!

Fortunately, I have continued to learn a lot more about these plants since then. And through years of growing these cycads I’ve learned to deal with all the common problems that may arise.

Overall, these plants are pretty tough so it should just be a case of diagnosing at fixing the problem to return your sago palm back to its full beauty.

Sago Palms

sago palms

These palms are a popular houseplant and can even be grown outdoors. They are hardy and easy to care for but do have a couple of special requirements. They grow much better in bright light and well-drained soil.

In containers, blooms are rare and could take over a decade. The flower looks like a large pine cone and is golden in color. This flower is simple to remove if you prefer, and won’t have any effects except preventing the plant from propagating.

By far, the most common complaint of a sago palm is that it is turning yellow. So let’s take a look at the reasons that may be happening.

Nutrient Deficiency

Sago palms depend on gaining nutrients from the soil. A deficiency of nitrogen, magnesium, and manganese can all cause them to yellow. Depending on which nutrient is missing you may see different warning signals from your plant.

  • Nitrogen Deficiency: You’ll notice the older leaves on the palm turning yellow
  • Magnesium Deficiency: The older fronds of the plant and the midrib will also turn yellow.
  • Manganese Deficiency: Younger leaves will turn yellow and shrivel up.

You can also use a soil test kit to see what nutrients are lacking in the soil. These simple tests can give you an accurate reading of the pH and nutrient values in your soil.

You can buy fertilizer containing the missing nutrient or nutrients to feed your plant and get it up to full strength. Choose a balanced and slow-release fertilizer for your sago palm. The ideal fertilizer has a 12-4-12-4 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.

However, whilst you must adequately fertilize your sago palm, you also need to avoid overfertilizing it when it has the required nutrients. Overfertilization leads to a build-up of minerals which will also adversely affect the health of the plant.


Sago palms are much happier in soil that is too dry rather than too wet, so overwatering is a big factor to watch out for. Wait until the soil is completely dried out before watering. If you are watering more than twice a week then you are probably watering too much.

Wherever you go to water your plant, check the soil. As stated, you can wait until the soil is bone dry before watering. If you stick your finger into the soil and feel moisture then do not add water. When you water it, make sure it is a big drink of water to reach down to the roots.

If you have overwatered the plant, let it completely dry out for a few days. When you go to water it again, do so in the morning so the water doesn’t sit in the soil overnight. Avoid overwatering the future and you should see that the plant returns to a good shade of green again.

If you see any signs of mold or mildew before the soil has dried out, you may need to repot the plant. Ensure the new soil is well-fertilized and has good drainage. Once repotted, return to a normal watering schedule and the plant will likely make a full recovery.

Insect Attacks

Scale insects may cause your sago palm to slowly turn yellow if they attack the palm. These pests are flat, oval, and tan in color (or white or brown), and are found on the underside of the sago palm leaves.

You should remove infected leaves and dispose of them. Do not throw them in your compost heap as it may allow the insects to spread further.

Once you have eradicated all of the scale insects, apply a horticultural spray or oil to the plant to prevent further infection. Once the bugs are removed the plant will return to a normal color.

Burning and Freezing

burning and freezing

Despite loving the dum, sago palms can get sunburnt! This will turn the leaves yellow and stunt further growth. To get the biggest and brightest foliage, place the sago palms in partial shade with bright light and plenty of sunshine.

Cold weather may also cause the sago palm to turn yellow as it doesn’t cope well with colder temperatures. If the leaves freeze they will turn yellow or brown.

There is nothing to do in this case except wait for the weather to heat up. Cut the dead leaves from the tree and they will regrow in warmer weather.

Frequently Asked Questions


Here are some answers to other common questions about sago palms.

Q: How fast do sago palms grow?

A: The answer is incredibly slowly! It will take them over 50 years to reach their full height.

Q: Are sago palms toxic?

A: Sago palms do contain poisonous toxins, so it is important to keep them away from pets if you have any. The seeds (nuts) are the most toxic and can be easy for pets to eat.

Q: How long do sago palms live?

A: Sago palms are extremely long-lived and can survive for over 200 years!

Sago Palm Leaves Turning Yellow – Conclusion

Once you have given your sago plant nutritionally balanced soil, you will probably start to see a happy and healthy plant again. Or, if the weather is colder, simply wait for the cold to pass.

Follow the tips in this guide if you think there might be another issue affecting your sago palm.

Hopefully your mind is at rest, and you can continue to enjoy the summery presence of your favorite cycad.

Also check out our care guide on Cyclamen and Nasturtium.