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An Orchid Lover Trysts with the Sago Palm

I have an obsession. An orchid obsession. I know it. They know it (friends and family). I buy them on the cheap from Trader Joe’s (usually 12–16 bucks), put them in one of my fabulous containers, top them off with fresh green moss and then spray their leaves with finishing gloss. Feels like the florist has just made a delivery! 

I rationalize my “hobby” by saying I’m doing it all myself and the arrangements can last up to three months, not as long as my cactus arrangements, but longer than fresh flowers. But the truth is, orchids are costly, and since the market crash, I’m on the look-out for ways to cut expenses.  

I recently read an article about the Sago Palm that made me re-think my orchid obsession. It said that they are far less finicky (i.e. they don’t drop flowers), they last for years, and need little care. The article pointed readers to a NYC florist who sold them “starting at $85.” Although I wasn’t the least bit inclined to pay 85 bucks, I thought it was worth investigating.

I went to my local nursery, owned by a guru of sorts who knows anything and everything about plants. He said it was good I had come to him first and not bought the wrong kind of Sago. Most Sago Palms are grown for the outdoors and get quite large. For the indoors, you need a miniature Sago that has been grown specifically for indoors (do I need to confess here that I had already bought the wrong kind at my local Costco?)

He pointed me to a small palm plant about 10 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The leaves were a gorgeous dark green and perfectly shaped. It was $16.98. He advised me about to put it in a sunny spot in my home and to water it once a week. He cautioned about replanting it—saying I could do it—but not to go too much larger on a container as its roots don’t like a lot of room.

The nursery had another Sago palm on display for $60, basically a bit larger, in a pretty painted pot, and with green moss on top. I bought a bag of fresh moss for $7.

Once I got home, I put the Sago in a brown wooden container I have that I have used for years. It made the Sago sit too low. I stuffed two sheets of newspaper in the bottom and then took a third sheet and jammed it in the sides. The newspaper basically lifted and supported the Sago so it was tight in the wooden pot. I dipped the moss in water, squeezed out the excess, and shaped it to lay flat, covering the dirt and then the small space between the plastic pot and my wooden container where the newspaper was stuffed. Voila!

The jury is still out on how easy to grow the Sago is and how long it actually lasts. Also, not sure whether it has lessened my orchid obsession. But in the meantime, I’m cozying up to the Sago just fine.