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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - November 28, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Replacement for non-native Sago palms in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have two pillars, one on each side of our front door. There is a sago palm in front of each pillar. It is a dramatic and beautiful look, but the palms, facing north and in shade, are growing so that their trunks are showing. I am looking for a plant to replace these which will provide a similar look. Thanks

ANSWER:

Cycas revoluta, Sago palm is native to southern Japan, and therefore falls out of our area of expertise. Please read this Dave's Garden forum, especially the negative comments, for more reasons why it should not be grown in our landscapes.  Your comment that the plants are growing trunks that show is not surprising. This page of images from Google of the Sago Palm shows many of them with trunks showing.

Your request for a plant to replace the Sago palm, with a similar look, may not be so easy. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown. One possibility is Rhapidophyllum hystrix (Needle palm), which is not a true palm, and as you can see from this USDA Plant Profile, it grows natively in swampy areas of southeastern states. Another possibility would be a large fern, which would do well in the shady condition you describe, and some are evergreen. Some we would suggest are:

Athyrium filix-femina (Common ladyfern) - 2 to 3 ft., deciduous

Dryopteris ludoviciana (Southern woodfern) - 3 to 6 ft., deciduous

Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern) - 1 to 3 ft., deciduous

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern) - evergreen, 2 to 3 ft

Thelypteris kunthii (Wood fern) - semi-evergreen, to 5 ft. tall

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Rhapidophyllum hystrix


Athyrium filix-femina


Dryopteris ludoviciana


Osmunda cinnamomea


Polystichum acrostichoides


Thelypteris kunthii

 

 

 

 

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