Sago palm

Q: How large does the root system of a sago palm get?

Q: I want to plant a couple of sago palms near my septic system but I am concerned about the roots growing into the system.  How large does the root system get?

A: My first thought was to consider the environmental issue so I contacted the environmental health department in Nassau County regarding any regulation addressing the distance trees or shrubs should be planted from septic tanks. The environmental health department stated there is no regulation regarding the distance of shrubs and trees from septic tanks but roots are the main reason for septic tank damage and failure.

Sagos and other palms do not have woody roots like most of our woody ornamentals but they are massive and will continue to grow in length as long as the palm is alive.  It might be best if you avoid planting shrubs and trees near the septic tank area.

However, if you want something decorative near the area you might consider planting turfgrass and we have plenty of options as long as the area is in full sun. You might also consider a small ornamental grass like muhly grass ( Muhlenbergia capillaris) since the roots are generally only 6-8 inches in length and should not interfere with the operation of the septic tank. Muhly grass is particularly attractive when it produces masses of thin plumes in colors ranging from whites to pinks to reds and purples in the late summer early fall. Various natural varieties are found in pine flatwoods, sandhills, moist hammocks, and beach dunes. I have even seen it appear locally along the roadsides and it can be grown throughout the entire state. Muhly grass grows well in a large variety of soil types, it is highly drought and salt tolerant, and can handle full sun to partial shade. It sounds like the perfect plant, right?