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Ponytail Palm: How NOT to KILL it!

Ponytail Palm: How NOT to KILL it!

The idea of raising a palm tree within your home may sound daunting. Well, you can rest easy because the Ponytail plant, or Beaucarnea recurvata, only resembles a palm.

They actually fall under the succulent family, Asparagaceae, which contains agave and yucca.

Just like a tall subtropical tree, the Ponytail Palm plant has a central trunk with long, leathery green leaves cascading from the top.  

These faux palms can be found in rather arid regions such as mountain ranges and cliffs where there is plenty of rocky soil.

They naturally exist in areas of southeastern Mexico anywhere from 100 to 2,800 meters above sea level.

The Ponytail Palm plant is relatively hardy to a number of changes, making it an ideal houseplant.

They also tend to be slow growers, meaning less overall maintenance. This article is devoted to keeping your fake palm happy and thriving!

 

How Not To Kill Your Ponytail Palm

How Not To Kill Your Ponytail Palm

 

PONYTAIL PALM PLANT CARE BASICS

(Find a full care sheet at the end of this article)

Most plants found within the family Asparagaceae are easy keepers, especially when raised indoors.

The Ponytail Palm plant is no exception! You’ll need to understand the basic needs in order to keep it alive. But, don’t worry. We did the research so that you can reap the benefits.

 

SOIL

Most potting mixes that are specifically made for succulents or cacti should be sufficient.

The most important element is that it should be fast draining. Beaucarnea recurvata, like most succulents, are not a fan of having wet soil.

If you have the option, we suggest using a mixture that contains a combination of sand, perlite, and potting soil.

Although not necessarily related to the soil itself, a clay pot may also be beneficial.

 

LIGHT

Did you know that you could actually control the rate of growth of a plant based on the amount of light that it receives?

This is especially true in succulents. Placing your Ponytail Palm plant in a location with ample sunshine will actually slow down this process.

You can opt to put it in full sun, partial shade, or in a room with bright, indirect light.

Keep in mind that although they can tolerate lower levels of light, more sunshine is optimal.

If your house doesn’t get enough sun, you may want to consider one of these low light houseplants!

 

WATERING 

In general, the Ponytail Palm plant prefers to have the soil be somewhat dry year round. This doesn’t mean that you should neglect their moisture needs.

When you do water your fake palm, you’ll want to fully saturate it so that the roots receive water before allowing the plant to dry out.

It may seem surprising to the typical flowering houseplant owner, but resist the urge watering them all too frequently. These plants do best when given a thorough watering once every three or four weeks.

There are ways to make sure that you aren’t overwatering. We will discuss these later on!

 

TEMPERATURE 

Not all that picky about the temperature, a Beaucarnea recurvata will thrive just fine with average indoor conditions.

The best results tend to happen when you keep your Ponytail Palm plant in a room that stays between 18 and 23 degrees Celsius.

Anything below 7 degrees Celsius can cause damage to the leaves. These plants do go through a period of dormancy during the winter months.

During this time, you’ll want to place it into a spot that is cooler, preferably between 10 and 13 degrees Celsius.

 

HUMIDITY 

Given their natural habitat, you can safely assume that they don’t need a lot of humidity. In fact, their high tolerance to low percentages of humidity makes them easy to place inside homes.

The most common problems tend to exist due to too much overall moisture. Dry air is a friend of the Ponytail Palm plant!

 

FERTILIZER 

The blooms that occur on a Beaucarnea recurvate are quite unusual when compared to flowering specimens.

These flowers are extremely rare and emerge from the top of the plant as yellow, branchlike bracts.

For this reason, you don’t really need to add fertilizer. Those who choose to continue with a feeding schedule only use a fertilizer at half the intended strength.

It should only be added once or twice a month during the growing seasons.

 

PROPAGATION  

Pups, or offsets, are the baby plants that will emerge from the trunk of a full-grown palm tree or plant. You can use this to your advantage and forego having to participate in any risky or tedious methods of propagation.

This involves digging out the parent plant so that you can care for the new growth. Not familiar with this process? That’s fine. We will go over the steps involved! (see below!)

 

GROWTH

Another name that the Ponytail Palm plant is known by is the “Elephant tree”. It was chosen due to the slow growth rate that it experiences.

The overall height and width of these plants depend on where it resides.

If grown in an outdoor setting, they can reach a length of about 20 feet, sometimes even more. Indoors is a separate story. They only grow to be about three feet tall as a fully matured individual.

This is good news for someone who wants to keep these fun succulents inside.

They can also live a good long life. In an outdoor setting, there have been cases of a Ponytail Palm plant living over 350 years of age!

 

POTTING

The act of repotting your Ponytail Palm plant shouldn’t be a daunting task. They are relatively hardy and won’t lose leaves when transferred to a new container.

Those who wish for their fake palm tree to be slightly bigger can actually control this by placing them into a larger pot.

Otherwise, you’ll want to choose a pot that is only a few inches wider than the previous living spot.

Expect to repot your Beaucarnea recurvate every other year for a healthy plant.

 

PONYTAIL PALM PLANT WATERING SECRETS

Palms, as a whole, need copious amounts of water. Fortunately, your miniature version is not a true palm. Succulents do better when their soil is kept somewhat dry.

In fact, they are considered to be drought tolerant. The typical Beaucarnea recurvate owner will water their plants every two to three weeks, sometimes even once a month depending on the environment.

If your home has higher levels of humidity, spread out watering schedules. Checking the soil is a good way to gauge how much moisture it needs. Only water when the top few layers of soil are completely dried out.

  

PONYTAIL PALM PROPAGATION THE EASY WAY

We may have peaked your interest when we mentioned earlier that the Ponytail Palm could actually create new plants without much effort. They will produce new individuals while you simply help with the rooting process. You’ll want to propagate in this manner during the spring.

 

PROPAGATION THROUGH PALM PUP DIVISION

  1. Take the parent plant that has produced shoots and gently dig out the entire plant around the base so that the new pups are exposed.
  2. Get a clean knife and make incisions to separate pups from the adult plant. Keep in mind that any young shoots with a length of about four inches will tend to root more quickly.
  3. Place the newly divided pup shoots into a soil with cactus or succulent-based soil. There should be drainage holes located on the bottom of the container.
  4. Thoroughly water the plant before placing a bag over the top.
  5. Keep the covered pot and shoots in a room that gets lots of warmth.
  6. Continue misting along the soil’s surface until you see roots appear where you can then transfer it them to larger pots.

We also have an article about the Yucca, which has a very similar propagation process since it shares the same family as the Ponytail Palm plant!

 

PONYTAIL PALM PLANT PESTY INVADERS

Certain floras are more sensitive to pests compared to others, but not the Ponytail Palm plant.

Although there are a number of problems that can attack the foliage, it isn’t really that big of a deal when it happens.

The most common pests that tend to go after these fake palms are spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects.

They also can become affected by root and stem rot, a type of disease that will leave the plant with stunted growth.

Bugs that encroach upon your Beaucarnea recurvata will show themselves on the leaves. They appear as black or white spots, while spider mites will produce webbing.

Using a hose with fairly hard pressure can wash them away. If this doesn’t work, you may need to invest in insecticide. These can be bought at your local home improvement store.

You’ll want to consult with professionals to determine which insecticide you should use.

Diseases you may find attacking your Ponytail Palm plant include root and stem rot. Good news!

They are easy to avoid if you know what to look for. Rot is typically caused by overwatering your plant.

Careful watering while allowing the soil to dry out can prevent this issue. If you do notice that your plant has saggy, mushy leaves or stems, you’ll have to take further action.

In this scenario, cut off the infected parts, repot, and place in a warm area so that it can dry out.

 

PONYTAIL PALM PLANT PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

Being aware of the various insects and diseases that can infect your fake palm are just the beginning in making sure that it lives a long, happy life.

To keep you prepared, we’ve provided a cause and remedy for the most common problems associated with this succulent.

 

Problem #1: BROWN TIPPED LEAVES

There are a number of reasons associated with the browning of foliage. The most typical tend to be a result of underwatering and providing too much fertilizer.

First, tackle this problem by stopping any doses of fertilizer. It will take about a week to see any improvements.

If that doesn’t work, increase the amount of moisture that you provide your Ponytail Palm plant. This can be through misting or more water.

 

Problem #2: YELLOWING OF THE LEAVES

These plants are known for their green foliage. In the event that this color shifts to a yellow hue, you may be watering your Ponytail Palm too much.

Allowing your plant to dry out for a longer period of time between waterings may be the solution to your yellowing leaves problem.

 

Problem #3: TRUNK SHRIVELING

The trunk is responsible for holding water. Displaying obvious shriveling is a good sign that you aren’t giving your plant enough moisture.

Gradually increase the amount of water until the trunk starts to repair itself!

 

Problem #4: LOSS OF LEAVES

The leaves may, at some point, wilt and fall off the main rosette of foliage. This is due to overwatering.

Decrease the amount of water that you give your Ponytail Palm and wait some more time between your watering sessions.

Ponytail Palm (Elephant's Foot)

The Ponytail palm, also known as the Elephant’s Foot, is native to Mexico and belongs to the family of Asparagaceae. Other plants of that family include the Dracaena and the popular Yucca Elephantipes.

 

5 POINTS TO A THRIVING PONYTAIL PALM PLANT

Keeping these plants happy isn’t all that challenging, especially if you know where to start! We’ve laid out all of the essentials down below for you to reference.

  1. Keep the soil on the dryer end of the spectrum to avoid any root or stem rot!
  2. Place these floras into an area that receives plenty of bright, indirect light.
  3. Only add fertilizer if you feel that it is necessary.
  4. Opt-out of misting so that your plant can stay in low-level humidity.
  5. Repot these individuals every other year into a smaller container so that they don’t take over your home!

If you would like to get even more info on indoor palm care, please have a look at our in-depth Indoor Palm Plant Care Guide.

 

PONYTAIL PALM PLANT CARE FAQ

 

Can you cut back a Ponytail Palm plant?

You can, in fact, cut back the foliage on your Ponytail Palm so that it looks presentable. Although not entirely necessary, doing this during the growing season tends to be better.

 

Can a Ponytail Palm plant be grown outside?

Choosing to put this plant in the succulent can be done. It just might mean more work pruning, watering, and battling with pests.

 

How do I bring my Ponytail Palm plant back to life?

Start repotting the plant and removing any parts that have been infected by rot. You should also forego watering for a week since the problem was likely due to an abundance of moisture.

 

Ponytail Palm Care Sheet

Ponytail Palm Care Sheet

 

Conclusion

Ponytail Palms are amazing plants and look like a prehistoric version of a palm with their central trunk, although as we learned they are not real palms.

With the proper care, your Ponytail Palm is going to look fantastic and you will have years of joy ahead.

Learn next how to properly trim and prune your Ponytail palm.

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