Ponytail Palm

OFFICIAL NAME

Beaucarnea recurvata

ALSO KNOWN AS

Elephant's Foot, Bottle Palm

ORIGINS & CLIMATE

Eastern Mexico | Tropical (semi-arid region)

ABOUT THE
PLANT

A sassy looking plant, indeed! The Ponytail Palm (though not actually a palm) is distinguished by is plump swollen stem (called a caudex) topped by a bundle of flowing slender and often curly leaves—not unlike a ponytail!

HOW MANY GREEN THUMBS?

pet friendly, easy going, bright indirect, direct, drought tolerant, mid-size, upright, tabletop, floor, tree or tree-like, tropical, ribbon-like, arid or semi-arid

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Ponytail Palm

The basics

Water Needs

Water thoroughly when soil is about 50% to entirely dry. Avoid overwatering at all costs. Watering may be even less frequent during winter months or in less light.

Water

Preferred Light

Primarily plenty of bright, indirect light with a few hours of direct light is ideal for a happy, thriving Ponytail Palm.

Light

Humidity Needs

While not too bothered about high humidity, your Ponytail Palm will appreciate the occasional misting, which helps remove dust from their leaves.

Humidity

Ambient Temperature

Loves the heat! Will do most of their growth in temps over 70°F. Can tolerate lower temperatures, but will not grow as much.

Temperature

Toxic or Not?

A non-toxic plant pal! You can introduce this plant to your whole family, pets and children included. While it'll be a sad day for you and your plant if someone takes a nibble, you don't have to worry about poisoning anyone!

Toxicity

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 6 ft tall with a 3-5 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Size

Overall Look

Generally a single bulbous trunk grows upright, ending in a curious tuft of densely packed leaves that fountain down around the trunk—giving this plant their hair-based moniker. Works best on a tabletop for smaller specimens and on the floor or a plant stand for a larger one.

Format

Leaf Look

A playful bundle of slender and sometimes curly leaves flow from the top of this plant. Each bright green leaf has a streamer or ribbon-like appearance.

Leaf Shape

Did You Know?

Ponytail Palms are distinguished by their plump, swollen trunk, which is known as a caudex. Similar to other storage devices like bulbs and corms, a caudex can store water and nutrients. Making them especially drought-tolerant.

Fun Fact

Water

|

Allow half of soil to dry out before watering again.

Water Needs

Water thoroughly when soil is about 50% to entirely dry. Avoid overwatering at all costs. Watering may be even less frequent during winter months or in less light.

Light

|

Bright, indirect to direct light.

Preferred Light

Primarily plenty of bright, indirect light with a few hours of direct light is ideal for a happy, thriving Ponytail Palm.

Humidity

|

Not too concerned by humidity levels.

Humidity Needs

While not too bothered about high humidity, your Ponytail Palm will appreciate the occasional misting, which helps remove dust from their leaves.

Temperature

|

Enjoys warmer temps.

Ambient Temperature

Loves the heat! Will do most of their growth in temps over 70°F. Can tolerate lower temperatures, but will not grow as much.

Toxicity

|

Non-toxic. Completely pet safe!

Toxic or Not?

A non-toxic plant pal! You can introduce this plant to your whole family, pets and children included. While it'll be a sad day for you and your plant if someone takes a nibble, you don't have to worry about poisoning anyone!

Size

|

Pretty big, but manageable.

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 6 ft tall with a 3-5 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Format

|

Upright tree-like formation.

Overall Look

Generally a single bulbous trunk grows upright, ending in a curious tuft of densely packed leaves that fountain down around the trunk—giving this plant their hair-based moniker. Works best on a tabletop for smaller specimens and on the floor or a plant stand for a larger one.

Leaf Shape

|

Long ribbon-like blades in a bright green.

Leaf Look

A playful bundle of slender and sometimes curly leaves flow from the top of this plant. Each bright green leaf has a streamer or ribbon-like appearance.

Fun Fact

|

That swollen trunk has a name! It's a caudex.

Did You Know?

Ponytail Palms are distinguished by their plump, swollen trunk, which is known as a caudex. Similar to other storage devices like bulbs and corms, a caudex can store water and nutrients. Making them especially drought-tolerant.

Beyond The Basics

Soil & Potting

Thrives in an airy, light, fast-draining potting mix—you can use a good quality potting mix labeled for succulents/cactus or supplement a standard indoor mix with an equal quantity of pumice or horticultural grit. Ensure the pot has the appropriate drainage and don't forget to pour out any excess water collected in the drainage tray or cachepot.

Repotting

Try to repot every year in the spring, especially when tending to a younger plant. Once matured, you can reduce repotting frequency to 2-3 years. This plant thrives slightly rootbound. Increase the pot size by about 2 inches each time or until you're satisfied with the size. It's still important to repot at this stage, but it'll be an exercise of refreshing the soil, keeping the pot size the same, and possibly doing some root trimming to restrict the plant's growth. More on repotting here.

Feeding

If you're not already planning to repot, you can fertilize during the spring and summer months. Once to every two months should be plenty. No fertilizer is necessary during the winter when plant growth naturally slows down. You can try a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer—always diluted more than the recommended strength. More on using fertilizer here.

Grooming

While no specific pruning is required for this plant, it's always good practice to regularly remove yellowed or dying leaves and any fallen plant debris. You can simply pluck these leaves from the base, but if you choose to use snips or pruners, ensure they are sanitized to avoid spreading disease or pests. If you're dealing with browning leaf tips and have resolved the underlying issue (usually humidity or water type), you can carefully trim these tips back if the look bothers you.

Propagation

Not the easiest plant to propagate, but if you spot an offset at the base of the plant, you may be in luck. Wait until the developing plant, or pup, has formed a few leaves, then it can be separated by carefully making a clean cut to remove the pup from the parent. You can pot up this baby plant directly in soil. Ponytail Palms are a bit more stubborn to root that other plants, so it can be helpful to dip the cutting in rooting hormone first. More on propagation techniques here.

Variants

TrOUBlESHOOTING

Why are the leaf tips on my Ponytail Palm browning?

Symptom

Leaves turning brown just on the edges or tips. These edges may gradually change from yellow to brown, crispy, and possibly a bit curled.

Cause

Browning just on the edges of tips is usually a reaction to low humidity. Since many of our houseplants have tropical origins, they also thrive in humid conditions. Our average indoor humidity is usually adequate, but some plants are simply more sensitive to changes in humidity than others. You may notice this more acutely when conditions are particularly dry—like when you turn on the heater in winter.

Solution

Try to accommodate your plant's needs by locating them in more naturally humid places, like the bathroom or kitchen, or grouping a bunch of humidity-loving plants together. But the only way to truly guarantee increased humidity is to get a humidifier!

Once you've addressed the problem: If the brown tips bother you, you can trim them back. Do your best to follow the shape of the leaf to help them look natural. Also, try to cut just short of the discolored edge so it doesn’t expand.

More on leaf changes here.
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Why are the leaves on my Ponytail Palm wilting and yellowing?

Symptom

Multiple leaves are wilting and turning yellow—particularly the older, lower leaves. You may also notice stunted growth and mushy stems.

Cause

The most likely culprit is overwatering and initial signs of root rot. When a plant's roots sit in waterlogged soil for too long, a fungal infection can quickly take over, causing the roots to rot (turning brown and mushy).

Solution

First, ensure that your plant has appropriate drainage (both in terms of well-draining soil and plenty of drainage holes in the plant's container).

If you think you've caught the overwatering early on, you can simply let the plant dry out more than you have been. Allow 50% of the soil to dry out before watering again. Continue monitoring and only water when needed. You may also try using chopsticks (or something similar) to poke holes in the soil to help the roots get more oxygen. And finally, you can try to "wick" the excess moisture out of the soil by placing the whole pot (with drainage holes) in a tray or container with dry soil. This new layer of dry soil should soak up some of the excess moisture from the waterlogged areas around your plant's roots.

However, if you suspect a serious case of root rot, you'll definitely need to take a peak at the roots by removing the plant entirely from their container. If there are any black and mushy roots, trim them back completely before repotting with fresh soil in a new or sterilized container.

More on leaf changes here.
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Why does my Ponytail Palm have a soft, discolored stem?

Symptom

The stem/trunk feels a bit soft and is starting to yellow or darken.

Cause

This is a sure sign of persistent overwatering. The root rot has spread and led to stem rot as well.

Solution

You will have to cut back any stems with signs of rot. To avoid further spread, you should also take a peak at the roots by removing the plant entirely from their container. If there are any black and mushy roots, trim them back completely before repotting with fresh soil in a new or sterilized container.

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