Ponytail Palm Guide: How to Take Care of a Ponytail Palm

Ponytail Palm Guide: How to Care for a Beaucarnea Recurvata Plant

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The super funky, otherworldly ponytail palm trees have bulbous trunks and a waterfall of long, thin leaves that sprout out of their top. They can grow to be 6-8 feet tall, but it takes so long for them to grow to that height, that they will work perfectly as windowsill, tabletop, and desk plants for years. Interested in your own ponytail palm?

This complete guide features in-depth care instructions to help you successfully take care of your very own ponytail palm, ensuring that years down the line it eventually reaches that 6-foot height.

Ponytail Palm Details

Beaucarnea recurvata

AKA Ponytail Palm, Elephant’s Foot
Light: Full Sun
Water: Water every 1-2 weeks
Temperature: 60 – 80 F
Size: 6 – 8 feet tall
Pests: Spider mites, mealybugs, scale
Disease: Leaf spots, stem rot
Toxicity: Non-toxic

Ponytail Palm Benefits

Ponytail palms are one of the best indoor trees you can grow. Not only are they uniquely beautiful and super easy to grow, they also can lead to some pretty incredible health benefits for you.

Just having a ponytail palm indoors can be a mood booster since they brighten up interior spaces. Watching your virtually indestructible palm grow and thrive will give you a sense of accomplishment which will release endorphins in your brain.

Ponytail palms are also adept air cleaners, taking in toxins from the air, filtering them out, and releasing clean oxygen. More oxygen indoors improves brain functions like memory and sleep.

You won’t need that extra boost to your brain to determine that ponytail palms are an awesome plant to grow indoors.

Ponytail Palm Care

These easy-to-care-for plants are extremely forgiving, making them perfect for forgetful gardeners, or people who often travel. As long as you provide it with a sufficient amount of light and a somewhat steady water supply, you should have no trouble keeping it alive.

However, if you really want to see your ponytail palm thrive, follow all of the tips outlined below!

Light

ponytail palm in planter on windowsill with orange curtain
Credit: ULFL at German Wikipedia

Ponytail palms love full sunlight but they can also thrive in bright indirect light. One of the main care requirements of ponytail palms is giving them enough sunlight. If your palm has adequate light, it will be happy.

If you move your plant outside for the summer, initially place it in a location with partial shade for a few days so it can acclimate. Then, you can move it into full sun.

Temperature & Humidity

Ponytail palms are desert plants, so they prefer warm, arid climates. Because of this, there is no need to increase humidity around your plant, your home’s humidity should suffice.

Your ponytail palm will thrive in temperatures between 60 – 80 F. However, they can survive in temperatures as low as 50 F, although they won’t be happy.

Keep your home cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer so that you can replicate ponytail palm’s normal dormancy cycle and keep your plant healthy.

Water

Sunlight and sufficient waterings are what your ponytail palm needs to really thrive and survive.

During the growing season deeply water your ponytail palm every 1 – 2 weeks. When in doubt, underwater your plant. Ponytail palm plants have bulbous stems that store water making them capable of withstanding droughts.

During the winter season, reduce the frequency of your waterings to once every few weeks. Each time you do water though, make sure you give your plant’s soil a thorough soak, but don’t leave any standing water on the soil.

Soil

The best soil for ponytail palms is somewhat sandy but organically rich soil. An excellent option is cactus/succulent potting mix. Blend the potting mix with some peat moss to make it more nutrient-rich.

Container

Choose a container with adequate drainage holes to hold your ponytail palm plant. Sufficient drainage is essential for the plant’s health. Ponytail palms like being crowded in their container so their pot should be about 2 inches wide around the base of the plant.

ponytail palms in containers for sale
Credit: Starr Environmental, under CC BY 2.0

Fertilizer

During the growing season feed your ponytail palm weekly with liquid fertilizer or slow-release pellet fertilizer. In the winter, reduce how much you feed your plant to once or twice during the season, or cease fertilizing entirely.

Repotting

How much you should repot your ponytail palm really depends on how large you want it to grow. If you hope to one day have a large palm tree on your hand, repot it on a yearly basis. If you want to keep it on the smaller side, only repot it every couple of years.

Keep in mind that ponytail palms like to be in slightly constricted containers, so don’t repot too often.

potted ponytail palm beaucarnia recurvata very large indoors in arboretum
Cred: Alcinoe

Ponytail Palm Pruning

Ponytail palms require pretty basic pruning. If leaves become damaged trim back the unhealthy parts. In the wintertime its common for leaf tips to become brown, don’t worry, just cut off the brown tips.

Your ponytail palm will produce offsets. These offsets will eventually produce secondary shoots. If you want to maintain a classic tree look and have one central trunk, you can prune them back. However, if you like how they look, feel free to keep them.

Be careful when handling your ponytail palm because the leaves do have serrated edges.

Ponytail Palm Propagation

Speaking of offsets, these little “pups” can be used to propagate your ponytail palm. When the offsets reach 4 inches in height you can cut them from the base of the plant. Allow their cut wounds to heal before planting them.

The success rate on this method of propagation isn’t super high, primarily because ponytail palm offsets often lack roots. To help your chances of success, apply a rooting hormone to the offsets after their wounds heal.

Then, you can plant the offsets in a separate pot and see if they take root. This is the primary propagation method for ponytail palms. Ponytail palms can flower and produce seeds, however, this is extremely rare for ones grown indoors, so it’s not a propagation method you should bank on.

Where to Buy Ponytail Palms

Due to their easy care requirements, unique look, and health benefits, ponytail palms are an extremely popular indoor plant. Because of this, you should have no trouble finding them at a gardening center or online.

An excellent online option is Bloomscape’s Ponytail Palm. This quality, healthy plant is shipped to you when it reaches a height between 15 – 22 inches tall. It’s shipped with nutrient-rich soil, a medium-sized Ecopot, a matching saucer, and care instructions, which you would need if you hadn’t already found this helpful guide. Bloomscape uses eco-friendly packaging and if your plant dies in 30 days, they’ll ship you a new one.

    Ponytail Palm in Custom Ecopot

Buy at Bloomscape
    The Ponytail Palm is neither a palm nor a tree — it’s actually a member of the Agave family, native to the southeastern desert of Mexico. The bulb-like trunk is used to store water and the long leaves that grow from the top of the trunk resemble a ponytail.

Another incredible option is The Sill’s Ponytail Palm. This medium-sized plant is shipped in a custom terracotta planter that will perfectly fit on windowsills or desks. It even comes with a second nursery grow pot which is nestled inside the planter. The Sill is a great online plant company to buy from because they are super careful about packaging and shipping their plants so they arrive healthy at your front door.

    Ponytail Palm in Terracotta Planter

Buy at The Sill
    A popular pet-friendly plant, the Ponytail Palm is known for its thick, water-storing trunk and quirky, curly leaves that grow from the top like a ponytail. A hardy houseplant, the Ponytail Palm is not a true palm, but an evergreen perennial with succulent characteristics. This plant thrives in a spot that regularly receives bright light. It is available with your choice of Hyde or Grant terracotta planter.

FAQ: Ponytail Palm Common Questions

Have some lingering questions about these fabulous house plants?

The answers are in the palm of your hand! Below are some common ponytail palm questions and their answers.

What Is the Growth Rate of Ponytail Palms?

Ponytail palms can grow to be 6 – 8 feet tall, but that doesn’t mean their not the right fit for your tiny manhattan apartment. They make excellent desk plants and sill plants for years because they are remarkably slow-growing plants.

Like, super slow. Succulent slow.

Also, indoors, ponytail palms are more likely to reach a height around 4 feet than 8 feet. If that’s bad news to you because you want a large ponytail palm, then purchase one that is already tall to begin with. You can make your ponytail palm grow faster by regularly fertilizing it.

What are Common Ponytail Palm Growing Problems?

Ponytail palms are very easy to grow and tend to face very few pest or disease problems. Of course, no plant is invincible, and they can fall victim to common houseplant scourges like spider mites mealybugs, and scale. To combat these pests, use non-toxic pest fighters like horticulture soaps and neem oil. Of course, if the problem gets out of hand, you may have to take more severe action, using a pesticide, or cutting away the parts of the plant that have become afflicted.

medium ponytail palm in ground outdoors well established
Credit: H. Zell

Ponytail palms rarely have disease problems, however, it’s not unheard of. They may suffer from issues including leaf spots, stem rot, and bacterial leaf streak. The best way to avoid these diseases is to properly care for your ponytail palm in the first place. A healthy ponytail palm will not contract diseases.

If you overwater your plant, you could have to deal with fungal problems and stem rot. To help remedy these issues don’t water your plant for a few weeks, watching to see if there is any improvement in its coloring and composition.

Are Ponytail Palms Poisonous?

No, ponytail palms are not poisonous to cats, dogs, or humans. They do have serrated edges on their leaves, which you should watch out for when you handle them, but otherwise, they are totally safe. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should serve your ponytail palm’s leaves to your animal as a salad, but if they do ingest some they will be fine.

What Kind of Plant are Ponytail Palms?

Despite their name, ponytail palm plants are not actually palms, they are succulent plants. They merely have the appearance of palm trees, but you will find that their care requirements are much closer to those of succulents.

Can You Grow Ponytail Palms Outdoors?

Yes, you can grow ponytail palms outdoors if you live in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 9 through 11. When grown outdoors, ponytail palms can reach massive heights, growing to be as tall as 30 feet in the wild.

Outdoors, your ponytail palm should be planted in a sunny location. If you live in an area with rain that should take care of its watering, otherwise soak the soil around its base on a regular basis.

Outdoor ponytail palms are just as low maintenance as indoor ones.

If you live in a warm place you can also move your indoor ponytail palm plant outdoors for the summer. Start it off in a shady spot and then after a few days move it into full sun.

Conclusion

Ponytail palms are such a fun, funky addition to interior spaces! I love the look of these unique palms and love their low-key care requirements even more. You will enjoy your ponytail palm plant for years, watching it grow from a couple of feet tall to as tall as 6 feet.

I hope you enjoyed this ponytail palm care guide! If you did, be sure to share it and comment below with any questions!

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