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    How to Grow and Care For Ponytail Palm

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    Ponytail palm in a wide terracotta pot.

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    Ponytail Palm is known as Beaucarnea recurvata (prev. Nolina recurvata), is also commonly known as Bottle palm tree and Elephant foot tree. Ponytail palm is part of the Asparagaceae family (Agave family) and is native to Mexico. 
    Despite its common name, it’s not a true palm that is part of the Arecaceae family. It’s become common worldwide to grow as indoor houseplants.
    It’s a compact palm-looking plant that makes for great, easy to care for indoor plant. Ponytail palm is actually a succulent meaning that it is drought tolerant unlike other true palms like Cat Palm and Neanthe Bella Palm (Parlor palm). Like most other succulents, Ponytail palm does best in bright indirect sunlight or full sun (8 hours of sunlight a day).
    It’s often grown outdoors in temperate climates like in USDA zones 9 and 10 and can be used to decorate a landscape growing up to 30 feet outdoors.

    About Ponytail Palm Tree

    Ponytail Palm is part of a group of small tropical trees native to southern Mexico and parts of tropical Central Americas. They are not true palms, but rather an evergreen perennial that grows with a noticeable expanded caudex, a bulbous trunk, used to store water. They can grow up to 30 feet outdoors, although indoors more like 3-4 feet. Their caudex also expands in width as these plants grow to reach up to 10-20 feet wide.
    In the wild, they grow in desert-like regions and are drought tolerant due to their ability to store water in the bulbous base. The bulbous base is fatter at the bottom and grows into a more slender form. From the top of the stem, you’ll see rosettes of long, green leathery leaves develop as the plant ages. Ponytail palms make great options to try out as bonsais.
    They can grow in all types of soil and in bright sunlight to partial shade but prefer temperate climates if grown outdoors. They are very slow-growing plants. This species is actually nearly endangered and in critical condition in the wild due to anthropogenic activities and pollution, and its international trade is regulated. Its low maintenance needs and drought tolerance make them a great indoor houseplant for all levels of plant parents.

    Ponytail Palm Care Guide

    Beaucarnea recurvata (prev. Nolina recurvata)
    Bottle Palm Tree, Elephant Foot Tree, Ponytail Palm Tree
    Up to 3-5 feet tall and wide indoors, can grow up to 30 feet outdoors
    Bright, indirect light or full sun (6-8 hours of bright diffused sunlight is ideal)
    Nutrient-rich, well-draining soil w/ perlite
    By Rhizome division (not cuttings!)
    Ideally 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, lowest 50 degrees Fahrenheit
    South-facing windows are most ideal. West or east facing windows will also work. 
    9, 10, 11, 12
    Not toxic to dogs and cats
    Spider mites, mealybugs
    Root rot, Yellow Leaves, Brown Leaves
    Botanical Name
    Common Names
    Plant Type
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    Sun Exposure
    Soil Type
    Temperature (Ideal)
    Window Locations (Ideal)
    USDA Hardiness Zone
    Disease & Problems
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    How to Grow Ponytail Palm

    Ponytail palm with curling leaves in a white pot.
    Image Source:Ponytail palms are very easy care plants. Their bulbous trunk helps store water so this plant is great for those that forget to water often.

    Ponytail palms are very forgiving and easy care plants because they are very drought resistant due to their bulb or caudex being able to store a lot of water. 
    In the wild, they grow in nutrient-poor soil and can thrive in most soils as long as they are well draining. They prefer warmer climates and are hardy to zone 9a all the way to USDA hardiness zone 12. As long as you place them in a spot with bright indirect light, your ponytail palm is likely to thrive. 
    They are fairly compact plants when grown indoors, so they can make great centerpieces for your table or great plants for a well-lit corner. They are also pet-friendly making them great options for pet parents.

    🏡 Growing Outdoors

    Ponytail palms can thrive when grown outdoors due to their drought-tolerant nature and forgiving nature when it comes to soil. They thrive outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 12, but if temperatures drop below 15 degrees Fahrenheit consistently, you will want to move the plant indoors or cover it.
    Ponytail palms make great additions for xeriscaping. You can plant them almost anywhere as long as they receive at least 4-6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight throughout the day. In tropical hardiness zones like 11 and 12, you'll want to plant your Ponytail palm in a partially shaded area to protect it from the blazing sun, especially during the summer months.
    If you’re growing outside of the recommended hardiness zones, we recommend planting your ponytail palm in a container so that you can overwinter it inside when winter comes. They make for great additions to patios or tables outdoors. 
    In the wild they grow in desert regions, so they can thrive in low humidity and arid environments without problems.

    💧 Water

    Ponytail palms are very forgiving when it comes to water. Their caudex allows them to store water like succulents, so you don’t have to worry about watering this one very frequently. 
    As a rough rule of thumb, allow the majority of the soil in your pot dry in between waterings. You'll likely end up watering your Ponytail palm on a bi-weekly basis. Consider increasing your watering during its active growing season or during the hot summer months when soil is likely to dry out more quickly.
    You can consider bottom watering your plant by letting it sit with the pot halfway submerged in water. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then fully drain out the water afterward. 
    In the wild, ponytail palms receive rainfall in the summer and remain dry throughout the winter. To mimic these conditions in a container, we recommend watering deeply and thoroughly but infrequently. You will want to allow the majority of the soil to dry between waterings and reduce watering during the winter time when the plant goes into dormancy. 
    Overwatering is the number one cause of issues for this plant just because it’s so infrequently required. If you overwater your plant, you risk root rot which can ultimately kill the plant. 

    ☀️ Sunlight

    Ponytail palms prefer bright sunlight for at least 4-6 hours every day. When growing indoors, we recommend placing near a south-facing window that receives the most amount of sunlight. You can also place them near west or east-facing windows which receive bright light for half of the day. North-facing windows receive the least amount of sunlight, so we don’t recommend these spots or we recommend supplementing with a grow light.
    If you're growing outdoors, place them in an area where they get a few hours of shade a day especially if you're growing in warmer tropical zones where scorching summer rays can burn the plant.
    Make sure to avoid direct sunlight for too long as it can cause leaf scorch and brown leaves and crispy edges. It may also cause some yellowing on the leaves but is usually paired with crispy brown edges. 

    🌡️Temperature and Humidity

    Although Ponytail palms are native to arid regions and prefer warm temperatures. They are not frost tolerant, but can tolerate occasional temperature drops all the way down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The most ideal temperatures are between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, so most ambient indoor temperatures will work.
    If growing outdoors, they prefer to grow in USDA zones 9a to 12. Make sure to overwinter your plant if the temperature drops below 15 degrees Fahrenheit outdoors. 

    🌱 Best Soil for Your Ponytail Palm

    Ponytail palms need potting soil that is well-draining and doesn’t get easily waterlogged as that can cause root rot and kill the plant. It’s best to plant your Ponytail palm in a pot with drainage holes to ensure all the water drains out all the way properly. 
    For soil, we recommend using cactus or succulent mix to ensure proper drainage. They prefer to grow in slightly acidic to neutral soils with pH of 6.5-7.5. Most cactus potting mixes have a blend of mycorrhizae which are fungi that work symbiotically with roots improving nutrient and water absorption.
    You can also supplement with perlite, vermiculite, or sand to encourage proper drainage.

    🌻 Fertilizer

    Ponytail palms are also forgiving when it comes to fertilizer. They’re able to store water and nutrients in their caudex. However, you can always boost your ponytail palm with fertilization especially during its active growing season in the spring and summer months.
    It’s sufficient to fertilize once or twice a month during this period with a cactus-specific, liquid fertilizer. These plants do well with potassium-enhanced fertilizers, but make sure that you never fertilize this plant with a fertilizer that’s more nitrogen-rich than potassium or phosphorus. 
    For an organic approach, you can use coffee grounds to fertilize. We don’t recommend putting coffee grounds directly on water. Instead, create a coffee grounds “tea” by soaking coffee grounds in water overnight and mixing this like fertilizer with your regular water.

    😎 Pruning and Maintenance

    Being slow-growing succulents, Ponytail palms don’t need regular pruning and don’t have specific pruning requirements. You may need to prune the plant to maintain a clean-cut appearance to your liking. We also recommend pruning your plant if you’re seeing unhealthy growth like brown or yellowing leaves. 
    Make sure to use sterilized shears or knives if you’re choosing to prune your ponytail palm.

    How to Propagate Ponytail Palm

    The best way to propagate your Ponytail Palm is by division of offsets or pups at the base of the plant. Once your mother plant is mature enough, it’ll start to develop offsets at the base of the plant that develops its own roots.
    The most ideal time for Ponytail Palm propagation is during its growing season in the Spring so the mother plant can recover quicker. When you start to see pups develop, follow these steps to propagate
    Propagating Step By Step
    • Prepare gloves, sterilized shears, fresh cactus or succulent potting mix, and a good container.
    • Remove your mother Ponytail palm from the pot and locate the offset with the most roots at the base of the plant.
    • Use your sterilized shears and cut the offset from the mother plant.
    • Fill your new container with some fresh, well-draining potting mix like succulent soil.
    • Place your new sucker into the pot and backfill with soil. You’ll want to cover it with a plastic bag to increase humidity.
    • Place your new plant in a spot that received bright, indirect sunlight.
    • Water the plant thoroughly to let it settle in.
    Allow for 4-6 weeks for the new plant to settle in and care for the Ponytail palm as usual

    How to Repot Ponytail Palm

    A plant parent repotting a ponytail palm from nursery pot.
    Image Source:You won't need to repot Ponytail palms often. However, you can to refresh soil or once the plant's roots are completely pot bound.
    Ponytail Palm plants are slow growers, so you won’t need to repot them often. Once every three years or so is a regular cadence to give your Ponytail palm’s roots enough space to grow and refresh the soil. 
    Repotting Step By Step
    • Gently remove the ponytail palm from its existing pot and prepare a larger pot that’s 2-4” larger for your new plant.
    • Softly untangle the root ball and whisk away any remaining soil.
    • This is a great time to inspect the roots for any mushy or brown roots. Use sterilized shears to trim dead roots (a sign of root rot).
    • Place your palm in a new, large pot and backfill with fresh potting soil. You’ll want to align your plant at the same height it was before in the older container.
    • Water thoroughly to let the plant settle in and place it in a bright, sunny location.

    Common Ponytail Palm Issues

    Uprooted ponytail palm in an outdoor environment. A mature sized ponytail palm.
    Image Source:Ponytail palms encounter your most common houseplant problems. In particular due to overwatering.
    Ponytail Palms can be prone to common pests like spider mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, and scale and issues like fungal leaf spot and root rot. Most of its common issues are caused by improper water care or humidity levels since the plant has moderate humidity, temperature, and water requirements. 

    My Ponytail Palm fronds have brown tips or edges

    Brown leaves or edges are usually a sign of dry conditions – either underwatering, direct exposure to sunlight, or dry environment. You’ll want to ensure your palm has consistently moist soil in between waterings. Only let 2-3 inches of topsoil dry, but don’t let all soil dry. 
    If you live in a dry environment, you may want to consider regular misting or planting in a plastic pot to encourage more moisture retention.
    If your Ponytail palm is growing in an area of direct sunlight, you may want to move it a few feet away to avoid direct sunlight which can cause leaf burn and cause brown tips and edges.

    Fungal Leaf Spot

    Fungal leaf spot is usually a symptom of too much moisture. You’ll start to see light yellow spots that as they grow will turn brown with yellow halos. They can grow and combine into blights. 
    This is caused by an accumulation of too much moisture in the environments and the leaves which creates environments for fungi and bacteria to thrive.
    What you will want to make sure is that if you’re growing your Ponytail palm in a particularly humid environment, you’re allowing the water to evaporate. This means you’ll want to have proper air circulation or place your Ponytail palm in a spot that receives more light (to allow for the moisture to dry faster). 
    We recommend trimming off unhealthy growth with sterilized gardening shears and then applying fungicide such as neem oil spray or insecticidal soap spray every couple of days. The key here is to make sure you have the right environment set up. With proper treatment, you’ll start to see the health of your plant improve over time.

    Root Rot

    If this is your first time experiencing root rot, read our full guide on root rot.
    Root rot is a common issue with most houseplants including <<PLANT NAME HER>>. It’s usually caused by moist or waterlogged soil for prolonged periods of time. Symptoms can include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and a rotten brown base. If you’re seeing these symptoms, here’s how to treat root rot.
    • Remove the plant from the pot and gently remove the soil so you can see the root system.
    • If the roots are brown and mushy, you must take action immediately.
    • Clean off the roots with sterile water.
    • Take sterilized scissors and trim any mushy roots.
    • You can use a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution to disinfect the roots.
    Once cleaned up, repot your plant in fresh houseplant soil mix.

    Common Ponytail Palm Pests

    Ponytail palm outdoor in a patio near a chair and planted in a terracotta pot.
    Image Source:Ponytail palms attract a variety of different pests especially when grown outdoors.


    Scales can be hard to spot, but they look like tiny brown growth on the palm’s stem or on the leaves of the palm. Palm leaf scales can damage the palm tree by sucking out the sap of the plant. Scales don’t hurt the plant if it’s a small infestation, but as they multiply they can ultimately kill the palm tree.
    Scales can be hard to get rid of, so once you spot an infestation, you should quarantine and treat the plant immediately. You’ll want to treat by using cotton swabs dipped in alcohol to remove the scales. You can try to spray the plant with water to rid of some of the infestations. 
    We recommend using fungicide like neem oil spray or insecticidal soap with equal parts rubbing alcohol mixed with dish soap. Follow this routine until the infestation disappears.

    Let your plant sit away from other plants for 2-3 weeks before placing it back with your other houseplants.


    Mealybugs look like tiny pieces of cotton or powder that cover the leaves or fronds of your Ponytail palm plant. Symptoms of a Mealybug infestation you’ll see fuzzy white substances that will be left on the palm’s foliage. Mealybugs also excrete a sap called honeydew which can cause a shiny-like appearance on your leaves.
     A great way to get rid of or prevent mealybugs from infesting your Ponytail palm by wiping the leaves down with alcohol regularly. If you're looking for an insecticide, it's recommended to use neem oil because it is safe and organic. You can also use insecticidal soap or spray to spray your plant every 7-10 days until the infestation clears.

    Fungus Gnats or Whiteflies

    Fungus gnats are tiny fruit-fly sized insects that infest moist soil, potting mix and other mediums. They are gray to black-gray in appearance and their long legs and antennae can give them a mosquito like appearance. Because Calatheas love humid environments and moist soil, they can be particularly susceptible to fungus gnat infestations. Although harmless to humans, fungus gnats love to feed on the plants’ thin roots. 
    How to spot fungus gnat infestation on my Ponytail palm?
    You’ll find them primarily on the surface of your potted soil.In an early infestation, fungus gnats are unlikely to do much damage. But because fungus gnats reproduce rapidly, laying up to hundreds of eggs on the soil surface, what was once a small infestation can turn into a severe infestation fairly quickly.
    Symptoms of a fungus gnat infestation include stunted growth, yellow, or dropping leaves.
    The best way to rid of fungus gnats is to use sticky card traps, cider-vinegar traps, or flypaper. These are similar methods to contain fruit flies. 

    Spider Mites

    Spider mites are ectoparasitic arthropods that feed on plants. They prefer hot weather along with dry conditions, and they feed on a wide range of plants. Spider mites can be red, yellow, or orange, depending on the species. They are tiny, but they can be seen with the naked eye. Spider mites attack plants through their leaves, sucking the nutrients out of them. They leave stalks behind as they feed. While feeding, spider mites create webbing, and drain the life from plants causing leaves on infested plants to turn yellow and brown. They can cover and kill an entire plant within a week or two if left uncontrolled in your garden.
    If this is your first time managing spider mites, read our in-depth guide on how to get rid of spider mites on indoor plants.
    How to spot a spider mite infestation on my Ponytail palm?
    Spider mite damage is different from that of cutting insects. There won’t be a hole in a leaf, but rather large discolored areas made up of tiny dots or stippling. You may notice that your plant leaves are covered in a web-like substance as previously stated or you may notice small specks on the leaves, or if the infestation has gone further you might see leaves or whole portions of your plant start to curl and wither.

    FAQs on Ponytail Palm

    How big does a Ponytail palm get?
    Ponytail palms are very slow growers. Indoors, they can reach up to 3-5 feet tall at maturity. In the wild, up to 30 feet.
    How often do you water a Ponytail palm?
    Since a Ponytail palm has a caudex or bulbous trunk that's able to store water, like most other succulents, you won't need to water this one regularly. Allow majority of soil to dry in between watering. General approximation may lead you to water on a rough bi-weekly basis. During growing season, you may want to increase watering frequency.
    How to grow multiple trunks on a Ponytail palm?
    To grow multiple trunks, you'll want to use sterilized shears to cut the tips of a stem. Once the cut callouses and the plant starts to heal, it'll start to grow a new stem and over time, you'll start to develop multiple trunks.
    Why are the tips of my Ponytail palm turning brown?
    If the fronds of your Ponytail palm are starting to turn brown, this is a sign that it's receiving too much sun and you may be underwatering. Increase your watering frequency and monitor the dry levels of soil. We also recommend you move your Ponytail palm away from direct sunlight.
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