- Ponytail Palm Propagation: Propagating Ponytail Palm Pups
- About Ponytail Palm Plants
- Ponytail Palm Shoots
- Propagating Ponytail Palm Pups
- Ponytail Palm Care For Newly Potted Pups
- Ponytail Palm Overview
- Ponytail Palm Care
Ponytail Palm Propagation: Propagating Ponytail Palm Pups
Ponytail palm plants are useful in the tropical to semi-tropical exterior landscape or as a potted specimen for the home. The palms develop pups, or side shoots, as they mature. These smaller versions of the parent plant are easy to divide away from the mother palm. Propagating ponytail palm pups will give you new little palms to share with friends and family or just provide you with another source of this attractive ornamental succulent.
About Ponytail Palm Plants
Another name for this plant is elephant’s foot palm due to its thick, roughly skinned trunk. It is in the same family as agave plants and native to southeastern scrub desserts of Mexico. It is not a true palm but a succulent, which saves moisture in the trunk.
In times of drought, the trunk will shrink in diameter and get slightly shriveled bark. When the rainy season arrives, it sucks up and stores as much moisture as it can and the trunk swells markedly.
It is not a hardy plant in cooler zones and can sustain damage to the roots and trunk in excessively wet soils. As a container plant, ponytail palm care is minimal and the plant thrives on long periods of neglect.
The palm is slow growing but may get up to 30 feet in its native habit, although it is more likely to be less than 10 feet in captivity.
Ponytail Palm Shoots
This lively little plant produces side pups as a method of propagating itself. Once the palm has matured, it begins to grow smaller versions of itself that sprout from the base of the mother.
Removing pups from ponytail palms is the easiest way to grow more of the succulent palm. Ponytail palm shoots divide easily from the parent plant and then require rooting to produce viable plants.
Propagating Ponytail Palm Pups
Spring is the best time to divide ponytail palm shoots. Carefully excavate around the base of the parent plant to expose the base of the pups. Use a clean, sharp knife and cut the pup away from the adult plant. Pups that are 4 inches tall are usually forming a root base and make the best starts.
Use a nearly soilless medium, such as a cactus mix or sand-based potting soil. Place the rooted end of the pup in moistened medium in a well-draining container. Cover the container with a plastic bag lightly secured around the edges of the pot. Place the container in a warm room in moderate light. Every few days, uncover the pot and mist the surface of the soil.
Ponytail Palm Care For Newly Potted Pups
Provided soil drainage is adequate and you do not overwater the palm, this plant is remarkably unfussy. The plant only needs water every two weeks or so and you can completely suspend watering in the winter months.
Cut off damaged or diseased foliage as it occurs and repot every 2 to 3 years.
Optimum temperatures for ponytail palm plants are 70 to 80 F. (21 to 27 C.), but they do quite well in average home interior temperatures.
The ponytail palm is a unique houseplant that — SURPRISE — isn’t a palm at all! It is actually a succulent, believe it or not.
It’s an excellent choice if you want to add a beautiful houseplant to your home without spending a lot of time caring for it. You can also grow it well as a bonsai!
In this guide, you’ll learn exactly how to care for, troubleshoot, and propagate this wonderful houseplant — let’s go!
Ponytail Palm Overview
|Common Name(s)||Ponytail palm, bottle palm, elephant foot tree|
|Scientific Name||Beaucarnea recurvata|
|Height||Up to 15 feet|
|Light||Full to partial sun|
|Temperature||65-75°F, but cooler in the winter|
|Soil||Fast draining soil|
|Propagation||Cut the pup away|
|Pests||Spidermites, over watering|
The base of the ponytail palm has a bulging appearance with a more narrow trunk , topped with a fountain of long, slender leaves resembling blades of grass. The foliage generally curves downward and can be as much as two feet long and just an inch wide. Because the foliage is quite long, ponytail palms require a generous amount of space.
As a young plant, ponytail palms barely have a noticeable trunk. Instead, it resembles an onion plant. As the plant matures, the trunk begins to widen and becomes more pronounced.
Eventually, the trunk will develop a brownish-gray colored bark with a texture that very closely resembles an elephant’s foot. The base will continue to grow in size, giving the plant a bottle shape.
This is where the ponytail palm gets its nicknames of “bottle palm” and ”elephant foot tree.”
Ponytail palms grow slowly, but when grown outside in warm climates they can reach heights of 20 feet or more. When grown as a houseplant, it will usually grows to about three feet tall.
It rarely flowers indoors, but if you’re growing your ponytail palm outdoors it will also produce flower stalks that can reach 16 feet or more in height. The stalks produce clusters of small yellowish or beige-colored flowers that open during the summer months.
Ponytail Palm Care
Overall, beaucarnea recurvata care is pretty simple: give it a good amount of light and don’t over-water it. But there are some special things to keep in mind with this plant that we get into below.
Because they’re native to sunny desert regions, ponytail palms flourish in bright light. However, they can tolerate some shade, but won’t grow as quickly.
Place them as close as you can to a west or east-facing windowsill where they’ll get plenty of light and be bathed in the desert heat that they’re used to.
The root system of beaucarnea recurvatas are similar to that of a cactus. The plant’s roots push deep into the soil to store water through dry spells. Water is also stored in its wide base.
These plants only need to be watered every one to two weeks, but can go as long as four weeks before needing a drink. Before watering, poke your finger into the soil and make sure it’s dry to at least 1″ deep.
When you water thoroughly soak the soil and let any excess water drain out.
Ponytail palms don’t need much in the way of soil. Buying a specialized palm, succulent, or cactus mix will work well.
You can also mix your own soil substrate by combining the following:
- Two parts of garden soil
- One part perlite
- One part coconut peat
- One part sand, vermiculite, or expanded clay pellets
Try not to add too much peat as it will retain too much water and compact the soil.
Use a liquid cactus fertilizer once every 2-4 weeks during the growing season. In the off season, you can decrease to once every 1-2 months or so.
You may not ever need to re-pot your ponytail palm. At most you’ll need to do so just once every 4-5 years due to its slow growth.
Be sure to pick a wide pot due to the large bulbous root and stem.
When you re-pot the plant, water the soil thoroughly but don’t apply any fertilizer for at least four weeks. The loose soil in a newly re-potted plant allows too much fertilizer to reach the roots causing them to burn.
This plant takes up a wide footprint, so you may be tempted to prune the leaves. Resist this temptation. If you prune the leaves they will develop brown edges that don’t look good.
Instead, prune the stem if you feel it’s getting too tall. at least 2′ above the bottom of the plant and wait. After 2-3 weeks, you’ll see at least two new shoots sprout.
Ponytail Palm Propagation
These plants produce little “pups” when propagating themselves. All you really need to do to propagate it is to remove the pup from an existing plant and repot it.
To remove a pup, brush soil away from the base of the plant so you can get at the pups. Use a sterilized knife to slice the pup off of the plant. If there are multiple pups, choose one that is at least 4″ tall as it will already be developing roots.
Place the pup in a fresh pot of cactus mix and either place in a high-humidity area or cover with a clear plastic bag. Mist the plant every few days to keep the humidity high.
Ponytail Palms and Your Cat or Dog
There is no evidence that ponytail palm is toxic to cats or dogs, so rest safely on that knowledge! But, you may still want to keep it out of the way of your pets, as they can cause damage to the leaves or trunk
Mention common growing problems that gardeners face with this plant and how to either prevent or control them. These will often be misapplications of the care guide above (too little sun, too much water, etc.).
Almost no pests bother the ponytail palm, and even the ones that do won’t cause serious harm to it.
However, you might find the classic houseplant pests on your palm — scales, mealybugs, and spider mites.
Here’s how to treat these pests:
- If it’s early, hand-pick and wipe off with cotton swabs soaked in rubbing alcohol
- Use water to wash them off of your plant
- Use a systemic insecticide to kill everything on the plant
Most of the diseases you’ll run into have to do with over-watering, so making sure that the soil is not overly moist will solve a lot of problems.
You’ll know if your ponytail palm is suffering from a root or stem rot if you see it start to sag, leaves turn yellow, and sections of the plant begin to feel “mushy.”
If you notice these symptoms, stop watering your plant so often. Cut off mushy or infected areas. You can even repot it into fresh, drier soil and clean the root system off.
The only other disease you’ll run into is sooty mold. It doesn’t kill the plant: most gardeners simply don’t like the look of it. To control sooty mold, you can simply wash it off the plant.
Q. The leaves of my bottle palm are turning yellow and brown, what is going on?
A. If your plant’s lower leaves become yellow or start to turn brown, it’s a good sign that the plant isn’t receiving enough water.
Q. How should I care for my ponytail palm during the winter?
A. While this plant definitely loves warm sunny locations, it prefers cooler temperatures of around 50° during the winter months.
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