Ponytail palm bonsai care

Ponytail Palm

Botanical Name: Beaucarnea recurvata

Often mistaken for a palm, Ponytail Palm is actually a semi-succulent more closely related to the Yucca.

This plant is easy to grow and drought-tolerant. Its swollen base stores water, so occasional lack of water will do no harm.

Are you forgetful about watering? This may be the ideal house plant for you. In fact, the most common mistake with this plant is overwatering it, especially in winter. When in doubt, keep it on the dry side.

At the top of its trunk, long, narrow green leaves grow in a cluster, curving downward like a pony’s tail. Keep them dust-free by spraying leaves with room-temperature water, then wiping them with a soft cloth. Cleaning the leaves will also help to prevent spider mites that prefer the same dry living conditions as the ponytail palm tree.

Clusters of small, white flowers may appear on plants when they are several years old. However, plants that are grown indoors rarely flower.

A native of the Mexican desert, this house plant tolerates the dry air of heated homes extremely well. Ponytail palm makes an easy-to-please house plant and a striking accent for a sunny room.

If you find that the leaf tips are turning brown, it is caused by overwatering and underwatering. Snip off brown leaf tips with sharp scissors or pruners, but take care not to cut too much off.

Good ponytail palm care will ensure that your house plant will live a long time. Slow-growing, it rarely needs repotted. In fact, it grows best when it’s pot-bound. As it grows tall, it’s a good idea to pot it in a heavy container to prevent toppling.

Beaucarnea recurvata is a slow-grower, so buy one the size you want. Otherwise, you’ll wait for years for it to grow into a large tree.

Ponytail Palm Care Tips

Origin: Mexico

Light: Bright light to full sun.

Water: Allow soil to dry out a bit between waterings. In winter, water only enough to prevent the soil from drying out completely. Avoid getting the trunk wet because it is prone to rot; water the potting mix instead. Remember to always use room-temperature water when watering your plants.

Humidity: Average (around 40% relative humidity); will tolerate dry air.

Temperature: Average room temperatures 65-75°F/18-24°C year-round.

Soil: A fast-draining medium such as cactus potting mix.

Fertilizer: Feed monthly in spring and summer with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Don’t feed in winter, when growth is slower.

Propagation: Can be sown from seeds. In spring, you can remove the offsets that grow from the base of the plant and pot them in their own containers.

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Ponytail palm Tree leaves turning brown

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Ask a Question forum: Ponytail Palm Browning Tip Question

Overall, your Ponytail looks pretty good. My concern would be that you may not be allowing to soil to dry deep enough into the pot. This is a plant that has evolved to survive drought but not constantly damp soil around its roots.
I assume there is a drain hole in the pot. Allow the soil to dry 1-2 inches deep into the soil before watering. If you water as soon as the soil surface feels dry, you are watering too soon. When you water, add just enough water so that the top 1-2 inches of soil feel dry again within two weeks. If it takes longer than that, then you are providing too much water.
The outside weather should not have too much effect on your plant. Less sunlight may mean it uses a bit less water, but outside temps shouldn’t matter.
Trim off brown tips and any leaves that are mostly yellow. A certain amount of leaf tipping is inevitable. Look for perky, healthy new growth on top as an indication of good health.
PS – Dirty fingernails are a badge of honor among serious gardeners!

Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC

Contact me directly at
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
| Quote | Post #1634807 (2)

How to Care for a Ponytail Palm

Use these instructions to care for a Ponytail Palm indoor plant. This guide will tell you how to water your Ponytail Palm; its light, temperature, and humidity preferences; and any additional care your plant might need to help it grow.


The Ponytail Palm technically needs bright light and can tolerate full sun most of the day. However, this plant is so forgiving that it will be perfectly happy if you give it low light half the year and bright sunlight the other half. You could put it outside in the summer sun and it will tolerate any light during the winter.


Since this plant is a succulent, it’s best to keep it in semi-dry conditions. Let the soil dry out completely in between waterings—perhaps watering once every 2-3 weeks. Water sparingly in the winter months.


As with most succulents, your Ponytail Palm will thrive in dry conditions. The drier the air, the better!


Protect your palm from cold drafts from windows, air conditioning vents, or doors. This plant prefers normal room temperatures between 60-80 degrees.


For best results, use a general houseplant fertilizer only once in the spring and once in the summer. Any more than that and your Ponytail Palm may develop brown tips on the leaves.


Your Ponytail Palm leaves are sensitive to injury and tend to get dark at the ends. Cutting back the tips of the leaves is a good way to preserve the appearance of the plant. The key is to use a sharp scissors to cut off just the discolored parts.


Completely non-toxic to humans and pets.

Ponytail Palm Leaf Tips Turning Brown


I bought this plant at a home improvement store. It is potted in stones that appear to be in some sort of solid resin so I can’t see or touch the soil. I had it sitting about ten feet from a window. Now I see that all my tips are turning brown. Since it is potted in this weird stuff that have it “glued” in the pot should I try to get it out and pot it in regular soil so I can monitor the watering better? Should it be in front of a window directly, like where I have it in the picture? Love the plant and hope to move it put on the patio this summer. Please give me as much care tips as possible. Thanks so much!


Plant retailers will do anything to sell a plant, but nothing to help people properly care for their plants. The stones are there because they look pretty and they are glued together because it makes it easier for the nursery growers to ship them to the stores. The problem is exactly as you described: how does one determine when to water?

Usually the stones are single layer on the surface of the soil and can be pried off by slipping a knife under the stones. They serve no useful purpose so do whatever is necessary to remove them while doing your best not to disturb the soil and roots below. There is no reason to move the plant to another pot or to replace the stones with new soil. In fact, I recommend that you do not do that.

Once you have removed the stones you will be able to determine when the soil is dry about halfway to the bottom of the pot. At that point it will be ready for water. Add just enough water so that it reaches that level of dryness again in a week or less. Ponytail Palms can withstand dryness quite well, but they do not tolerate soil that is constantly wet or damp. Always err on the side of dryness with this plant when in doubt.

Maximum indoor sunlight is best for Ponytail Palms, so where you have it right now should be fine. I think you can leave it there year round, but if you do move it to the patio, make sure it is in shade at all times. Outdoor sunlight is many times more intense than indoor sunlight.

Ponytails can be fertilized very lightly a few times each year. They do not require high humidity and do not need to be repotted. They do lose lower leaves as new ones are added on top. That is normal. Brown leaf tips can be trimmed off just to make the plant look better. Once you provide proper light and get the watering under control, they are very easy plants to care for.

Ponytail plant

Hello and thank you for the question.

Ponytail palms, beaucarnia recurvate, are desert plants that thrive on bright light and uniformly moist but not wet soil and average household temperatures. They can tolerate being on the dry side occasionally because the enlarged trunk stores water.

I can’t say with certainty what is causing your plant’s laves to turn brown, but there are several scenarios.

The first is that older leaves on the plant eventually turn yellow, then brown, then dry up. These leaves can be removed without harm to the plant if they are loose and falling off. You can also cut off the brown tips of the leaves without causing harm to the plant.

Other possibilities for the brown leaves are over or under watering, lack of light or exposure to low temperatures. I suspect that if you are asking if you are watering the plant enough, the problem is with over or under watering, not low temperatures. Overwatering is the most common reason for these plants dying. Once the plant is watered, allow it to dry out as you would a cactus or other succulents.

Ponytail palms have few pests but mealybugs or scale could be a problem. These websites will tell you how to check for these two pests and what to do about them.

The handout listed below is an excellent source of information about this plant. It will give you tips and techniques for caring for the plant.

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