Ponytail palm trunk soft

Pruning Ponytail Palms: Can You Trim Ponytail Palm Plants

Ponytail palms are truly interesting houseplants with their spiky poof of slender leaves capping a decidedly elephant skin trunk. They are not true palms, however, so can you trim ponytail palms? Read on for the answer on how to prune ponytail palm and the chances it will come back from severe top damage.

Ponytail palms are inexpensive, fun little houseplants with slow growth and minimal care needs. Place the little plant in full sun and water sparingly and normally the plant will continue its tortoise-paced growth and give you no trouble. About the only problem with these plants is overwatering.

Can You Trim Ponytail Palm?

Let’s be clear on the difference between trimming and pruning. Trimming may be done with shears and generally refers to the removal of the tips of leaves. Pruning is done with the intention of removing base and woody material for plant rejuvenation, or restoration.

The ponytail palm leaves are sensitive to injury and tend to get dark at the ends. Cutting back ponytail palm leaves is easy to preserve the appearance of the plant. Use good

sharp scissors or yard snips to cut off just the discolored parts.

Ponytail Palm Pruning

Ponytail palm is a single-stemmed plant, which means that if you want to prune any base or woody material, you would literally be removing the trunk. Cutting back ponytail palm is not an effective method of maintenance in that it would leave an open trunk and no greenery.

The action would expose the stem to mold and mildew and it would likely rot before it could ever start producing any more leaves or offsets. The plant doesn’t have stems so much, as simply the long strappy leaves that arch out from the slimmest part of the trunk.

Ponytail palm pruning is only used if you want to remove the pups for planting. This would be consistent with the definition of removal of base or woody material.

Making a Three Headed Plant

Pruning ponytail plants that are less than 6 inches (15 cm.) tall will result in the plant producing more heads. It only works on the very young plants and you should make slightly curved cuts into the main trunk to force growth.

Keep the plant in an arid region, without much humidity, to prevent the cut from rotting. Once it calluses, the plant will send out a shoot and eventually leaves to form another cap of foliage. Growers often create two- and three-headed plants in this manner, for larger ponytail palms with extra interest.

How to Prune a Ponytail Palm for Sucker Removal

The suckers are also known by the cuter name — pups. These grow at the base of the thick trunk snuggled up to the parent plant. Also called offsets, they should be divided from the main plant in spring and planted as separate, although cloned, plants.

The leaves grow in clumps with a base that attaches to the trunk. The clump is an offset or pup. Use a very sharp, clean knife or pruners for pruning ponytail palms and plant the pups immediately in gritty potting soil.

How can you tell if a ponytail palm tree is dying?

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I get quite a few questions and comments regarding Ponytail Palms. My 2 are doing great and growing like crazy since their recent repotting so here’s an update. My neighbor has one that has multiple heads on the same trunk which I thought might interest you too. And, you’ll find out how to get those if that’s a look you want. So, this post is a bit of “Ponytail Palm potpourri”!

Here’s my other 1 which has put out a lot of growth this spring & summer too. I repotted & top dressed this Ponytail Palm early last year. Since then, it’s grown quite a bit.

They can stay potbound for quite a while and like most plants, they just stop growing. Even though mine were potbound as can be, they still looked fine. My 3-trunked Ponytail Palm was looking healthy and happy but was going nowhere. I know how tough their roots are but really had a hard time getting this 1 out of its pot. You can see how extensive their root system is in this post I did last fall about how to care for & repot a Ponytail Palm.

See how my Ponytail Palms (botanically known as Beaucarnea recurvata) are doing now. Plus, learn how to get those multiple heads:

I’m not going into care tips here because I’ve already covered many of those in previous posts. I do want to tell you that as Ponytails grow, they loose their lower leaves which gives way for their trunks to form. By the way, these plants grow very slowly so expect too much in that department. They take their sweet time, especially when living indoors.

In their natural environs, they can reach 25′ and have quite a lot of trunk. So, don’t be concerned if those lower leaves turn yellow – it’s just part of their natural growth habit. I’ve noticed that mine do that shedding in winter/early spring.

My neighbor planted a few Ponytail Palms in his sidewalk strip. They’re a bit banged up from car doors opening & people jumping out, but overall, they aren’t looking too bad!

1 of them got partially decapitated & the single head was cut off. The result is: 3 heads have appeared.

If you have a reason or the guts to cut the head off a Ponytail Palm, multiple heads should appear. The 1 above got a straight cut which eventually brought on 3 heads but you can also do an angled cut. With that, a head will appear at the top and 1 should appear at the bottom of the cut too. Straight cuts usually bring multiple heads where cut and sometimes a few at the base. Be warned: it can take a few months for any signs of new growth to appear so be patient.

I love my Ponytails because they’re so easy to maintain yet so very interesting. I need (okay, want!) to get a variegated one. I think they’re the cat’s meow!

Happy gardening,

Here’s the variegated PP – love the jazzy foliage!

I’ve grown Ponytail Palms outdoors in 2 very different climates for years now. Both with mild winters but that’s where the similarity ended. Ponytails do great in pots and this is where my experience with growing them lies. Their care outside in containers is a snap. These tips for Ponytail Palm care outdoors, along with other things good to know, will help you out.

I grew 3 Ponytail Palms in Santa Barbara (where I lived for 10 years) and brought my 3-trunked specimen with me when I moved to Tucson. The coast of Southern California (San Diego right up into the Central Coast) is the ideal climate for growing these succulents outdoors. The fog tends to linger until mid-morning and the temps are mild year round.

Tucson (in the Sonoran Desert) is much hotter in summer, colder in the winter and the sun is more intense than along the California coast. Ponytails do fine here but from what I’ve seen and experienced, they prefer protection from all day summer sun.

One of my Ponytails in Santa Barbara which I left behind with a friend when I moved to Tucson. I could only fit so many plants in my car, & boy it was packed to the gills!

Ponytail Palms are succulents and you may see them called Beaucarnea recurvata or Elephant Foot Plant. Be sure to check out the post I recently did on growing Ponytail Palms as houseplants. With care posts, I usually list out the points in bullet form but I’m going to do this 1 in question and answer format for a change.

Ponytail Palm care, whether they’re growing outdoors or indoors, is about as easy as it gets.

How Tall Do Ponytail Palms Get?

They can get 12 -24′ tall when growing outside in the ground. The tallest I’ve seen 1 in a container is 9′.

The taller they get, the longer the leaves get. If my Ponytail was on the ground & not on a pedestal, the leaves would be touching the patio floor.

Here’s a well established Ponytail Palm at the Huntington Library & Gardens near Pasadena.

How Fast Do Ponytail Palms Grow?

Bad news, good news here. Ponytail Palms grow very slowly. A 12″ tall plant won’t reach 5′ anytime soon.

The good news is that they don’t need repotting very often because of their slow growth rate.

Can Ponytail Palms Take Full Sun?

It depends on the degree of the sun.

Somewhere with a climate like the coast of Central/Southern California, yes they can. I had 1 growing in morning sun & 2 in afternoon sun in Santa Barbara. Both were healthy as can be.

Here in Tucson (the Sonoran Desert in Arizona) I think they look better sheltered from the full sun, especially the strong afternoon sun. Mine grows on the side patio in bright light but with no direct sun.

I’ve seen a couple of others here in town which are growing in afternoon sun. The leaves are yellowish & the plants look dried out. This could also be from a lack of water. Mine, as you can see below, is much greener & healthier looking.

My 3-trunked Ponytail Palm right before I repotted it into its current pot. That’s back when the Burro’s Tail Sedums were nice & robust!

How Often Should I Water My Ponytail Palm?

As I said, Ponytail Palms are succulents. The plant stores water in its onion-shaped bulbous base (caudex) as well as the trunk (stem). If you water it too often, then the bulb will rot out as well as the trunk. Even though the bulb is hard on the outside, it’s soft on the inside & is subject to bacterial root rot.

I water my Ponytail in a large pot every 3 weeks in the summer months & every 5-6 weeks in winter. In Santa Barbara I watered mine about the same but they were in smaller pots.

The above is a general guideline for you – adjust it accordingly. Your Ponytail might need watering less often. Basically, the more light, warmth, & the smaller the pot size, the more often yours will need it.

Larger specimens & those in cooler temps, will need watering less often. Mind the soil mix it’s in too – more on that below.

Are Ponytail Palms Cold Hardy?

Not totally – they won’t survive a period of prolonged freeze. They’ll be damaged if the temps. dip below 20-22F.

In Santa Barbara the winter temps rarely dipped below 40F so no worries. The lowest the winter temps have gotten here in Tucson are 27F so it hasn’t been an issue for my well established Ponytail Palm.

Ponytail Palms come in many forms. This has 1 trunk & multiple heads.

Can I Grow my Ponytail Outdoors in Summer?

If your Ponytail Palm grows inside in the colder months, it would appreciate being outside in the summer. Just make sure it doesn’t stay too wet or get too much scorching sun. So, if you’re in a climate with a lot of summer rain, you’ll want to grow it under overhead protection (but in a bright location).

What Kind of Soil is Best for a Ponytail Palm?

One that drains well & is aerated. This way there’s less chance for over watering & root rot.

As for a soil mix, I would recommend planting yours in succulent & cactus mix.

I now make my own succulent & cactus mix but I recommend any of the mixes listed right below if you can’t find 1 locally or don’t want to make your own.

A few online options for buying succulent & cactus mix: Bonsai Jack (this 1 is very gritty; great for those prone to overwatering!), Hoffman’s (this is more cost effective if you have a lot of succulents but you might have to add pumice or perlite) or Superfly Bonsai (another fast draining 1 like Bonsai Jack which is great for indoor succulents).

You can plant a Ponytail Palm in potting soil (with a good amount of pumice or perlite added in) but you have to be very mindful not to over water it. Remember, that bulbous base rots out easily. As an alternative, you could use 1/2 potting soil & 1/2 succulent & cactus mix.

More details on how I transplanted my large Ponytail Palm & the mix I used here in Tucson.

My 3-trunked Ponytail Palm when it was a lot smaller. Oh how you’ve grown into a fine specimen!

When Should I Repot my Ponytail Palm?

Spring & summer are the best times for repotting/planting.

I’ve repotted my 3-headed Ponytail Palm, which I bought at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market 11 years ago, 3 times now. It’s currently growing in a 22″ pot & I won’t repot it again for a very long time if ever.

The bulb grows as the plant grows so you may have to repot it into a bigger pot at some point just to keep everything in scale. Other reasons for repotting: a plant too tight in its pot has a hard time taking up water & receiving enough oxygen to the roots. And, sometimes the soil just gets old, looses its nourishments & needs to be replaced.

Do Ponytails Need Pruning?

I’ve never pruned my Ponytail Palms because they haven’t needed it. The lowest leaves gradually turn yellow & die off (this happens very slowly) as the plant grows. I pull them off the trunk; I don’t prune them because they come off easily.

Can You Cut the Top Off of a Ponytail Palm?

You can prune the head & trunk (stem) off of a Ponytail Palm & propagate it. If enough of the trunk is left on the bulb, new growth in the form of multiple sprouts will appear off the trunk. Otherwise, they’ll come off the bulb. Sometimes you’ll get new growth appearing on both the bulb & trunk.

My neighbor in Santa Barbara planted a few Ponytail Palms in his sidewalk strip. 2 of them got decapitated & the heads were cut off. The result is: 3 or 4 sprouts appeared & all turned into healthy-sized heads.

Straight cuts usually bring multiple sprouts where cut & sometimes a few at the base.

Be warned: it can take a few months for any signs of new growth to appear so be patient.

How Do I Grow Multiple Trunks on a Ponytail Palm?

My Ponytail has multiple trunks because 3 small plants were planted together. If you cut the single head & trunk of yours off, then multiple sprouts will appear.

The sprouts will form heads & trunks will eventually form as they grow. This is a very slow process so don’t expect a specimen plant to develop any time soon. And, in this case, there will always be 1 bulb.

How Do I Make my Ponytail Palm Grow Taller?

Patience. The best thing is to have it in optimum growing conditions.

A tray of Ponytail Palms propagated from seed.

How Are Ponytail Palms Propagated?

The growers propagate them by seed. Or, in the case of my 3-headed Ponytail Palm, i could propagate it by division.

They can also be propagated by removing the pups (the babies or new growth via sprouts) at the base. I’ve only done this once & am admittedly not very experienced at it. You can pull the pups away from or cut them off the bulb using clean & sharp pruners or a knife.

When I made the cut, I was sure to get some roots along with the baby plant. I planted it in a 4″ pot filled with succulent & cactus mix & kept it relatively moist until the roots grew to be more established.

Are Ponytail Palms Safe for Pets?

They are considered to be non-toxic to both cats & dogs. I always consult the ASPCA website for this info.

I’m not sure about dogs, but some kitties love to chew on the crunchy leaves. It might make them sick so just be warned of that.

Why Are the Tips of my Ponytail Palm Turning Brown?

Ponytail Palms develop brown tips in reaction to dry air. Mine has many more of them here in the desert than it did in Santa Barbara,

If it’s more than just the tips, it’s most likely a watering issue (too much or too little) or over fertilizing.

My, my – the ends of this Ponytail Palm have been hacked!

Do I Need to Fertilize my Ponytail?

Once or twice a year max would be fine.

I feed mine with worm compost & compost every spring. For a large pot like mine, I apply a 1″ layer of the worm compost & a 2″ layer of the compost.

I don’t fertilize my Ponytail Palm & never have. If you choose to fertilize yours, don’t over do it because salts build-up & can burn the roots of the plant. This will show up as brown spots or large brown tips on the leaves.

Avoid fertilizing a plant which is stressed, ie. bone dry or soaking wet.

You don’t want to fertilize your plants in late fall or winter because that’s their time for rest.

Why is the Caudex (Bulbous Base) of my Ponytail Palm Soft?

The bulb stores water along with the stem & roots. In most cases, a soft bulb is due to over watering.

Do Ponytails Get Any Pests?

I have never seen a Ponytail Palm growing outdoors with any pests. Indoors is a different story – they can be more prone to them.

Do Ponytail Palms Flower?

I’ve seen quite a few in flower outdoors. The older plants are the ones which bloom in spring/early summer. You can see the flowers here.

If you want a tall Ponytail Palm like this from the get go, then buy it this way. Because they grow so slowly, a specimen like this will cost a good chunk of change.

I love Ponytail Palms because they’re so easy to maintain in containers yet so very interesting. They handle the dry air like champions and loved to be ignored. If you don’t have 1 already, why not give 1 a try? You’ll be hooked too!

Happy gardening,

You might find these helpful: Ponytail Palm Care

15 Easy To Grow Houseplants

How to Transplant A Large Ponytail Palm

Rubber Plant: Growing Tips for this Easy Care Indoor Tree

You can find more houseplant info in my simple and easy to digest houseplant care guide: Keep Your Houseplants Alive

This post may contain affiliate links. You can read our policies here. Your cost for the products will be no higher but Joy Us garden receives a small commission. Thank you for helping us spread the word & make the world a more beautiful place!

Ponytail palm makes a nice houseplant

Ponytail palm is a plant with a confused identity. Not a true palm (the family Arecaceae), it is one of seven species in the genus Beaucarnea or Nolina. The group has been included in the Nolinaceae, Agavaceae, and Ruscaceae. Regardless of its taxonomic designation, this group of small tropical trees is native to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Ponytail palm, Beaucarnea recurvata (or Nolina recurvata) from semi-desert areas of southeastern Mexico, is the species often grown as a low-maintenance houseplant in temperate climates, as well as being used as a landscape specimen in dry, warm climates (zones 9-10). This succulent is often mistakenly called a palm because of its single trunk with leaves at the top. Other common names include Bottle Palm and Elephant’s Foot Tree.

The enlarged base resembles an elephant’s foot when older.

In the ground, this plant can grow to 30 feet tall, but in containers remains much shorter. Its trunk has a flared, enlarged base (a globose caudex) suggestive of an elephant’s foot. The caudex can eventually get up to 12 feet across, and often develops fissures or crackles on the gray surface, furthering the pachyderm comparison. The swollen trunk serves to store water, allowing the plant to survive extended droughts. It begins with a single stem, but will branch with age and after flowering. The plants also will branch if broken off or cut when small (less than 6″ diameter); growers of ornamental plants often do this while plants are dormant in order to produce three-headed plants.

The leaves of the common ponytail palm, B. recurvata, may look smooth, but actually have sharp teeth that are seen only under magnification (right). These are tiny, soft and forgiving; other species have leaf edges that can draw blood if handled carelessly.

The evergreen leaves are long and strap- or grass-like. On mature plants they can be up to six feet long and only an inch wide, but are much shorter on smaller plants. They are rather tough and leathery, with very finely serrated edges – sharp enough to cut skin. The rosette of leaves emanates from the top of the trunk or ends of the branches, and gracefully cascade down like a green fountain. On many plants the leaves twist or curl slightly when longer, giving the plant an interesting, flowing look. Older leaves eventually turn yellow and dry up; these can be removed.

Normally only large trees flower, producing large, upright branched panicles with small but numerous green- to creamy-white or pinkish flowers that are highly attractive to bees. Plants are dioecious, so only female plants will produce seed. What appear to be small offsets may also naturally be produced on the caudex. These can be cut off flush with the trunk surface if a single-trunked plant is desired; otherwise they can be left to grow into branches. They will not root to produce new plants, however. Variegated forms are sometimes seen.

Bloom sequence of a potted ponytail palm.

Ponytail palm inflorescence with pink flowers at San Diego Zoo (L); closeup of buds (LC) and male flowers (RC). The flowers are highly attractive to insect pollinators.

Grow ponytail palm in well-drained soil mix

Ponytail palm does best in full sun in a well-drained soil mix (as would be used for cactus). Add sharp sand and/or small gravel to regular potting mixes to enhance drainage. This desert plant is adapted to bright light, so place it in a window where it will receive as much light as possible. Plants can be moved outside for the summer, but should be gradually acclimated to their new conditions outside to prevent sunburn.

In nature the plants would receive rainfall in the summer and remain dry through most of the winter. These conditions should be mimicked for container-grown plants – water deeply, but infrequently, allow to dry out between waterings, and reduce watering significantly in winter to avoid root rot.

The author with his blooming plant

Overwatering is the most common cause of failure for this plant. Fertilize once or twice during the growing season. This plant is propagated only by seed, which is not commonly available. Sow in spring with a minimum temperature of 68°F. The seed should germinate readily with no special treatment.

This plant is quite easy to grow, tolerating a wide range of conditions, and is a good choice for beginners. In containers ponytail palms will grow slower than if in the ground, and the plants will remain small if kept in a small pot. They can go for many years before needing to be repotted. Moving it to a larger pot will give it room to grow in both height and girth. They can be very long-lived, and can easily outlive their owners. However, older plants may be difficult to manage, because of sheer size and weight if not kept on the smaller size.

Ponytail palm has few pests, but mealybugs or scale can be a problem. Leaf tips have a tendency to dry and be brown in the house, either from too much or not enough water, excessive fertilizer or accumulated salts. The dead parts can be trimmed off to improve the plant’s appearance.

– Susan and Dan Mahr, University of Wisconsin-Madison


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Hello Ponytail Palms; what fun plants you are! I got my 1st, in a 6″ pot standing about 10-12″ tall, when I lived in San Francisco over 20 years ago. Even though it grew painfully slow (the light wasn’t as bright as this plant would have liked) I fell in love with it nonetheless. Here’s what I’ve learned about caring for this unique indoor plant over the years – Ponytail Palm care tips coming your way.

Ponytail Palms, which are also called Beaucarnea recurvata, Elephant’s Foot and Bottle Palm, are actually succulents. This is good to know when it comes to the watering section. My 3-trunked beauty grows on my patio here in Tucson but I maintained quite a few of them when I was interior plant technician. Here’s a post on growing Ponytail Palms outdoors in case you want to put yours out for the summer.

This plant is about as easy care as it gets. They’re the high light version of a Snake Plant!

Ponytail Palms grow very slowly. This specimen, seen at Green Things Nursery, is very expensive not to mention very heavy. Their bulbous bases can weigh quite a lot.

Uses

Ponytails are primarily a table top plant. They are considered to be accent plants – a plant which steals the show because of its striking appearance . The taller specimens, which would be floor plants, will set you back a pretty penny. I’ve also seen it in dish gardens & used as bonsais.

Size

They’re sold in the houseplant trade in pots ranging from 2″ to 14″. The larger plants are very heavy because the bulbous bases grow as the plant grows. When growing outdoors, they can reach 15-30′. You rarely see them above 5′ tall indoors.

Growth Rate

These plants grow very slowly, especially as houseplants. That’s why the taller ones are so expensive. If you could find a 4′ Ponytail, the cost would average $250. It won’t outgrow its space anytime soon!

This was 1 of my Ponytail Palms in Santa Barbara. It’s more commonly seen in this size rather than the specimen above.

Ponytail Palm Care as a Houseplant

Exposure

A Ponytail Palm does best in high light indoors. Just make sure it’s not in any or against any hot windows. It’ll tolerated moderate light levels but the growth will be even slower. I’ve found they don’t do well in low light over the long haul.

In the darker winter months, you may have to move yours closer to a light source.

If your Ponytail is getting light on 1 side only & leaning towards the light source, you’ll have to rotate it as needed to get it to grow straight.

Watering

I’ll mention again that Ponytail Palms are succulents. The plant stores water in its onion-shaped bulbous base & trunk (or stem). If you over water it, ie too often, then the bulb will rot out as well as the stem. Even though it’s hard on the outside, it’s soft on the inside & subject to a bacterial root rot.

I watered my Ponytail every 3-4 weeks in the brighter months & every 5-6 weeks in winter. It was in a small pot so a larger specimen with a bigger bulb would need it even less.

The above is a general guideline for you – adjust it accordingly. Your Ponytail might need watering less often – this guide to watering indoors plants & houseplant watering 101 post will help you out. Basically, the more light, warmth, & the smaller the pot size, the more often yours will need it.

Larger specimens & those in cooler temps, will need watering less often. Mind the soil mix it’s in too; more on that below.

The bulbous bases of my 3-headed Ponytail Palm. Careful not to over water – these store water.

Temperature

If your home is comfortable for you, it’ll be so for your houseplants too. My Ponytail Palm grows outdoors here in Tucson where the temps soar to 110F in summer & can dip to 28F in winter. They handle temperature fluctuations just fine. Be sure to keep yours away from any cold drafts as well as air conditioning or heating vents.

Humidity

Ponytail Palms are native to the semi-desert regions in Mexico. Because of this, they can handle the dry air in our homes just fine.

Their leaves do get brown tips which is in reaction to the dry air. It doesn’t really make sense but it happens. As you can imagine, mine growing outdoors here in the desert is loaded with them!

Fertilizing / Feeding

I give most of my houseplants a light application of worm compost with a light layer of compost over that every spring. Easy does it – a 1/4″ layer of each is plenty for a Ponytail in a smaller sized pot. You can read about how I worm compost/compost feed right here.

I don’t fertilize my Ponytail Palm & never have. I give most of my other houseplants a watering with Eleanor’s vf-11 in late spring & summer.

If you choose to fertilize yours, don’t over do it because salts build-up & can burn the roots of the plant. This will show up as brown spots on the leaves. Once a year should do it.

Avoid fertilizing a houseplant which is stressed, ie. bone dry or soaking wet.

You don’t want to fertilize houseplants in late fall or winter because that’s their time for rest.

The roots of my Ponytail Palm were very tight. Although they like to be slightly potbound, this was a bit to the extreme!

Repotting / Soil

Ponytail Palms don’t need repotting often & prefer to grow slightly tight in their pots. I’ve repotted my 3-headed Ponytail Palm, which I bought at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market 11 years ago, 3 times. It’s now in a 22″ pot & I won’t repot it again for a long time if ever.

The bulb grows as the plant grows so you may have to repot it into a bigger pot at some point just to keep everything in scale. Other reasons for repotting: a plant too tight in its pot has a hard time taking up water & receiving enough oxygen to the roots. And, sometimes the soil just gets old, looses its nourishments & needs to be replaced.

As for a soil mix, I would recommend planting yours in succulent & cactus mix when growing it indoors. This is important: Ponytail Palms do best with excellent drainage & a light mix, well aerated mix will prevent overwatering.

I now make my own succulent & cactus mix but I recommend any of the mixes listed right below if you can’t find 1 locally or don’t want to make your own.

A few online options for buying succulent & cactus mix: Bonsai Jack (this 1 is very gritty; great for those prone to overwatering!), Hoffman’s (this is more cost effective if you have a lot of succulents but you might have to add pumice or perlite) or Superfly Bonsai (another fast draining 1 like Bonsai Jack which is great for indoor succulents).

You can plant a Ponytail Palm in potting soil (with pumice or perlite added in) but you have to be very mindful not to over water it. Remember, that bulbous base rots out easily. As an alternative, you could use 1/2 potting soil & 1/2 succulent & cactus mix.

More on how I transplanted my large Ponytail Palm.

If you click on link just above this, you can see how my Ponytail has grown. And yes, it was 1 of the plants I brought with me when I moved to Tucson.

Pruning

I’ve never pruned my Ponytail Palms because they haven’t needed it. The lowest leaves gradually turn yellow & die off (this happens very slowly) as the plant grows. I pull them off the trunk; I don’t prune them because they come off easily.

If the brown tips at the ends of the leaves due to dry air bother you, trim them off.

By the way, you can prune the head & trunk (stem) off of a Ponytail Palm & propagate it. If enough of the trunk is left on the bulb, new growth in the form of multiple sprouts will appear off the trunk.

Straight cuts usually bring multiple sprouts where cut & sometimes a few at the base. Be warned: it can take a few months for any signs of new growth to appear so be patient.

These little Ponytail Palms have been propagated from seed.

Propagation

The growers propagate them by seed. Or, in the case of my 3-headed Ponytail Palm, they can be divided.

I’ve only done this once but they can also be propagated by removing the pups (the babies or new growth via sprouts) at the base. You can pull them away from or cut them off the bulb using clean & sharp pruners or a knife.

When I made the cut, I was sure to get some roots along with the baby plant. I planted it in a 4″ pot filled with succulent & cactus mix & kept it relatively moist until the roots grew to be more established.

Mine have never gotten any but I’ve seen Ponytail Palms with mealybugs & spider mites. Scale can reportedly be an issue too.

As with any pests, keep your eye out for them & take control as soon as possible. They’ll spread from houseplant to houseplant in no time.

Safe For Pets

Hip hip hooray, this is a plant which the ASPCA lists as non-toxic for both cats & dogs.

If you have kitties, be aware they’ve been known to chew on the long, crunchy leaves. This might make them sick. My kitty Ivan, who lived with us in San Francisco, loved to munch on PP leaves as well as bromeliads. Fortunately he just chewed on & never swallowed them!

Good to Know About Ponytail Palm Care

Ponytail Palms do flower with age but it rarely happens indoors.

They grow very slowly. Don’t expect a 1′ plant to reach 3′ any time soon; especially when growing indoors.

Ponytail Palms don’t need babying & prefer to be a bit neglected. They’re great for busy millennials & people who travel.

The leaves are long & narrow & have a bit of a rough feel to them. Be careful of their slightly sharp edges if you’re handling them for the 1st time.

The bulb develops a cracked appearance as it grows & ages. This is normal.

The trunk becomes much more pronounced & visible as the plant grows.

Ponytail Palms need a light mix which prevents root rot.

With proper care, they are extremely long lived.

They are non-toxic for pets but some kitties do love to chew on them.

To sum it up

This is very simple & straight forward – Ponytail Palms are a breeze to take care of. The 2 most important thing to keep in mind to grow 1 successfully are: 1) They do best in bright natural light (this would be considered high light) & 2) They’ll rot out in a heart beat if you over water them.

I love these wacky plants whether they’re growing indoors or out. If you have enough light, give 1 a try!

Happy gardening,

15 Easy To Grow Houseplants

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You can find more houseplant info in my simple and easy to digest houseplant care guide: Keep Your Houseplants Alive

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Fertilizer

These are not real heavy feeders, and since they are a caudiciform, you should be fertilizing them with a good quality cactus/succulent fertilizer. I give mine a dose of fertilizer in the spring, then once again in mid summer. That is it.

Re-potting

Make sure to use soil that won’t hold too much water. The last thing you want is for your ponytail palm to be sitting in a puddle. It is best to use a cactus potting soil, or better yet, make your own extra porous soil mix. Either way, make sure that it is fast draining. Also, don’t bury the rounded bottom part of the base of the plant, keep that above the top of the soil. Always grab a pot that is about and inch or two bigger than the previous pot that it was in. If you use a pot that is too big you will have more soil around the roots, which means it will take them longer to dry out. These plants rot easily if given too much water, so if I forget when I watered mine I just wait until the following week to water. Another good bit of information is that it is best to go for a heavy pot, because these plants can get pretty top heavy. Also, if your ponytail palm came like mine, with a layer of glue and rocks, you can hack that away to find the hidden dirt. It can be a bit of a pain in the butt, but it can be done and it makes things a whole lot easier.

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