Today, I want to show you how to care for and repot a ponytail palm
I bought this plant as a little specimen in a 6″ pot at our Santa Barbara Farmers Market 7 years ago. I put it in an 8″ terra cotta pot when I got home.
Then, a few years later, into the 13″ turquoise glazed pot it went. I could tell it was now feeling a bit stunted (how much would be made evident after I took it out of that pot) so another transplant was in order. Here’s some info about this “really cool” plant, care tips both as a houseplant and in the garden along with the steps I took to re-pot my 3-headed Ponytail Palm.
If you’re only interested in how I care for my Ponytail Palms, then scroll about halfway down. As usual, there’s a video at the end.
Ponytail Palms grow slowly but need pots large enough to hold their bulbous bases. Those bulbs store water so as the plant grows. You need to be a muscle man (or woman) to lift a large Ponytail. The tallest I’ve seen was 15 feet, and the bulbs were huge. I wouldn’t want to move that!
Some Of Our General Houseplant Guides For Your Reference:
- Guide To Watering Indoor Plants
- Beginner’s Guide To Repotting Plants
- 3 Ways To Successfully Fertilize Indoor Plants
- How to Clean Houseplants
- Winter Houseplant Care Guide
- Plant Humidity: How I Increase Humidity For Houseplants
- Buying Houseplants: 14 Tips For Indoor Gardening Newbies
- 11 Pet-Friendly Houseplants
Here’s a Nolina enjoying the great outdoors at the Los Angeles Arboretum.
Here’s the future deluxe home of the Ponytail Palm before its “jazz me up” paint job. I got this composite 20″ plastic pot at Marshall’s for 22 bucks. It’s good & sturdy – a real steal but a bit too blah for my tastes.
Contrary to their name, Ponytail Palms actually aren’t palms. There’s varying opinion as to what plant family they’re classified in – the Asparagus Family or the Agave Family.
To further confuse things, I learned the botanic name as Beaucarnea recuvata but some people list it as Nolina recurvata. Confusing – the nomenclature and classification of this plant are definitely not cut and dry.
Sitting on its pedestal in the pretty pot, root bound as can be.
Ponytail Palms act more like succulents as they are drought tolerant. That round base is their water storage mechanism and they’re often seen growing alongside cacti.
Here’s how I re-potted the Ponytail Palm:
- Lucy was here to do the filming so I recruited her to help me haul it in the garage to my potting/craft table.
- First of all, I tied up the ponytails which you’ll see in the photos below so they weren’t in my way.
- I took my pruning saw & ran it around the edges to loosen the root ball. It helped a bit but Pony wasn’t budging at all. I held the bulbs & Lucy pulled the pot. It took brute force but I didn’t want to break the pot.
This is why we had a hard time getting it out of the pot. Like cramming a size 10 foot into a size 6 stiletto!
A hairdresser I am not but this updo keeps the leaves out of the way while I’m doing this.
Here is the rest of how to care for and repot a ponytail palm:
- I used a 1/1 mix of organic potting soil ( I’m partial to Happy Frog because of its high-quality ingredients. It’s great for container planting, including houseplants) & succulent & cactus mix. Ponytail Palms need to stay on the dry side & to have excellent drainage. The light mix ensures this.
- Ponytails really don’t need fertilizer. I added in a good dose of worm castings at planting time. Twice a year I’ll water in a mix of manure (Moo Poo Tea is the brand I use) & worm castings tea.
- Never sink the bulbous base lower than its existing soil line. You’ll notice this in the video.
- The root ball was left up about an inch or so higher than I wanted it as the weight of the plant will pull it down in the light planting mix.
- This Ponytail Palm was left dry for about a week & then thoroughly watered it in.
- I top dressed it about a month after the re-potting. I wanted it to settle in before bedecking it with the blue/purple mussel shells & the green glass disks.
I top dressed the soil in mussel shells I collected on the beach (I found them empty – no mussels were harmed!) & sprayed them to match the pot & added green glass disks to shiny things up.
Here’s my Ponytail in the purple/blue custom-painted pot with its new Burro’s Tail Sedum friends that were taken as cuttings from my front garden.
As far as houseplant care goes, a Ponytail Palm couldn’t be any easier. This is one plant which is tolerant of the dry air our homes are notorious for.
The two most important things to know regarding having this plant in your home are: it needs high light and you must keep it on the dry side.
Here’s the short list of care tips:
High. 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight a day ideally a few feet away from the window. And, rotate your plant every few months so it get light evenly on all sides.
Low. Once every 3-4 weeks at the most. If it’s in a really small pot, then it will need it a bit more often.
This is what baby Ponytail Palms look like.
Susceptible to mealybugs & spider mites. If the infestation is not bad, a good spray down in the sink or shower will get rid of both. Be sure to spray the undersides of the leaves & in the nodes.
Ponytail Palms, unlike many other houseplants, are not toxic to pets.
They are great for people who travel because of their ease of care.
As they grow, they develop a beautiful trunk & become quite interesting.
They do grow very slowly, especially in homes environments. So if you want a larger one, buy it that one. That being said, tall Ponytail Palms aren’t always easy to find in the interior trade.
Because they store water in their bulbs, they are easy to overwater. Don’t!
Cats love to chew on their crunchy foliage.
Here’s my other Ponytail Palm which lives in the front garden.
My two Ponytails live outdoors all year long and the more I ignore them, the better they seem to do. They grow in containers on my patios and I water them really well every 4 weeks. I do treat them to a worm casting/manure tea blend once in early Spring and once in late Summer which keeps them happy as can be. I repot them every 3 years (or so) because they have a multitude of fleshy roots.
You should get one of these Cousin It look-alike plants. They’re fun to look at and easy to take care of. Be sure to check out our houseplant care book, Keep Your Houseplants Alive because the Ponytail Palm is in it. If you don’t have enough light for this one, then you’ll find another plant in the book which suits you and your home to a T!
I just wanted to show you these few pics from a couple of years back when a monarch hatched off this plant:
The caterpillar came from the butterfly weed in the backyard & climbed up the pot.
After a few days of crawling around, it attached itself to one of the leaves.
It morphed into a chrysalis (you can see the butterfly inside) & 1 day, it was gone.
For more information about this houseplant and others, you can check out our book: Keep Your Houseplants Alive!
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I’m a life-long gardener who still to this day gets giddy at the thought of a trip to one of the local nurseries. Yes, I actually studied landscape and environmental horticulture and the practical experience I have garnered through the years has served me well. Childhood memories of chicken manure “tea” still float through my olfactory senses to this day. I have always been an organic gardener and always will be. From the Earth … To the Earth. I was born and raised in rural, bucolic Litchfield County, Connecticut and now joyfully live a few blocks from the ocean in beautiful Santa Barbara, California.
JqAnn Tapia says
You did a marvelous job. It is beautiful.I over watered mine now it is gone’ Will get me another one and will be more careful and give it less water love. Thank you~Ilove succulents~wish you were my neighbor <32
Thanks Joann! With your next Ponytail Palm just remember to plant it in a very well draining mix & to water only every 3-4 weeks. I love succulents too. Nell
Alan Hollister says
I have a 3 headed ponytail that I love. Repotted it on purchase and leave it outside year round in Palm Springs, CA. It is getting so top heavy that you can hardly make out the 3 heads as there is so much growth. What can I do to cut it back some? Would it help to cut close to the truck from the bottom?
Hi Alan – Yes, you can cut the heads off & if there’s enough stem left on them, you can propagate them too. When you cut those heads off, just be sure to leave at least 2″ of stem (or more) above the bulbous base. New heads will sprout just below where you make the cut. Be patient because it could take a while for them to appear. Make sure your pruners or saw are clean & sharp so you make a nice cut. Hope that helps! Nell
Gaurav Lahane says
Hi there! I just want to know, how to grow one head ponytail palm to two or three headed ponytail palm. Can you please upload the video of the same?
Hi Gauraz – You care for a one-headed Ponytail Palm in the same way you care for a 3-headed Ponytail Palm. Here’s a blog post that I did about my 1-headed PP so you can see it: https://www.joyusgarden.com/pony-tail-palm/ The only difference is I use less water to water my 1-headed (because it’s in a smaller pot) than my 3-headed. We have a lot of videos lined up so perhaps I can do a video on that in a few months. Nell
Hi, so lovely video! Nice plant. I have one too for 8 years already. But in the last year, the new leaves, which are growing very nice, are staring to be yellowish. My plant is loosing the nice green color. Do you know why?
Hi Natasa – Thank you – glad you enjoyed the video. In the Winter, Ponytail Palms can start to loose a bit of their color & turn yellowish due to the fact their roots are staying too wet. There is also less light at that time of year so plants don’t dry out as fast. Even though the top of the soil might be dry, the bottom half could be wet. Hope that helps, Nell
You blog posts and videos about the ponytail plant were really helpful. I do believe I overwatered mine in the winter without realizing it would take a longer time to dry.
It came in a glass container with decorative rocks and such and I wonder if I should change it into a container with a hole in the bottom now?
Thanks for the great post and any advice you can give!
Hi Silva – Thank you! Ponytail Palms store a lot of water in their bulbous bases & thick roots. They are very subject to over watering. Yes, it’s important that they have good drainage so transplant it into a container with a hole. And, be sure to use a mix which the water freely drains out of. Hope that helps, Nell
Hi I have one of these that he has never been repotted it 20 years old and doing okay,but it has never grown any bigger. I’m kinds happy with it. how would I take a cutting and grow another from it.? It only has one foot.
Hi Chris – You propagate a Ponytail Palm by removing the pups (the side shoots). Make sure they are big enough & then remove them with a clean, sharp knife. You can also propagate a PP by seed but unfortunately, they rarely flower indoors. Hope that helps, Nell
I just bought a Ponytail Palm on clearance from Lowes and there is almost no soil in the pot it came in and it needs to be repotted since it is just falling over in the container. How much soil should I settle it into? I am going to be keeping it indoors, I just don’t know how much/how deep to put it in the new pot I will be getting for it. Thanks.
Hi Theresa – I always plant my Ponytail Palms with about an 1″ of the root ball above the top of the soil line that you’re planting it into. The weight of the bulbous base will pull the root ball down. You never want to bury too much of the bulb. And, use succulent & cactus mix if you can. And, the amount of soil you use depends on the size pot you’re planting it into. Hope that helps, Nell
I bought my ponytail palm about a month ago and I recently repotted it. It was in a small ceramic bowl with the rocks and now it is in an 8? ceramic pot. When i took it out of the small bowl the roots were rotted and had a bad odor and was drenched in water. I left the tree out overnight on newspaper to dry it out before replanting. I used a good miracle grow soil. Now a lot of the leaves are turning brown. It looks very sad. Someone please help! This tree is very special to me!
Also I trimmed the leaves because my cat had eaten some of it! I hope it’s not dying!?
Hi Raschel – Ponytail Palms are succulents, not palms. They store a lot of water in that big bulbous base & in their roots. They need excellent drainage & don’t like to be kept wet. That ceramic dish probably didn’t have any drainage & in short, your PP may have rotted. Once they get constantly overwatered like that, it’s hard to bring them back. Miracle Grow potting soil is a bit too heavy for them, they prefer being planting in succulent & cactus mix. I would recommend transplanting it. If it’s not too far gone, you can cut the head off to stimulate new growth. Here’s a post I just did talking about that: https://www.joyusgarden.com/more-on-far-out-and-fabulous-ponytail-palms/ Keep it very dry until its possible recovery because it’s already saturated. Hope that helps! Nell
Raschel – Yes, cats love those crunchy leaves! As I said in my 1st reply, it may or may not recover. Fingers crossed! Nell
ive got a PP Mother’s Day gift a few yrs ago. Live in S Indiana so it lives inside during winter and out during summer. For some reason ants have taken over the dirt this yr. I see them mostly in the bottom where the drainage holes are and they’ve repopulated. I’m going to have to bring it in in about a month -6 wks +/-. Can I repot this time of year when it’s already going to be shocked coming inside? What should I do?!?! This is a Serious matter ;-). I truly appreciate your help!!!
Hi Karen – Ants in the soil of your plants are usually a sign that they have some type of insect infestation. The ants are attracted to the sugary nectar secreted by the insect. Here’s post I did on that subject with a video to go with it: https://www.joyusgarden.com/ask-nell-ants-in-around-plants/ You’ll see what to do – basically, get rid of the insect & the ants will go. Yes, you can transplant now but don’t fertilize it. The plant goes into winter rest mode when you bring it inside. Hope that helps! Nell
I actually have a Ponytail Palm in my back yard that is over 10 feet tall. It is over run by ants around the base. How do you control ant problems? It is just in sand right now, but I need to put new soil in the flower bed it is in. What are some good plants to have around it that share the same type of soil it needs?
Hi Mary – The ants are in your garden for food, most likely a sugary nectar secreted by insects, so it’s best to get rid of the source. Here’s a post & video I did on that subject: https://www.joyusgarden.com/ask-nell-ants-in-around-plants/ The Ponytail Palm is a succulent & needs to be in a well draining soil. I amended my front garden with sandy loam & organic compost. In terms of companion plants, any other succulent would do just fine. There are so many of them that you’ll have a lot of choices, depending on what’s available in your area. Hope that helps, Nell
Can the ponytail plant tolerate cold weather. It is so large to move so I am not sure we can move it to the greenhouse.
Hi Mavis – They are cold hardy to around 30-35F. Mine stays outdoors year round in Tucson, AZ. Nell
I’ve had mine about 25-26 years. My plant is 6 ft. with a 28″ bulb on the top of the soil surface. It also has a stem side plant. This past Fall replanted into a pot of the size used in malls for large plants. Have to have it on wheels to move…live in the N. and it has sat in the E. window now, going on 4 years come July of 2017.
I’ve read many sites for info. Some say don’t water often, some say often, which is fine with a smaller pot. I cut off the dead fronds/leaves and the brown tips.
I’ve tested w/a water meter and about 2 & a 1/2″, dry….@ 5 & 1/2, low # moist & @ 7 & 1/2 “, wet and all readings taken next to bulb. I do get diff. readings at diff. distances from the bulb to inside edge of pot which is only 5” and the bulb is centered.
Well, all this information I’ve given you I’ve not found on a site for this size pot. Winter moisture in house is 35% in winter and temp is 72º. WHY ARE THE TIPS TURNING BROWN and once nipped, keeps going up till I cut it off at the base of leaf or where the dead is, and keeps going up till at base?
I can send you a picture if needed. Thanks for any info you can provide on this 6 footer in a pot.
The top of my pp gotten broken off. Can the top be repotted to survive or will it do well in water?
Hi Sandra – First of all, these plants are susceptible to tipping, especially on the older foliage. Mine grew outside in Santa Barbara, CA & now grows outside at my new home in Tucson, AZ. The air is much drier here so I’m getting a lot more tipping which is to be expected. Indoors they like light a bright as possible. In the winter, I back off on the watering, maybe once every 2 months (it sits on a covered patio). Also, they tip due to over fertilizing which results in salt burn. They also tip due to under watering but with a bulb that big (they store water), it shouldn’t be the case. Nell
Hey Nell, I’m from Santa Barbara, too!!!! But now we live in Texas, and my plant was exposed to a couple nights of freezing temps, even tho it was under a covered porch with lights left on. So can I just cut it back to the trunk and pray it get new shoots? It had four off the main trunk. Thanks so much. Sharon
Hi Sharon – I moved to Tucson, AZ last year so I’m not longer in Santa Barbara either. If the trunk of your Ponytail still feels firm, it should be fine. I’d cut off the head just below the “mushy” part of the trunk (if there is any). I’ve seen decapitated PPs come back just fine – hopefully the roots on yours didn’t freeze. Be sure to wait to do this until the temps are warming a bit in your area. Hope that helps! Nell
We have 4 ponytail palms in South Georgia and move them in during the winter. The temperature dropped to 30 degrees, 2 days while away, before we moved them inside. The tall, 6 ft. ponytail (12 years old) was the hardest hit. I’ve cut it back. 4 prongs turned brown where the new growth comes in died. 3 are left and we are trying to save it. Next week they can go outside. The cold did not affect the others like this. What else can we do to save this tall one?
Hi Valerie, Ponytail Palms are pretty tough – mine stay outdoors all year round here in Tucson & the temps can fall to around 30. Cut it back to below where the “mush” is, apply a nice layer of compost &/or worm compost, & give it plenty of sun. Hope that helps, Nell
Hi Nell! I read here that the ponytail palm isn’t a palm. Is that true? If so, why does it have that name? Thanks for your article, it was really helpful for the palm I bought this weekend!
Hi Charlie – This plant goes by the common names Ponytail Palm & Elephants Foot Tree. It’s technically neither a palm or a tree. The head looks like a ponytail & they can reach 20′ with that tall trunk. Who knows, maybe that’s why! Nell
I’m SO glad I found your post! I am in desperate need of some advice. After watching your video it is clear to me that I need to repot my ponytail palm – she has been in the same container for over 4 years. So, I’m going to do that and follow the repotting instructions above. QUESTION – She has a big “stem” that has two little “stems” that are producing leaves. She has a smaller “stem” that was producing leaves 2 years ago but stopped 🙁 Is there anyway to help her start growing leaves there? I had no idea what to put as a top protector once the rocks/fake moss she came with fell apart. So I put moss – but the moss is NOT happy in bright light lol so I’m super happy to learn I can cover her in regular rocks once she settles. Last problem/question, I have trimmed her leaves – I read somewhere that you can do that but I’m sad now that I did – because the ends of her leaves are brown. Is there anything I can do to help that? I wish I could show you pics of what I’m rambling about ha! Any and all advice you can give is WELCOME! I’ve been searching everywhere to find someone to ask all of these questions to! Thank you!
Hi rachel – I just repotted y Ponytail Palm yesterday – video & post coming this weekend. The trunks produce leaves leaves when they’re healthy, getting enough light & the drainage is good. PPs are subject to brown tipping – it’s their nature. I live in the desert now & just leave them be. Nell
Hi Glenda – I’ve never heard of the top of a PP propagating. You’ll see new sprout (or sprouts) appear on the trunk though. Nell
Barbara, Carbondale Illinois says
Our 14 year old had one for 3 or 4 years. We moved and it was left outside. Of course I remember “Harry” after the first hard frost. Harry didn’t make it. We slowly watched him die. This was fall 2016.
We kept Harry hoping just maybe…. we potted him outside. A few weeks ago I needs Harry’s pot so I pitched him into the yard. Our 11 year old picked Harry up and put him on the porch. I came home today and discovered “Harry is ALIVE”! He has 2 sprouts!
I really enjoyed your tips. Thanks for sharing.
I have been given a mature PP about six feet tall. It was removed because it was breaking a wall in the back yard with it’s root ball. The previous owner had cut part of the root ball away in an effort to save the wall. Once I repot it will the root ball grow it’s round shape back.
Barbara – Thank you for sharing Harry’s story. I love a happy ending! I always tell people to give their plants a bit of time to recover. Just because the foliage has been hit doesn’t mean the roots have. Nell
Hi Greg – I’m not sure if you mean the bulb (the fat round base) or the actual root ball. I’ll answer regarding the root ball: if too much of the roots haven’t been cut away, then yes, new ones will regenerate all the way around. Ponytails succulents & don’t haven’t a big root ball. Nell
Sorry Nell, yes I do mean the fat round base part. Will that grow back?
Greg – I’ve nicked a very small portion of the base when removing a pup. It never rounded back fully to the original bulbous shape. I’ve never cut off a large portion of the bulb but imagine it wouldn’t grow back to the original form. It should heal over fine, & who knows, you might see some regrowth over the years. Nell
Nell, The Ponytail Palm I purchased about a month ago has no big bulb sticking up out of the base of pot, just a big trunk. Is mine PP of a different species or require other care instructions? G by G
Hi Gail – There’s only 1 PP (except for a variegated form) that I know of. Even the tiny ones that I’ve seen have a bit of bulb. Perhaps the bulb is buried or it could be something else like a dracaena marginata. Hard to say without seeing it. Nell
I have a ponytail palm which I’ve had for almost 29 yrs. (Christmas 1988) It went through a house fire in 1997, it was already big. For the past 14 yrs it has been on my deck, and has gone through 3 tropical storms, more freezes, drought, heat, etc.
I don’t have a clue how many years they can live, but the past few months it seems to be aging and rapidly. It still produces new fronds, but not like before and the older fronds are dropping more than before.
I can’t remember how many times it’s been repotted, the past few years it’s been in a half whiskey barrel and no, I can’t budge it.
So, my question is does anyone know how many years they can live?
Hi Patsy – I know that they can live 200 years or more, in their optimum environment, & maybe even longer. Hopefully someone has a more exactly figure for you! Nell
HI so I love my ponytail palms……one of mine has leaves that are now so long that it completely covers the pot all the way around. Can i trim the leaves back so that I can see the pot and base of the plant? I am not sure if that makes the whole plant turn brown on the edges of every “leaf” that i cut??
Hi Jennifer – If you cut the leaves of a PP, the cut edges will turn brown. As the plant ages, those cut edges will become a bit more brown. From what I’ve experienced, the whole leaf doesn’t turn brown. Nell
Good evening Nell quick question I have a ponytail palm about 24 inches tall, my cat knocked the plant over and snapped the greenery off i replanted the bulb, is there any way to save it Thank you
Hi Debbie – A new head (or heads) will emerge from the trunk. My neighbor’s got decapitated & it regrew back with 3 heads. You can see it in this post here: https://www.joyusgarden.com/more-on-far-out-and-fabulous-ponytail-palms/. It’s best to make a clean cut at an angle & give the plants as much light as possible. Nell
I have quite a different situation. My ponytail is probably 12 years old now. Slow growing, but healthy. Had to move and a friend took plants in his car , but forgot to take out the plant. It baked in a hot car for a couple of days, turned all dry and brown, and seemed very far dead and gone. BUT, I kept it quite well watered and somewhat sun protected, and just as I was going to turn it out of the pot and let it go, about 4 months later, I noticed new green sprouts coming out of the bulb and the trunk. Now there are about 6 new plants sprouting from there. I have not trimmed the four heads from the top of the trunk, but they show no signs of recovery. The tree as is is in a 12-14″ pot, the bulb is about 7″ dia., and it feels wrong to cut into the bulb and make separate plants. I imagine I should trim the dead heads off and just wait and see what the rest does. The largest sprout now has about 5″ long typical ptail pattern leaves. Any ideas about what would be best?
Hi Alexandra – It doesn’t at all surprise me that your Ponytail Palm is coming back. They’re tough plants & those big bases store a lot of water. You can cut the dead heads off the top of the plant & then cut off the top 1-3″ of the trunk to force new heads to sprout. Nell
Prabhdeep sigh says
Hi.i have 4 pony tails big aprox 20 years old but in this rain season one of plants bulb is geeting very soft and while pressing it produces liquid out from itself i thik my plant is going to die please help nd tell me how i can save it guide me soon the pot is well drained water is not logging in it .
Hi Prabhdeep – I think you’re saying that you’ve had a rainy season & I assume your plant is growing outdoors, but I’m not sure. The bulbous bases of Ponytail Palms store water so they can be prone to root rot. I’ve never had this happen to any of mine so I can’t really say if 1 can be saved once the bulb starts getting soft. You might try changing out the soil – makes sure it’s in a really porous soil like succulent & cactus mix. Let it dry between waterings. Nell
Morning how do you grow or treat the plant when a baby grows from the stem of the ponytail can you just cut the baby off the stem and replant or is there a specific way to do this
Yes Lourens. You carefully remove the baby when it’s big enough with a sharp, clean knife getting as much root as possible. Then replant. Nell
Love this informative string!
One of my PPs was neglected and all the head died accept for one which is around 3 inches long and healthy. Can I remove it and sow it as an independent plant. Will it form a bulb on its own. Second question is do the PPs with multiple heads grow in height and if yes than is there a difference between a multiple head plant and a single head plant.
Hi Hammad – Thank you! You can remove the head if it’s a pup growing off the base & you can get roots with it. In that case, it’ll grow a base. Yes, PP with multiple heads grow quite a lot – this is mine which I bought as a very small plant: https://www.joyusgarden.com/how-to-transplant-a-large-ponytail-palm/. You maintain a single headed PP in the same way you do a multiple headed one.
Hi Mary, I have a pony tail Palm I bought from a place selling bonsai trees. He said it was 20 years old when I bought it 3 years ago . Itseems happy in current pot so don’t know if I should repot??? Tops of leave are 12-14 inches high and it sits in rectangular pot 3-4 inces deep with 1 – 3 inches of space around trunk to edge of pot. Thanks
Michaela V says
Hello! Love all the info you’ve provided. What’s the best way to care during the winter when it’s cloudy and when not a lot of sunlight gets in? My PP trunk is about 10″ from soil to beginning of leaves. The leaves right now have an olive color to them – not a bright healthy green. I have it facing an eastern window. Not sure what it might need so it survives the winter indoors – maybe a lamp? Thanks!
Neil, I have a PP for 3 yrs now . I’m located in NC and leave it outside unless nights stays in the 30’s ,I was wondering if I put xmas lights on it and turn on during cold days and nights would it survive?
Hi Richard – PPs don’t mind being potbound. If it looks okay, I’d leave it be. Nell
Hi Michaela – Ponytail Palms are high light plants so yes, you may need to get a lamp to supplement the light level. Also, be sure to back off on the watering during these darker months so the plant doesn’t succumb to rot. Nell
Hi Susan – Christmas lights might help if you put a cover over the plant. The new LEDs don’t give off much heat. PPs are hardy to 25-30F; the older ones anyway. I live in Tucson where the evening temps in winter can dip to the low 30’s, every now & then the high 20’s. Mine growing on my patio has been fine but it’s somewhat sheltered. Consecutive nights below freezing will harm it. You can see how my PP has grown: https://www.joyusgarden.com/how-to-transplant-a-large-ponytail-palm/ Nell
Mollie S says
I recently repotted a PP using your post. It has been a couple of weeks and I thought it would settle in the pot more. It seems to rock back and forth if I move it and I can see tiny roots coming above the soil line. I was going to repot it a little deeper but how deep is too deep? BTW It’s only 12-15 inches tall.
Thanks so much for your wonderful posts!
Nell Foster says
You’re welcome Mollie! You won’t see much growth (root or foliage) on a plant in the winter months. I always plant my PPs with the bulbs & roots slightly above the soil because the weight will pull them down. You can see how much that PP has grown & how I transplanted it again: https://www.joyusgarden.com/how-to-transplant-a-large-ponytail-palm/ Nell
Hello, I just brought home my first PP in a 6″ pot. It has three small bulbs connected at the base with a tiny pup coming from between two of those bulbs. Can I separate the three bulbs into their own planters? as long as they have good root structure? or will cutting them apart kill all three? Thank you for all the information, this page has already been immensely helpful.
Nell Foster says
Hi Desirea – You’re welcome; I’m glad you’ve found it helpful. Yes, you can separate the bulbs as long as roots have formed. They don;’t have to be extensive but with more roots, the better the chance for survival. Cut them apart carefully using a clean, sharp knife & the plants will be fine. Nell
I just purchased a ponytail palm. It is in a beautiful pot but has small rocks which are glued to the soil. I am assuming there is soil underneath. Should I leave it in this pot or replant it? I am not even sure how to get it out of the pot without breaking it…which is not a big deal but the rocks have me worried. ….kind of looks like the small pebbles you would buy for an aquarium.
I’m taking care of one of these for a friend. I’ve had it over a month and it was doing great! I was only watering it with about a cup of water per week and only if the soil was completely dry. One week I think I accidentally gave it a little too much water… maybe 2 cups. But since then I’ve not been doing that. Even so…. suddenly, it’s turned very brown except for a few leaves and the trunk feels kind of mushy, even though the soil is currently dry. It’s in the brightest room in the house. Is it too late to save it? Anything I can do to prevent its death?
It’s so pretty… I would hate to see it go. It’s three feet tall and lovely! 🙁
Thank you in advance.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Nell Foster says
Hi Tamara – PPs like high light & low water. they sore water in their bulbous bases & roots. If it’s “kind of mushy” you may be able to save it. Take it out of the pot & inspect the roots & see how they look. If they look healthy, you can always repot it into fresh succulent & cactus mix. Nell
Nell Foster says
Hi Penny – How strange; I’ve never heard of rocks glued to the surface before. Perhaps it’s so they don’t fall off when shipped?? Anyway, I’d get those glued rocks off of there because it’ll impede air flow & water absorption. If you can do it without breaking the pot, try that. Nell
Hi! I bought a 30 year old ponytail palm that’s 8 ft tall and has only 2 inches of soil between the bulb and the pot edge. It’s an 18″ pot!! I live in Indiana so I can’t put her in the ground. At this time I have moved her outside but it rained and she looks like she’s trying to tell me something… I just don’t talk plants. Should I bring it back inside? Should I re pot in a half barrel? Should it be out in the rain? Help!
tips of leaves brown and the whole plant not too green am I not watering it enough? its indoors all winter not enough light? idk might have killed it
Nell Foster says
Hi Kelly – Ponytail Palms store water in those big bulbous bases & also in their roots. They don’t like to stay consistently moist at all. If you’re getting a lot of rain, then yes, take it in or put it under a covered patio with a lot of light. Ponytail Palms can stay tight in their pots for a while. You will at some point need to transplant as it grows. Be sure to get help – a large PP is very heavy. Nell
Nell Foster says
Hi Dana – The tips of PPs are usuaually brown – it’s the nature of the plant. They’re high light plants so it sounds like yours may not have gotten the light it needs over the winter. Nell
Hi Nell, love you as well!!! I bought my PP at Walmart. It looks really healthy but, the whole trunk is mossy green, kinda like covered in algae or something?? Not sure what it is but looks organic, not painted. Any clue as to what that might be? Should it be scrubbed off?? I keep it in the house next to a large bay window as I live in New England, it will get too cold in Winter.
Thanks Nell, looking forward to hearing from you. Keep up this awesomeness!!
Nell Foster says
Hi there Karen! I’ve never seen moss or algae on the trunk of a PP before but I have heard of it. PPs like dry conditions so neither moss nor algae goes hand in hand with that. It’s probably an algae forming from being kept to wet &/ or a poor planting mix. Yes, wipe it off. If the mix looks bad, repot it into a good quality, fresh succulent & cactus mix. And, don’t water your PP too often! Nell
Hi Nell, I have a happy success story about PP’s! About 40 yrs ago, my grandmother gave me a PP the size of a quarter…so it is very important to me. It has managed to grow slowly as our conditions are not optimum. It has been kept fairly root bound as I don’t want it to get too large. A few years ago, kept too dark and too wet during our Maine winter, the rootscompletely rotted off! Devastated, I refused to give up on this precious plant. Besides that, a large squirrel climbed it and broke off the growing tip. What to do???
The bulb’s diameter was about 6″. I kept it out of soil for a year, with the base barely in water. The roots grew back, amazingly. The top regrew,as well, and it is now 7″ in diameter and fully recovered.
Nell Foster says
Hi Sandy – I love a happy story! Ponytails are tough but I never realized they are that tough. Thanks so much for sharing! Nell
The tips of my ponytail palm leaves are turning brown. Is it from too much water?
Hi Nell, I bought a PTP at Wal-Mart yesterday, it’s looks healthy but it looks like someone tried to pick it up by the bulb and ripped it from the soil. There are a few small, sparse roots on the bottom. I bought some cactus/succulent soil to repot it, do you think there is enough of a root system on it to survive? It does have one long root among the smaller ones. I kinda felt sorry for it and bought it anyway?
Nell Foster says
Gail – If it’s just the tips, that’s the nature of the beast. They get brown (& actually get more pronounced) as they grow. Ponytail Palms are prone to this & mine does it here in Tucson & it also happened when I lived in Santa Barbara. If it’s big portions of the leaves, that’s a watering issue. Nell
Nell Foster says
Hi Robyn – PPs are tough& pretty good at surviving. If it’s a small plant, it should be fine. The larger the plant the larger the root system needs to be. Just don’t over water it! Nell
Ana Valls says
I have my ponytail outside in the yard but a cat keeps coming back to eat the top of the plant, a friend told me to put some pepper around the plant, is this safe and does it really works?
Nell Foster says
Hi Ana – People claim cayenne pepper is a deterrent but I’ve never tried it. If a cat or any creature ingests enough of it, I know it can have harmful effects. Nell
I have a ponytail that I planted in 1972 outside my front door. My mother gave it to me as a housewarming gift. It is now in full bloom and the base is tremendous actually growing into my fence. Even though it is in full bloom it is looking sad. I am wondering if it is just getting old since it is about 48 years old. I am wondering if the blooms have taken over what the leaves need. I have never seen another pony as big as mine
Nell Foster says
Hi Barbara – Once a PP blooms, it does it on a regular basis. I’ve never heard that about the flowers. The setting of the bloom does cause the bulb & trunk to swell – it may be crowded against the fence. Nell
My plant has ends that are turning brown
I only water once a month. I read a few are your answers to the above questions.
Mine was bought in the summer so once I transplanted it into the cactus succulent soil it never received any actual fertilizer. it will have to get some in the spring.
How do i make the worm tea you mentioned?
Should i do something different for my pony tail palm so it wont dry out?
Its in a window and I rotate it. But it is winter so the light isnt great.
The pot does have drain holes.
Im not sure what else to do.
Thanks for your advice.
Oh Nell I wish I can share a picture with you regarding my pony tail palm.. because of root rot I had to cut away all the caudex..there is alot of trunk but no more bulb or roots, can it still be saved??
Nell Foster says
Maribel – Not that I know of mainly because I haven’t anyone talk about that happening. Commercial growers propagate them mainly from seed & we mainly from pups. Nell