Ponytail Palm

by Jilana Thomas

The Ponytail Palm is one of the easiest plants to care for indoors. Ironically, this succulent is far from a true palm and requires dry air, little water, and warm climates to survive.  Native to desert areas of Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala, their natural environment in your home will allow the Ponytail Palm to thrive under your care. 


Maintenance: Low | Climate: Warm + Dry | Light: Bright + Indirect | Water: Infrequent | Pet Safe: Yes


CHARACTERISTICS

The Ponytail Palm has a unique silhouette, flaunting groups of narrow, curly leaves from the top of its bulging trunk. They live long and grow slowly, reaching up to 6 feet indoors over the course of many years.  

LIGHT

The Ponytail Palm thrives in very bright and indirect light. Place it near a South or West-facing window, and avoid placement in line with any scorching heat from the sun. 


They can withstand a few hours of direct sunlight, however, brown leaf tips become common with sun exposure and/or thirst. 

WATER

It’s essential to avoid overwatering a Ponytail Palm. The trunk stores water, so they’re drought tolerant and require soil to fully dry in between each watering. 


Offer your plant infrequent, deep waterings as seldom as biweekly or bimonthly. This varies based on how fast the soil dries. Always check the soil moisture using your finger first and use high-quality water


During the winter, only water on occasion. When the trunk of your Ponytail Palm has shrunken or wrinkled, it’s a sign of thirst.

AIR

Average indoor air tends to work well for the Ponytail Palm. Since they require a dry environment, avoid placing it near any humidifiers or in humid rooms, such as a bathroom or kitchen. They prefer temperatures between 60º-80ºF. 


PLACEMENT

The Ponytail Palm symbolizes freedom and strong will. It can be intentionally added to nearly any area of your home, where it will also clean the air of toxins. So long as it has bright, indirect light, it will suit any room well.

POTTING & SOIL

Ponytail Palms are best kept in sturdy, clay planters. Clay is heavy enough to support the trunk and is also porous. This enables better airflow and moisture control. However, any pot with a drainage hole will do just fine. 

They can go years without needing to be repotted, though annually refreshing the soil will support healthy growth. Keep them in a cacti-succulent soil mixture, or add sand to a standard potting mix to enhance drainage. They can be fertilized 1-2 times during the growing season.


SEASONAL CARE

As one of the easiest plants to care for, Ponytail Palms don’t have many needs throughout the year. At the start of Fall, decrease their watering frequency. Start with watering about every other month and adjust from there. These plants are drought tolerant and will do better with less water rather than too much. 

Additionally, keep them away from cold windows, drafts, and temperature drops below 60º.

 

PRUNING & PROPAGATION

Brown tips are common on a Ponytail Palm and can be pruned using clean scissors. Cut the brown tip at an angle and don’t cut into the green flesh.

Ponytail Palms can be propagated from pup cuttings. Pups are small new growths found on the base of the trunk or in the soil. With a clean and sharp knife, remove the pup and allow it to grow new roots in a sandy soil mixture.

 

COMMON ISSUES

Most commonly, the issues you’ll run into with a Ponytail Palm are a result of either over or under-watering. 


Signs of overwatering include:

  • A soft, mushy trunk
  • Yellow leaves
  • Fallen leaves
  • Wet soil

To heal an overwatered Ponytail Palm, the soil will need to dry out completely. Let the plant rest for 2-3 weeks after and remove any dead or damaged leaves. Before watering again, check the soil’s moisture level using your finger or a chopstick.  


Reduce your watering frequency and ensure your plant has proper drainage to avoid overwatering in the future. A planter with a drainage hole, a sandy soil mixture, and a layer of pebbles between the soil and bottom of the planter are all great ways to improve drainage. 


Signs of under-watering include:

  • Brown and dry leaf tips
  • Shrunken or wrinkled trunk
  • Brittle, dry soil
  • Water runs through the pot very quickly

To revive an under-watered Ponytail Palm, give it a drink. If your planter has a drainage hole, water enough so that excess water flows out. If your planter does not have a drainage hole, use your best judgment to avoid soggy soil.


A severely under-watered plant will appreciate a deep soak. Give it a generous amount of water that will flow out of the drainage hole and collect in a saucer. Allow the soil to drink from the saucer for 5-10 minutes, then discard the excess water. 

PRO TIPS

If you have a sunny window that your Ponytail Palm can sit a few feet away from, you’re already off to a great start. Here are 3 other foolproof tips for a happy, healthy Ponytail Palm:


  1. Water about once a month or every other month. It’s safer to underwater than to overwater, especially in the winter.
  2. Prune brown tips off of leaves to keep a great appearance. It’s best to prune conservatively, to avoid shock.
  3. Keep your Ponytail Palm in a well-draining soil mixture and use a sturdy planter that has a drainage hole. 

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Have any other questions about caring for your Ponytail Palm? Grounded Office Hours are complimentary with every plant purchase. Schedule your care consultation with our Plant Specialist here

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