A Ponytail Palm is not really a palm at all, but a relative of the yucca and lily plants and a member of the agave family. This is a unique succulent; there are no two ponytail palms that are exactly alike. A Ponytail Palm has a large, swollen base that some say resembles an elephant’s foot. The thin trunk is topped with flat, dark green, grass-like leaves. The leaves are about an inch wide and often five to six ft. long; the edges can be quite sharp. A Ponytail Palm, sometimes referred to as a Bottle Palm or Elephant’s Foot Palm, is a slow growing, very different looking plant that thrives on neglect. Put this plant in bright light, water sparingly, and watch it grow.
A Ponytail Palm grows best in very bright indirect light or full sun. In proper growing conditions, it can reach a height of up to 8ft.
Over- watering is about the only way to kill a Ponytail Palm. Allow the top 50-70% of the soil to dry out before watering. During the warm months you may need to water every 7-14 days; in winter, only every three or four weeks. A Ponytail Palm stores water in its base and is very drought resistant. These plants can get brown leaf dips when they are over or under watered. However, when in doubt, do not water!
Fertilize monthly during the spring and summer with a basic houseplant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. If the soil is very dry, use plain water first, then use water containing plant food. This prevents the fertilizer from burning the roots and causing brown leaf tips.
Ponytail Palms like warm temperatures above 60°F (15.6°C). They can survive lower temperatures, but don’t grow as well. These plants, unlike other exotic tropical houseplants, like dry hot heat.
A Ponytail Palm needs very little humidity and does well in warm dry air.
Mealy bugs, spider mites, and scale may infest a Ponytail Palm, especially the new growth. Spray with the green solution diluted to ½ strength (recipe in Glossary).
The soil of a Ponytail Palm needs to dry out. Use a fast draining, light soil with a lot of sand in it; this helps prevent over-watering and root rot.
If you want to keep a Pony Tail Palm small keep it in a small pot. When you move it to a larger pot, the trunk can expand and the PonyTail Palm grows faster.
Trim the brown ends off the leaves with a wet scissors.
Propagate by separating the offsets or suckers that grow around the base of the plant. Read more about this type of propagation in the Glossary of the website.
Poisonous Plant Info
A Ponytail Palm is a non-poisonous plant.
Brown leaves and a wrinkled base usually mean the plant needs more water. Gradually start to water a little more frequently, using a little more water each time. Be careful not to over water. A Ponytail Palm can survive for a long time being under watered, but only very briefly being over watered.
Once you cut the top off of your Ponytail Palm, several new heads will start to grow from that area. These new heads will give your Ponytail Palm an even more interesting appearance. Most people don’t have much luck planting the cut portion of the plant; but it’s always worth a try. Be sure to dip the top of the Ponytail Palm into Rooting Hormone before you plant it to encourage the new roots.
Soft and mushy heads that fall over on a Ponytail Palm indicate over-watering. Cut off the dead head and any part of the stem that seems soft and mushy. Don’t water for at least a month or more until you see new heads with green leaves starting to emerge from the trunk.
Brown tips on a Bottle Palm or Ponytail Palm can mean several things: over -watering is the most serious, under-watering, too much plant food, using water that has passed through a softener and is too salty.
Ponytail Palms like to be root bound. If you want to keep your plant short, keep it in a small pot. If you want the Ponytail Palm to grow faster, repot it once a year; always go up only one pot size. The larger the pot the bigger the plant becomes. A Ponytail Palm may reach a height of 8ft. indoors.