Plant Care  |  August 12, 2020

Ponytail Palm Care


PRO TIP: Similar to cacti and succulents, Ponytail Palms are also very slow growers. Don't be alarmed if you aren't noticing much growth despite proper care!

The Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is an evergreen perennial native to eastern Mexico and has been found to grow up to 15 feet tall and 350 years old!

Despite its common name, the Ponytail Palm is not a true palm, and requires care similiar to that of other desert-dwelling plants like cacti or succulents. Place your Ponytail Palm where it will receive ample amount of high light — ideally in front of a southern or western-facing window as this plant requires at least a few hours of direct sun every day. If placed in medium light there is a higher risk of root rot and leggy growth. This plant will not tolerate low light conditions.

If you are unsure of the lighting conditions in your home or office, check out our guide for how to measure light in your space.

Ponytail Palm Plant Close Up

Due to their dry environments, Ponytail Palms can be susceptible to mealy bug and spider mites in their tufty leaves. Give your plant's foliage a rinse in the sink or shower occasionally to help keep it clean and pest free.

Routine Maintenance

PRO TIP: If in doubt, let it drought! Ponytail Palms prefer to be in dry soil, so if you're unsure whether to water yours, err on the side of caution and give it another few days.

Always be sure to assess your plant’s watering needs upon receiving it. Before giving your plant a drink, it is best to check the moisture level in the soil first to ensure it isn’t moist right beneath the surface. Also, consider aerating the soil of your plant before the initial watering. We compact the soil to avoid shifting during transit, so aerating can help the soil breathe and allow moisture to be released.

Ponytail Palms like to dry out completely between waterings. The most common mistake made with these plants is overwatering. The large, bulbous base of the trunk may look like an elephant's foot — giving it one of its nicknames — but functions much like a camel's hump, storing water extremely efficiently to combat its natural environment's frequent drought periods. You won’t need to water your plant more than once every two weeks (at most) during the growing season, and make sure that you are letting the soil thoroughly dry between waterings. Ponytail Palms are susceptible to root rot, so it’s very important that you do not water the plant if you detect any moisture in the soil. During the winter months, watering frequency should decrease, sometimes to as little as once a month.

Rotate your plant periodically to ensure even growth on all sides and dust the stalks often so the plant can photosynthesize efficiently. When dusting the leaves, also take the opportunity to inspect the undersides and keep an eye out for pests.

Remember each plant is a unique living thing and may have varying needs, especially in their individual locations. Pay attention to the condition of your Ponytail Palm and its watering needs and you will have a long and happy relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions

Help! My Ponytail Palm has brown tips!

  • This is often a result of over or underwatering. Too much water can cause brown tips with distinct yellowing, while not enough water turns the leaves brown and crispy. Prune the leaves with a clean pair of sheers and check the soil before adjusting watering as needed.

My plant isn’t really growing. Am I doing something wrong?

  • Probably not! These plants are just super slow growers. As long as your plant is looking healthy, there is nothing to worry about.

How can I tell if I’m overwatering my Ponytail Palm?

  • The first sign of overwatering is the tips of the leaves will turn yellow. If this happens, withhold water until the soil is dry and reduce the volume of water you give the plant. Other signs of overwatering are droopy leaves, and the base of the plant becoming soft and squishy.

How often should I fertilize my plant?

  • In general, house plants will thrive when they are fertilized spring through fall. Fertilize once a month with an organic houseplant fertilizer, following the package instructions for dilution and administration. Greenery NYC uses an organic potting mix with a slow release fertilizer in the soil, so your plant will not need fertilizer within the first 6 months of receiving it.

How often does my plant need to be repotted?

  • For smaller desktop plants, we suggest repotting once every 12-18 months. Typically you want to choose a potting vessel 1”- 2” larger in diameter to allow for growth. Don’t choose a pot much larger than the previous as this could drown the plant's roots. If you prefer to maintain the current size of your plant, repot into the same vessel, providing new soil and trimming away some roots and foliage. Spring or summer is the ideal time to repot as the plant is at its strongest.

Standard Planter Instructions

There are two types of standard planters offered by Greenery Unlimited—those with drainage holes, and those without. Within these two categories are an array of sizes and styles to choose from. The presence of drainage holes and the size of the planted vessel both play a role in the quantity and frequency of water given to your plant.

Plants purchased in pots without a drainage hole have been set up with a built-in drainage system. A layer of Aeration Stones (porous, absorbent material made of recycled clay) has been placed beneath the soil to act as a reservoir for any excess water that flows through the soil. You will need to be slightly more cautious not to pour too much water into these containers as there is no way for the excess water to escape. We suggest slowly pouring small amounts of water in bit by bit, until you have reached the desired moisture level in the soil.

For plants potted with drainage, water until the excess begins to come out the bottom of the pot and into the catch tray.

Self Watering Container Instructions

The self-watering containers require a deep and thorough watering of the topsoil after they are first placed. This is important because the roots of the plants first need to grow into the reservoir in order to drink from it. Follow the standard planter instructions for at least four weeks, before testing the reservoir. During the dormant seasons, or for plants that have slower growing habits, consider top watering for up to ten weeks. 

TEST: After the initial top water period, fill the water reservoir until the red indicator reaches half way between the MAX and MIN line. If the indicator goes down over the first few days, it means the plant is ready for regular reservoir servicing. If not, be sure to continue top watering for a few more weeks, until the red indicator goes down, meaning the plant has started drinking from the reservoir. 

RESERVOIR SERVICING: Once the indicator goes down, do not refill the reservoir right away. Similar to how humans need a breath of air between gulps of water, almost all plants require a drying out period. Always allow for the reservoir to empty all the way, and after a drying out period of a few days, be sure to refill it until the indicator reaches the MAX line.

From here on out, you should NEVER topwater the plant while using the reservoir system. If you water from the top, it can drown the plant. In the Self Watering Container, the top layer of soil will eventually become extremely dry and hard, and may even pull away from the edges of the pot. This is not a cause for concern, but simply because the plant is drinking directly from its roots in the water reservoir. You may opt for adding fresh soil into the gaps between the soil and planter, so as to give the plant a nutrient boost. You may annually, or bi annually, top water the plant to flush the foot system. Only do so when the reservoir is empty and the plant is ready for more water. 

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