Botanical Name — Beaucarnea recurvata
Common Name — Ponytail Palm, Elephant-Foot Tree, Bottle Palm
Plant Family — Asparagaceae
Ponytail Palm, a native of eastern Mexico, is a stunning, low-growing palm that often looks like a caudex plant due to its bulbous trunk. Long, curling, elegant fronds emerge from the head of the trunk. Beloved by indoor and outdoor gardeners, Ponytail Palms are known to continue growing in the same pot for years, becoming so tightly bound to their homes that the pots need to be broken for the plant to be removed.
- Beaucarnea recurvata does well in bright light. It requires a few hours of direct sunlight throughout the day. A south or west facing window is ideal.
- Ponytail Palms require warm temperatures to thrive. Ideal temperatures range between 65 and 90 ºF. This plant will start to decline at temperatures below 55 ºF.
- Beaucarnea recurvata is a fairly drought-tolerant plant. It should only be watered when the soil has dried thoroughly. It is best to error on the side of underwatering. These plants do not do well in consistently moist or soggy soil.
- Beaucarnea recurvata plants like a loamy, well-draining, organically rich soil mixture. A good quality potting mix would work well for potting these plants. Soil can be amended with coco coir up to 25% to improve aeration. Fine pumice or perlite can be added up to 25% to improve drainage.
- Beaucarnea recurvata creates huge plumes of grassy, tan flower stalks once mature. That said, this plant rarely flower indoors.
- Beaucarnea recurvata do not require much fertilization to thrive. To give them a boost during the growing season or refresh the soil, feed them with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted at half strength once a month. Feed your Ponytail from spring through summer, do not fertilize in the winter.
- Stem cuttings are the most reliable way to propagate a Ponytail Palm. Using a clean, sharp blade, cut a pup away from the stem of the mother plant and allow to callus over a couple days.
- Callused stems can then be placed directly in cactus soil. Mist the surface of the soil heavily and cover with a plastic bag, securing the open ends of the bag to the pot in order to capture humidity. Every few days, lift the bag and mist the soil to replenish moisture. Wiggle the pup to feel if it has rooted. Continue this process until you feel resistance.
- Cuttings should be kept in a warm, bright spot.
- Stem cuttings will also encourage growth on the parent plant that the cutting was taken from.
- Beaucarnea recurvata are tough, low-maintenance plants and are not especially susceptible to pests or diseases. The most common issue with these plants tends to be root or stem rot. This is typically brought on by overwatering. If the plant is rotting from the bottom, you can attempt to remove the non-rotting portions through propagation (see above).
- Always check your plant for common houseplant pests such as mealybugs, scale, and spider mites. On Ponytails, pests tend to congregate in the nooks and crannies of the stem, where leaf stems meet the plant.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
- These plants require very little maintenance to remain happy. As the plant grows, lower leaves may start to fall off. This is perfectly normal. New foliage will generate from the top. Prune away any unhealthy looking leaves by running your fingers through the leaves gently from bottom to top. Dead leaves should detach from the plant easily.
- These plants prefer to be somewhat rootbound and will only need to be repotted once every two to three years. When repotting, select a pot that is two to three inches larger in diameter.
- Ponytail Palms, like all true palms, are non-toxic to pets and people. They are pet-safe plants.