The ponytail palm tree can live for decades if you give it the proper care. These care tips for ponytail palms will show you how to grow them right.
Photos of Beucarnea recurvata plants of all sizes.
Ponytail palm care requires mainly that you learn how to properly neglect this plant.
That's right, I said NEGLECT.
This will probably take some effort as it is the opposite of what you’ve been taught that plants require. Throw everything you thought you knew about plant care out the window on this one.
Ponytail palms thrive on neglect.
Feed it once each summer. Water it every three weeks during the growing season and only enough to keep the leaves from wilting during the winter. Even if that means you only water it once the entire winter.
Over watering is the leading cause of death among ponytail palms.
A mature ponytail palm tree growing on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
Any soil that drains quickly will work.
A heavy soil that retains too much water is a death sentence for this plant. The ponytail palm tree is native to the Mexican desert so a sandy soil will suit it just fine.
What do you mean by prune?
If you want to trim off the tips of the leaves because they keep turning brown, knock yourself out. This is usually caused by keeping the plant too dry or overfeeding it.
If by prune you mean that you want to lop off your ponytail palm tree's head, you can if you can bring yourself to. Strangely enough, beheading does not usually kill a ponytail palm.
This is a plant that is often grown in containers by people who live in cold climates. They occasionally get left out a little too long in the fall. Along comes an early frost that freezes the poor plant’s head right off.
This is ugly. And bitterly disappointing to the gardener who has nurtured that plant for many years.
But wait, all is not lost. As long as there is some healthy wood left above the soil, the plant may recover. And if it does, it will be more beautiful than it was before tragedy struck.
Set it in a bright, warm corner and wait.
In several weeks you may see little green shoots pushing out of the caudex. If this happens, rejoice and be exceedingly glad for you have been blessed with a caudiciform collectors dream plant:
A multi-headed ponytail palm tree.
This 2-headed specimen is growing happily at the
Maui Tropical Plantation.
It normally would take a plant many years to branch like this on its own. The only way to make it happen sooner is to either prune the top off or leave it out in the cold.
I think pruning is the safer option.
This is done by planting seed or by removal of the offsets. If you want to use seed, you will most likely have to order it as ponytail palms only bloom when they are quite old. If you can obtain seed, sow it in the spring. The seed will germinate at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
To make new plants from the offsets, dust the cut ends with rooting hormone and plant in small pots of quick draining soil.
Mist, rather than water, them until roots form and growth begins. The greatest risk is that the cuttings will become too wet and rot.
Keep your new plant in bright light, follow these ponytail palm care tips, and you and your ponytail palm tree will enjoy many happy years together.
These are top quality trees in hard-to-find large sizes. Beucarnea recurvata grows very slowly. Buy a big plant if you don't want to wait.
Ravenala madagascariensis is a quick grower that will reach 40 feet under ideal growing conditions. A young traveler's palm looks like a peacock's tail growing out of the ground.
The Bottle palm is interesting in that its trunk has a smooth gray surface and a shape that makes it look like an arrangement of palm fronds in a vase.