If you like aesthetic plants, the ponytail palm will impress you! These indoor thrivers make good photos and even better conversation starters. But, what does it take to keep one healthy?
The best way to care for a ponytail palm is by exposing it to direct sunlight. These plants prefer to soak the sun up with their long leaves while slowly releasing water to their roots from their trunk. Always keep the first few inches of their soil dry and only water from spring through fall.
Ponytail palms are unique additions to your home or garden—with their characteristic shaggy heads of leaves. After reading this article, you’ll know what your ponytail palms need to stay healthy. I also offer solutions to the most common issues you might encounter on your growing journey.
Despite their name, ponytail palms aren’t palms and don’t require the same care as these trees. They form part of the succulent family and have very different needs. Less water and more light are essential for them!
Here are some tips on providing the best care for your ponytail palm:
Ponytail palms enjoy clay pots. These pots are necessary if you don’t want to plant yours directly in the ground. The soil surrounding your ponytail palm shouldn’t be moist, and clay pots help absorb excess water.
If you can’t get or afford a clay pot, a regular one with multiple drainage holes will work too. The sooner your ponytail palm’s soil dries up, the happier it’ll be.
If you’re growing your plant from seed, you’ll need to re-pot it as it sizes up. Keep your pots an inch or two bigger than the previous one, and ensure your ponytail palm is rootbound before transferring it. Stay away from oversized containers since these can lead to root rot.
Like many other succulents, ponytail palms prefer dry, airy soil. Your chosen soil should drain fast and stay dry. If you want to avoid root rot, don’t choose one that holds moisture for too long.
You can buy potting soil suited for cacti and other succulents at your nearest nursery. If you prefer mixing your own, remember to use perlite.
It would be best if you watered your ponytail palm properly to keep it healthy. While you can skip a few days when it’s cooler, the general rule is to water once the soil around your plant is dry.
Water your ponytail palm by adding water to the soil until it can’t absorb more. Remove the excess water by pouring it out, leaving your plant to soak the ground until it is dry. This process can take a few days to a week, depending on how sunny it is.
Ponytail palms store water in their trunks. Overwatering could lead to root rot and dull, sagging leaves. Ensure the soil around your plant is dry by pressing your finger into the ground. If you feel wet within the first few inches, you can wait a few more days before watering again.
Ponytail palms prefer sunny spots. Artificial lights could also do the trick, but you’ll need to keep these on for extended periods.
You can place your ponytail palm near a window that receives direct sunlight if you’re growing it indoors. Ensure all the curtains are open to make the room brighter and your plant happier! While warm outside, take your potted ponytail palm out for a few hours during the day.
If your ponytail palm gets a lot of sunlight during the summer, it will last all winter without much.
Spraying your ponytail palm with a fertilizer suited for cacti during spring will be enough to keep it healthy. An excellent option is the Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food (available on Amazon.com) which you may apply directly to your soil every two weeks for peak growth.
Fertilizing your ponytail palm will ensure that your plant gets all the necessary nutrients to grow. The best plant food for ponytail palms includes minerals like nitrogen and potassium.
Only spray your ponytail palm about three times during the spring. Too much fertilizer isn’t good for them and may leave their leaves turning brown and yellow.
Ponytail palms don’t require much pruning or shaping. Its ponytail-like leaves may need trimming, but it’s enough. If your plant’s leaves get too long, you can shorten them. It is also always best to cut leaves that show brown tips, damage, or discoloration. This removal will encourage new, healthy growth.
Even low-maintenance plants need attention and care to stay healthy. Here are a few things that could happen to your ponytail palm if you don’t look after it:
Dehydrated roots are pretty common in plants that don’t need much water. Because these prefer dry soil, some people forget to water them entirely!
You’ll know your ponytail palm needs some water if its leaves start turning brown. Your plant will look dull and sad with brown patches all over. Although they can go a few days without water, leaving them high and dry for weeks could be disastrous.
If you have trouble remembering to water your plant, I suggest adding a weekly reminder to your phone. Use this to do a soil test to know if your ponytail palm needs water.
If your plant already has brown leaves, cut them off. Give lots of water for a boost, and make a conscious decision to change your watering habits.
Like underwatering, it could have severe effects if you overwater your ponytail palm.
This plant’s trunk is responsible for storing enough water to carry them until the next time you give water. If you give too much water too frequently, your plant will drown.
Signs of overwatering include drooping leaves and root rot. If the soil around your ponytail palm stays moist for longer than usual, you’ve probably overwatered your plant.
You’ll have to take the whole plant, roots and all, out of the soil. Inspect it for root rot and determine how severe the damage is. Cut the rotten roots off and re-pot your ponytail palm in dry soil.
Give it extra sunlight to ensure it dries up before watering it again.
Spider mites might not seem like a big deal initially, but they could become a severe problem. These critters like making webs between ponytail palm leaves and trunks—while they settle in, they also eat your plant’s nutrients.
Your ponytail palm will become yellow and die shortly after.
Spray your plant with an eco-friendly pesticide. If you have pets or children, use one that’s entirely safe for them. Neem oil pesticides are an eco-conscious option that won’t harm your babies—fur, and humans!
An excellent option is the Natria Neem Oil Spray on Amazon.com, which you can safely use on fruiting plants and even delicate roses.
Ponytail palms aren’t hardy to extreme temperatures and winter frost. It would be best to plant them in warmer states where most succulents thrive. Zones suited for these plants start at Region 9 and stretch to Region 13. Here you’ll find warm climates and lots of sun, precisely what ponytail palms prefer!
Florida stretches over four hardiness zones.
The furthest north part of Florida is in hardiness zone 8. You can try growing a ponytail palm in these parts, but a greenhouse may give better results.
Furthest south, a tiny part of Florida falls under hardiness zone 11. None of these places have an average minimum temperature below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.67 degrees Celsius).
Be careful when choosing ponytail palms if you live in Texas. Although this state is known for its sunny days, not all parts are suited for this plant.
Houston and other cities in the southern part fall under Zone 9. These areas have a long growing season with nice weather enabling you to plant ponytail palms throughout the year.
Other parts of Texas are hardiness zones 6 to 8, which wouldn’t suit ponytail palms.
You can expect to find hardiness zones 5 to 11 in Southern California. Be sure to give your plant some extra water where there are higher temperatures, but don’t overdo it.
Hardiness zone 11 gets an average minimum temperature of 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (4.44-10 degrees Celsius). Not all plants can handle this heat. Luckily for you and your ponytail palm, there is no frost in these areas!
Choosing the right plants for your hardiness zone makes caring for them more manageable. Maintaining a healthy plant will be a breeze if you live in an area where ponytail palms get what they need.
Ponytail palms are pretty low-maintenance. If you encounter problems, you’re doing something wrong. Luckily, you can restore balance with a few tweaks to your lighting or watering habits.
After all, droopy leaves with brown tips won’t do your ponytail justice! If you keep in mind that your ponytail palm loves the sun and only survives on water, not thrive, you’ll have a healthy plant.
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Hi! I’m Sophia, and I love plants – especially an expert in growing house plants. I stay in Chicago, United States of America, and through my blog and social media platforms, provide tips and tricks on how to grow healthy, vibrant plants indoors. Check out more here.