Ponytail Palm Leaves Too Long [Causes & What to Do]

One of the hallmarks of your ponytail palm plant is its long leaves. While these leaves can reach lengths of approximately three feet (91.44 cm) when kept indoors, they can grow up to six feet (182.88 cm) outdoors. You might wonder if the leaves of your ponytail palm are too long and what you should do about them.

Ponytail palm leaves can become too long as the plant grows, but this is natural. It’s characteristic for ponytail palms to have leaves that twist and curl when they lengthen, which gives them such an attractive appearance.

In this article, I’ll explore what you need to know about why your ponytail palm leaves have become long and if you should cut them or leave them alone. I’ll also look at instances where cutting back the plant’s leaves will improve the plant’s health, so keep reading to learn how to keep your ponytail palms in perfect health.

Why Ponytail Palm Leaves Become Too Long

Ponytail palms are succulents (not palms, despite their name!) that are easily recognized by their long leaves. These tend to grow long, giving the plant a ponytail-like appearance on the top, hence the plant’s name. But, there are other reasons why your ponytail palm might grow extra-long leaves.

Here are some of the most common:

  • You recently moved the plant into a bigger pot. Transplanting the plant into a larger pot ensures it has more space in which to grow, both in height and width. This makes its leaves more significant. Some old and large plants can become challenging to control, so it’s wise to keep them in a smaller pot to prevent their leaves from growing too much.
  • Your plant is in the shade. Sometimes, what can make your ponytail palm’s leaves look too long is if they start to become droopy instead of curly. This is a result of the plant not getting enough natural light. Move the plant into an area of the home with more light, but do this over a few weeks so you don’t shock the plant.
  • You’ve been feeding your plant fertilizer. Although ponytail palms don’t require a lot of fertilizer, you might have increased their feeding routine, which has sped up their growth. Reducing how regularly you give your plant fertilizer will prevent the plant from growing too large.

How To Trim Your Ponytail Palm

Word to the wise: you shouldn’t trim the long leaves of a ponytail palm if they’re healthy and green. Doing this can damage the plant. You also need to be careful when cutting the leaves, as this can cause them to become brown-tipped and look unhealthy.

Understanding that this succulent is meant to be large and bountiful should make you steer clear of cutting its leaves unnecessarily.

However, if your ponytail palm leaves are too long and have become brown-tipped, you’ll want to remove them so that the plant looks better and can grow healthier.

There are other situations in which you should trim your ponytail palm’s long leaves:

  • The leaves are so long that they’ve become tangled. This can make the plant look unhealthy.
  • The leaves are turning yellow or brown, not just on their tips.

Steps To Follow When Trimming Your Ponytail Palm Plant

  1. Wear protective gloves before handling the leaves of a ponytail palm, as they are serrated and can injure you. 
  2. Trim the plant’s yellow, brown, or dried leaves with scissors. Snip the leaf with a diagonal cut. This ensures that the leaves maintain their sharp appearance. Note that the cut should be done at a 45-degree angle so water won’t accumulate and cause diseases in the plant.
  3. Trim the top of a leaf cluster if it’s looking unhealthy. To do this, remove two-thirds of the top growth. This also works well to boost growth on the sides of the plant, which will encourage a ponytail-like appearance.

Extra Tips for Trimming Ponytail Palm Leaves

Before you trim back your ponytail palm leaves, make sure you have a pair of sharp scissors handy. This avoids putting the palm under stress as it’s quite sensitive to injury. Cutting off leaves in this way, especially if they’re damaged or wilting, will help to revive the plant.

When cutting the leaves of a ponytail palm, I’d recommend CastleGreens Plant Scissors from Amazon.com. They have a titanium-coated blade that’s harder than steel, and it can cut through sticky plants.

The blade is sharp and 2.36 inches (approximately 59.94 mm) long so that you can cut difficult-to-reach leaves and stems. Its non-slip handle is ergonomic for increased comfort during use.

How To Remove Pups From Ponytail Palms

When a ponytail palm becomes mature, it grows bulb-like offshoots that are called pups on the base of its stem. If you harvest these after they’ve grown roots, they will grow into new plants. This is an effective way to get new plants or give some to your loved ones without having to purchase new ones.

But, you might want to remove these pups if they’re causing your ponytail palm to grow more leaves and become larger.

Here are the steps to follow to eliminate pups properly, so you maintain your plant’s health and enhance its appearance:

  1. Remove soil from the pup’s base with a garden trowel so you can see the top of its roots.
  2. Mix together equal parts of rubbing alcohol and water in a container.
  3. Dip a sharp knife blade in the solution so it can soak for five minutes. This will sterilize it.
  4. Dry the blades with a clean, dry cloth.
  5. Use the scissors to cut down between the plant and the pup. You want to remove the roots and stem that is located between the two.
  6. Use a garden trowel to dig around the roots of the pup so you can pull them away from the surrounding soil.
  7. Cut off any dead, black, or mushy roots from the pup with pruning shears. This ensures that the plant can grow healthy roots.
  8. Fill one-third of a pot with a cactus potting mix.
  9. Place the pup into the pot.
  10. Use your fingers to tamp down the potting mix so that it covers the root ball of the pup, as SFGate reports.
  11. Water the soil and potting mix well.
  12. Move the pot into an area of bright, indirect sunlight in the home or garden. 
  13. In the original ponytail palm pot, make sure you fill the hole from where you’ve removed the pup with a bit of potting mix or topsoil.

When choosing the best potting mix for a ponytail palm plant, I’d recommend Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix from Amazon. It has a fast-draining formula and contains plant food to enhance the health of your ponytail palm.

It can be used for plant containers or plants that are in the ground, which makes it versatile to own. 

How To Encourage Healthy Leaves in Ponytail Palms

Now that you’ve removed any unhealthy-looking leaves and pups from your ponytail palm, there are some other essential things you should do to ensure you maintain the health of new leaves that will grow on the plant. Here are some to consider.

  • Give your ponytail palm enough sun daily. Ponytail palms need lots of bright light every day, which should be a blend of full and indirect light, as Master Class reports. If the plant’s leaves start to turn brown at the tips, move it out of the light. Be wary of too much indoor light if you live in a sunny U.S. state, like Texas or Nevada.
  • Give your ponytail palm enough water. Underwatering your ponytail plant can cause its leaves to curl inwards and look less appealing. Make sure you water your ponytail palm when the top inch (2.54cm) of the soil feels completely dry, as ponytail palms are like dry soil.
  • Keep spider mites at bay. These show up on the leaves of the plant, and they pierce them to consume the cell tissues of the plant, including the plant’s chlorophyll, as SFGate reports. To prevent them from damaging the plant, you can easily eliminate them by dipping a cloth into the soapy water and wiping the stems with it regularly.
  • Avoid giving your plant too much fertilizer. This can make the leaves of the plant turn brown, causing you to have to trim them. You should only fertilize the plant every three or four weeks with a 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer so the plant won’t get too much of it. This fertilizer has equal parts nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.

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Final Thoughts

If you own a ponytail palm plant, you’ll know that it’s characterized by its long, curly green leaves. If your plant’s leaves have become too long, you might wonder if you should cut them back.

This should be done with caution so that you don’t injure the plant or put it under unnecessary stress, so avoid cutting healthy green leaves and only trim diseased leaves and pups to improve the appearance of your ponytail palm and boost its health.

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