Your majestic ponytail palm will have a thick, bulbous trunk, regardless of whether it’s grown in a pot or the garden. If this trunk has become soft or mushy, you might wonder if something is wrong with the plant. Unfortunately, this is a common problem that requires you to react as quickly as possible.
A ponytail palm trunk typically becomes soft because it’s being overwatered. This can cause root rot, caused by too much water in the soil. This issue gives rise to fungus, which damages – and can possibly kill – the plant.
In this article, I’ll look at the most common reasons why your ponytail palm trunk might become soft and what you can do to fix the problem. I’ll also take a closer look at root rot and its treatment. Let’s get started!
Your ponytail palm trunk should be firm and strong, resembling an elephant’s foot. If it feels soft to the touch, this is a sign that the plant is in distress. Here are the most common reasons why your ponytail palm trunk has become soft.
Overwatering is the main reason why a ponytail palm’s trunk becomes soft. A ponytail palm requires minimal watering because it’s a succulent variety and thrives in dry conditions.
You should aim to water it once every two or three weeks and ensure the first 1-2 inches (2.54- cm) of the plant’s soil are dry before topping up on its water. During the cold seasons, reduce how much you water your indoor plant to once a month.
If your ponytail palm is an indoor plant with a saucer underneath it, make sure you regularly empty the saucer of water so that the plant doesn’t sit in too much moisture.
For ponytail palm plants that are planted outdoors, you won’t ever have to water them if you live in an area of the U.S. that gets regular rain, such as Louisiana or Alabama. Water your plant once every two weeks if you’re experiencing dry or drought conditions.
Ponytail palm plants want to live in dry conditions that mimic the desert. They love such conditions because they have a unique feature that enables them to store excess water, which they can use at a later stage.
Their trunk stores water, reducing how regularly you have to water the plant. If you overwater it, the trunk can become too soft because it can’t contain or process all the water you’re giving it.
Besides a soft trunk, you can tell that you’re giving your ponytail palm too much water by checking the plant for the following signs:
- The tips of the leaves have turned yellow.
- The leaves are wilting and drooping.
If you’ve noticed these signs in your plant, stop watering it until it starts to recover. This will help you to fix the issue before overwatering leads to more serious problems with your plant, such as root rot.
Although you don’t want to give your ponytail palm too much water, you also don’t want to underwater it. This will make it struggle to grow. To ensure the health of your ponytail plant, keep an eye out for underwatering signs such as the following:
- The plant is drooping.
- The plant’s leaves are becoming brown and crispy.
If your ponytail palm is dehydrated, you should soak it in water. Place its pot about four inches (10 cm) in water and let it sit for 45 minutes.
While you should be careful not to water your ponytail palm too much, you also need to ensure that it’s got the correct soil that doesn’t accumulate water, which is also damaging to the plant. You don’t want it to sit in the water.
This succulent plant is native to semi-desert areas of southeastern Mexico, so you have to ensure its soil is sandy but rich in organic material. If you’re growing it inside, you should fill its pot with a soil mix that is enriched with material such as peat to make it healthier, as The Spruce reports.
A palm or cactus soil mix is best for this type of plant. It drains well and becomes completely dry between waterings. I recommend purchasing the Leaves and Soul Succulent Soil Premium All Purpose Blend, available from Amazon. It’s premixed and ready to use while promoting good soil drainage to prevent overwatering.
Make sure you place your ponytail palm in the sunniest area of your garden, as this will ensure the heat dries out the plant’s soil.
Sometimes, even if you’re careful about watering your plant only when it requires water, you might still overwater it. This is a common conundrum for gardening enthusiasts because it’s not always easy to know exactly when to water a plant.
Luckily, there are some easy tests that you can do to check if your ponytail palm plant needs water or if you can leave it for another couple of days before rechecking it. Here are two tests to do before watering your ponytail palm.
The next time you think it’s time to water your ponytail palm, weigh it on a bathroom scale. Then weigh the plant again after you’ve watered it. This will show you the difference in its weight depending on whether it’s been watered or not, so you can weigh it the next time you want to water it to see if it really needs moisture.
If its weight is low, that means its trunk doesn’t contain much water, so you can water it.
Dig a finger into the soil of your ponytail palm, getting all the way down to its roots. If you can feel that the earth is dry, you should water it. If the water has some moisture, then you should wait a few days before testing the soil again.
It’s also useful to take a bit of soil from the plant pot and squeeze it in your hand. If the soil sticks together when you do this, it’s got moisture in it. On the other hand, if it’s crumbly or loose, then it’s dry, meaning it might be time to add some water to it.
If you’ve overwatered your ponytail palm, you might worry that your plant is suffering from root rot.
There are some common signs that indicate your ponytail palm could be suffering from root rot. These include the following:
- Its leaves have become yellow.
- Its leaves are drooping or wilting.
- Its plant growth has slowed down.
- Its canopy has thinned.
- Its roots and stem are mushy or discolored. Note that the roots should be white in color, and the stem should be firm, as SFGate reports.
If you’ve overwatered your ponytail palm and it has a soft trunk, it’s possible that root rot has taken hold. Unfortunately, root rot can sometimes kill the plant. This is because the moisture that accumulates around the roots of the plant kills off its smaller roots, and this makes it difficult for the plant to draw enough water and nutrients from the soil, as the University of Florida IFAS Extension reports.
If you’ve noticed some early signs of root rot, you have to work quickly to treat your plant. Even if your plant’s roots have root rot, you might still be able to save it. Here are the steps to follow to treat root rot in a ponytail palm:
- Clean the plant roots under running water, removing soil that can be infected by fungi.
- Prune any mushy or dark roots.
- If you cut away lots of roots, you should also cut some of the plant’s leaves so that the roots won’t have a lot of the plant to support. This will prevent unnecessary stress on it.
- Clean your plant’s pot well in case it’s been infected with fungal spores that have contributed to the root rot, as Master Class reports.
- Plant the ponytail palm in a new pot with fresh soil. This will give the plant a longer lease on life.
If your ponytail palm plant’s trunk has become soft and mushy, this is a red flag warning you that it could be suffering from root rot. At the very least, it’s a sign the plant has been given too much water, so make sure to cut back on its watering schedule. Moreover, make sure to:
- Water the plant every two to three weeks
- Give the plant well-draining soil.
- Check the plant regularly for signs that it needs water.
Fill the ponytail palm pot with cactus soil so that it drains well and prevents the accumulation of moisture.
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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.