Underwatered Ponytail Palm

Thriving in areas with dry climates, such as southern California, ponytail palms are generally drought resistant. However, they can only go so long without being watered because the water they retain in their trunks only goes so far as to keep them healthy and alive.

That’s why it’s crucial to be on the lookout for signs of underwatering so you can act to save your plant before it’s too late.

Underwatered ponytail palm shows several signs: dry and cracked soil, dead leaves, and wilting. To revive an underwatered ponytail palm, bottom water the plant, prune finished parts, add fertilizer to the soil, give it adequate sunlight, and create a watering schedule.

There are several ways you can rejuvenate an underwatered ponytail palm. However, once you replenish your plants’ water stores, you should create a watering plan to avoid the situation in the future. While ponytail palms are hardy overall, they wilt quickly once their trunk runs out of water.

Signs You Have an Underwatered Ponytail Palm

Ponytail palms are sensitive to changes in their soil. They can be equally damaged by underwatering as overwatering.

Here are the most common signs that your ponytail palm requires good watering:

  • Wilted trunk
  • Bowing branches
  • Browning or limp leaves
  • Abnormally dry soil
  • Soil that dries quicker than what you’ve normally observed
  • Several dead or fallen leaf blades

How to Rejuvenate Underwatered Ponytail Palm

Here’s what to do if your ponytail palm is showing the signs above:

Bottom Water Your Ponytail Palm

Find a container and fill it with at least an inch of room-temperature water. Next, place the underwatered plant in the container and leave it there for three to five minutes to soak up enough water. Make sure water can be absorbed through the pot via a drainage hole.

After bottom watering your ponytail palm, you shouldn’t water it for about a week to ten days. This is due to the water retention properties of the trunk of the palm.

Because they’re native to dry climates, they have evolved into drought-resistant plants. So if you water them too often, you risk overwatering the plant and spurring root rot.

Clip Dead and Dying Leaves

Getting rid of dead leaves allows nutrients to be routed to living parts of the plant, where they can be used to nourish it. This way, you ensure that the plant benefits from all the nutrients it absorbs instead of wasting them on dying leaves.

Ponytail palms are known to grow as tall as thirty feet (9.14 m) in their natural habitats. This is due primarily to not being contained, but regular and strategic pruning can keep this plant in check.

Plant owners should prune from the top down so the plant grows outward and not up. Regular watering will ensure the prune wounds heal green (instead of browning) and that outward growth is steady.

Add Fertilizer to the Soil

Fertilizer will inject much-needed nutrients into your plants’ soil to help jumpstart new growth following dehydration. An ill-watered plant is bound to have some wilted or dead leaves, and mixing some fertilizer around the base of your plant will help rejuvenate it much faster.

Your palm will only need to be fertilized about once a month. This is again due to the storage properties of its trunk. Since ponytail palms evolved in dry and, at times, nutrient-scarce environments, they store the minerals from fertilizer in their trunks, too.

Due to the dryness of the ponytail palm’s soil, liquid fertilizer is the best option. It’ll be able to soak into the ground and reach the roots much faster than solid fertilizer.

Ensure that your fertilizer mix includes potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. An excellent organic option would be coffee grounds or soaking a banana peel in water and watering your plant.

Put Your Ponytail Palm Under Full Sun

As I mentioned before, ponytail palms thrive in desert-like conditions. This means they’re used to exposure to full sun in hot temperatures. To help refresh your palm, place it in an area of your home or patio where you know it’ll be able to soak in the sun for most of the day.

The sun will help perk up its wilted branches and browning leaves. It’ll also help reverse any damage your plant might sustain from being underwater during the bottom watering we discussed earlier. Your ponytail palm should get at least six hours of full sun daily for a whole week after bottom watering.

Create a Plan To Water Your Ponytail Palm Regularly

Life can get busy sometimes, and we might neglect even our favorite house plants. During these busy days or weeks, having a watering schedule in place is beneficial.

For example, if you’re an early riser, wake up five minutes earlier and water your plants first thing in the morning. If you find yourself leaving your place with no minutes to spare in the morning, set a reminder on your phone or make a note to water your palm as soon as you get home.

Keep in mind that ponytail palms thrive in dry environments. It’s easy to forget to water these plants due to how little water they need, but they can just as quickly be overwatered if you don’t know much about this type of plant.

Their unique trunks can store substantial amounts of water and minerals, which makes daily watering unnecessary.

If you need help maintaining a schedule, there are various products online you can use to stay on track. These range from a refillable water bulb that costs a few bucks to a pricier but more convenient plant watering machine.

Here are a handful of mention-worthy products you can use to stay on schedule when watering your ponytail palms:

REMIAWY Terracotta Plant Watering Spikes

Terracotta is a great material for ponytail palms because it helps drain water efficiently. These terracotta spikes are the perfect low-cost solution to an underwatered ponytail palm. Not only will they facilitate watering your plant quickly, but the material gives off a southwestern vibe, the native territory of these beautiful plants.

Yopay Plant Watering Bulbs

Functional and affordable, these plant watering bulbs will ensure your ponytail palm has all the water it needs if you’re a busy or forgetful person. Just fill them with water and spike them into the soil near the trunk of your plant to water them over time. The roots will absorb as much as they need until the bulb runs dry.

YITIKA Automatic Watering System

One of the more affordable waterers, the YITIKA automatic watering system allows you to determine how much water you’d like dispensed and how often you want it dispensed. What’s more, the specifications you set for your plant are displayed on an LED screen on the device.

This handy device also has a tube, secure spikes, and a water spike. It’s a basic model of this type of product, but it’ll ensure your ponytail palm is watered effectively.

Moistenland Automatic Drip Irrigation Kit

With 33 feet (10.06 m) of irrigation tube, you can funnel the correct amount of water to all of your house plants. This irrigation kit is powered via a USB cable but also features a backup battery in case the primary power source fails.

This way, you can rest assured that none of your plants will be underwatered in the event of a power failure.

This product features the ability to program when you water your plants, how much water is administered to them, and for how long. It’s the ultimate way to combat a dry plant.

How Long Can an Underwatered Ponytail Palm Live?

An underwatered ponytail palm can live for four weeks, thanks to its bulbous base. The base of a ponytail palm’s stem acts as a reservoir and can store enough water for the plant to live for a month without being tended to.

This is thanks to the dry and nutrient-scarce environments they’re native to. In times of drought, usually during the fall and winter, wild ponytail palms will tap into their reserves of water and minerals stored in their bulbous trunks.

They can store enough to get them through to the rainy season of spring when they can begin to absorb the nutrients that soak down with the water.

The Ideal Environment for a Ponytail Palm

Ponytail Palms are native to desert areas, like the environments found in Death Valley, California, or Las Vegas, Nevada. They appreciate a dry, hot climate nestled in quick-draining soils.

They thrive in dry soil because the water they absorb can be retained in their trunks. This is why it’s essential that the soil you plant your ponytail palm in drains well. If it’s wet for extended periods, you risk overwatering your plant.

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Final Thoughts

Ponytail palms are resilient to an extent. While it’s true that their trunks hold water to get them through extended dry periods, these stores only last about a month. Afterward, your plant is at serious risk of being underwatered and will require your intervention.

Thankfully, there are products on the market that can do the watering for you. If you don’t want to spend the money, make a watering plan and ensure you know the signs of an underwatered ponytail palm so you can avoid it in the future.

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