Ponytail palm trees, whether grown outdoors or in a pot, have a subtle elegance that makes them worth keeping. Moreover, they require relatively minimal effort to care for. However, you should be concerned if you notice your ponytail palm drooping.
Your ponytail palm drooping could result from overwatering which causes root rot. Another common cause is underwatering your plant. Other possible reasons include unmet light requirements, poorly draining soil, freezing weather, and airflow restrictions.
Keep reading to learn more about why your ponytail palm is drooping and how you can correct it and restore your plant. I will also share other signs that you should look out for when caring for your plant and highlight essential care tips to maintain your ponytail palm.
The long leaves of a Ponytail Palm are naturally droopy or cascading. Nonetheless, healthy plant leaves will always appear rejuvenated and remain dark green throughout all seasons.
When the ponytail palm leaves droop lower than usual and start to look limp, distorted, or damaged, your plant is likely in distress. It’s important to fix the problem as quickly as possible once you notice it to avoid irreparable damage.
Let’s examine possible causes for a drooping ponytail palm.
Water is essential for plant growth and sustenance, and ponytail palms are no exception.
However, excessive watering can lead to plant damage, specifically by encouraging root rot.
Root rot occurs when the soil surrounding the plant roots becomes saturated with water, preventing them from adequately absorbing oxygen.
Subsequently, the roots begin to rot: a condition that can spread to healthy roots and inhibit the absorption of essential nutrients required for plant growth and sustenance.
Ponytail palms affected by root rot will have yellowing and drooping leaves. Other signs of an overwatered plant include:
- Mold growth around the plant
- Softened or mushy stem
- Moist or wet soil around the plant roots
Signs of root rot in your ponytail palm include:
- Yellow, dropping leaves
- Stunted growth
- Small leaf size
- Wilting leaves
As mentioned earlier, root rot can spread quickly to healthy roots and result in plant death when left untreated. Further in this article, I will provide suitable remedies for preventing infection and death of your ponytail palm due to root rot.
Overwatering your plant also encourages fungal growth since fungi thrive in humid conditions. These fungi may cause severe damage to infected plant parts and can be challenging to eliminate.
Here are a few pointers on preventing and fixing underwatering:
- Wait until the soil dries out completely before watering your ponytail palm.
- For potted plants, ensure that the planter has adequate drainage holes so that excess water flows out.
- During cold, humid, or rainy seasons, reduce the frequency of watering your plants (depending on the condition of the soil, you may have to stop watering until it dries out completely).
Ponytail palms are drought-tolerant plants and can withstand prolonged periods without water. The following features of ponytail palm plants enable them to survive for an extended period without being watered:
- The swollen woody stem base (which resembles an elephant’s foot) stores enough water to sustain the plant for extended periods.
- Narrow leaves reduce the surface area for transpiration, thereby reducing water loss.
Nevertheless, your ponytail palm plant can succumb to dehydration, which causes drooping leaves. Other signs that your plant is dehydrated include:
- Leaves turning brown
- Leaves become crisp and begin to curl
- Shrinking succulent stem base (caudex)
- Wrinkled or shriveled caudex
When a ponytail palm becomes dehydrated, the cells in its leaves collapse, making the leaves wilt and droop.
To revive a severely dehydrated ponytail palm, put the potted plant into a larger basin filled with 4 inches (101.6 mm) of water and let it sit for 45 minutes. Afterward, maintain a regular watering schedule (once per fortnight). However, always check that the soil is dried before watering to prevent overwatering.
Ponytail palms require bright sunlight for optimum growth. Without sufficient light, photosynthesis, which the plant depends on for energy to survive and grow, will be impaired. Subsequently, the plant leaves will droop and eventually start dying.
Other signs that your plant is underexposed to sunlight include:
- Pale or yellow leaves
- Stunted growth
- Plant leaves leaning towards the direction of the sun (phototropism)
- Smaller leaves
- Brown leaf tips
Place your potted ponytail palms next to a window where they will receive adequate sunlight. You may also take the plant out when it is sunny, although this can be a tedious daily chore. Alternatively, place the plants on a partially shaded balcony.
Too much sunlight is equally harmful to ponytail palms and may result in scorched leaves and drooping. The plant leaves may become dehydrated due to the increased transpiration rate when exposed to harsh sunlight. Moreover, photooxidative stress, which occurs when plants absorb too much light energy, may damage plants.
Below are other signs that your ponytail palm is overexposed to sunlight:
- Faded or bleached leaves
- Scorch marks or burn spots on the leaves
- Wrinkled leaves
Here’s how to correct excessive sunlight exposure for your ponytail palm:
- Place the potted ponytail palms in a partially shaded area to prevent exposure to direct sunlight.
- If your plant is growing outdoors, consider making a simple shade to keep it from sun damage, especially during summer.
- Increase the frequency of watering during warmer seasons.
Soils with poor drainage encourage water retention around your plant’s roots, which, as explained earlier, causes root rot and, subsequently, drooping leaves.
Poorly draining soils also cause nutrient deficiencies in ponytail palms since the roots become oxygen-starved and cannot optimally absorb essential nutrients from the earth.
The following factors may contribute to poorly draining soil:
- Soil compaction eliminates pores that allow water and air movement in the ground.
- The type of soil
- Overwatering the soil
- Overapplication of fertilizers
Consider mixing the soil with some well-drained soils to improve drainage. Combining the ground with some manure or compost will also enhance its drainage. For potted plants, check that the drainage holes are unobstructed.
Ponytail palms may not do well during the winter months. Predominantly cold areas such as North Dakota and Minnesota may also be unfavorable to these plants.
Cold weather slows down the transpiration rate in ponytail palms, resulting in drooping.
Low temperatures reduce the rate of transpiration in plants in the following ways:
- It encourages the stomata to close up, thereby retaining water in leaf cells.
- It also slows down the rate of evaporation of water from the leaves.
Temperatures below 18°F ( – 7.77°C) may cause frost damage to your ponytail palm.
Other signs you may notice include:
- Discolored or blackened leaves
- Mushy stem
- Rotting roots or stem
Keep potted ponytail palms inside during winter to prevent frost damage. Reduce watering frequency, and only do so when the soil is dry. For outdoor plants, add a generous layer of mulch at the base of your ponytail palm to insulate it from the freezing weather.
Poor ventilation may affect potted ponytail palms by inhibiting evapotranspiration, which makes the plant leaves retain excess water and droop. Potted plants are more likely to be affected when they are kept indoors.
Keeping your potted ponytail palm in a room lacking adequate airflow may also encourage mold growth on and around your plant because unventilated rooms are usually humid.
Take steps to improve ventilation in the rooms where you have kept the potted ponytail palms. Simply opening the windows would be beneficial. Relate the plants to better-ventilated areas near a window or balcony where possible.
The following summarized guide will help you to adequately care for your ponytail palms and keep them looking healthy and rejuvenated:
- Regularly inspect your plants for any changes in color or appearance so that you catch any issues before they advance and result in the death of your plant.
- When applying fertilizers, ensure they are suitable for succulents and limit the use to once every few months.
- Prune the damaged leaves from the plant since it is unlikely their initial appearance will be restored.
- Pruning will also prevent overgrowth and keep the plant looking healthy and appealing.
- To prevent plant stress, keep potted plants in a well-aerated, warm, and sunny place.
- Remember that watering needs differ according to the season, so water more in summer and less in the winter.
- When moving an indoor plant outside, smoothen the transitioning process by taking it out for a few hours each day and gradually increasing this period until the plant is well acclimatized.
- Check the plant regularly for infestation by the wax-coated mealybug that can attack and damage your plant.
Ponytail palms require relatively minimal care, so when they begin to look limp and droopy, they are signs of a plant in distress.
The most common reason for drooping leaves is overwatering, which causes root rot and, eventually, plant death. On the other hand, underwatering could also lead to drooping, so you must maintain a healthy balance by checking the soil condition beforehand.
Other causes of drooping, such as unmet light requirements, freezing weather, and poor airflow, can be corrected by making the recommended adjustments.
You may also like:
- Why Is My Ponytail Palm Turning Brown?
- Why Is My Ponytail Palm Losing Leaves?
- Why Is My Ponytail Palm Dying?
- Why Is My Ponytail Palm Turning Light Green?
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.