Why Is My Ponytail Palm Turning Brown? [Causes & How to Fix]

Ponytail palms make for excellent houseplants! Their stunning features and unique aesthetic have helped them gain popularity all across the US. However, if your lively ponytail palm suddenly turns brown, you should try to attend to the issue as quickly as possible.

Ponytail palms turn brown when their soil, water, or lighting needs aren’t met. Browning tips are the most common issue these succulents experience. Ponytail palms are usually hardy and can thrive in harsh conditions; however, they’re still susceptible to browning, especially when grown indoors.

In this article, I’ll further explain why your ponytail palm might be turning brown and offer a few practical solutions. I’ll also give an overview of how to best care for your ponytail palm and which USDA hardiness zones offer the best growing environments for this plant.

Reason Why Your Ponytail Palm Is Turning Brown

Ponytail palms prioritize their central tissue. If elements that encourage healthy growth are out of balance, they’ll sacrifice their leaves.

Your Ponytail Palm Is Dehydrated

Crunchy brown leaves can be a sign of dehydration. Although ponytail palms were made to survive in challenging environments, there’s a limit to their resilience. These succulents still need water to stay healthy. Without enough hydration, they’ll become stressed.

You should water your ponytail palm once every two weeks. You should follow a more frequent watering routine if you live in a hotter state like Texas, Louisiana, or Florida.

Check whether your plant needs water by pressing your finger into its soil. If the top 2-3 inches (5.08-7.62 cm) are still wet, you don’t need to water it just yet.

Your Ponytail Palm Is Overwatered

Ponytail palms that get too much water will also experience browning issues. These plants have a robust root system for soaking water and a bulb-like trunk to store it in. They rely on their trunk to survive droughts.

If you overwater your ponytail palm, its roots will become oversaturated and drown. This leads to stress, and signs like browning leaves will appear.

Your Ponytail Palm Doesn’t Get Enough Sun

You should place your ponytail palm in a well-lit spot that gets enough sunlight exposure. If you’re growing your plant indoors, moving it outside once in a while is a good idea!

Ponytail palms love sunlight and will store any excess amounts to use when they’re in need. You should ensure your plant gets as much sun as possible. It’s rare to overexpose ponytail palms to light.

If you keep this succulent away from sun rays for a while, it will start to brown at the tip of its leaves.

Your Ponytail Palm’s Soil Lacks Nutrients

The best soil mix for ponytail palms includes regular potting soil, perlite, and sand. You should use equal parts of each.

Your soil should never contain more nitrogen than potassium. Plenty of potassium will positively affect the water balance, but too much nitrogen can cause issues. Add fertilizer to your soil every 3 or 4 weeks during warmer months and every 2 or 3 weeks when it’s colder.

If your ponytail palm lacks nutrients, it will show signs of deficiencies, including browned leaves.

Your Ponytail Palm Isn’t Planted Correctly

A ponytail palm has a large trunk that you need to keep above the soil line. If you bury it, its trunk will rot, pushing your plant into a distressed state.

Root rot can lead to brown leaves. Your ponytail palm will show symptoms of distress in its leaves first.

How To Maintain Ponytail Palms

Ponytail palms are incredibly low-maintenance. These succulents only need two things to thrive: sunlight and water. They like dry soil, direct sunlight, and enough water to fill their trunk.

  • Water: When you’re watering your ponytail palm, drench it! You should then leave it to dry out before watering again. While not giving any water, your plant will use the liquid stored in its bulb-like trunk. This trunk can only carry a specific capacity, so don’t overwater your ponytail palm!
  • Light: Ponytail palms thrive in direct sun. If you’re keeping your plant indoors, place it next to a window or in a room that’s brightly lit by natural light. You should also take it outside for full direct sunlight exposure every now and then.
  • Sand: Succulents don’t mind growing in dry sand, and ponytail palms aren’t an exception! This plant prefers dry soil, so don’t overwater it.

If your ponytail palm has brown leaves, trim them off. Your plant will look healthier and waste less nutrients trying to keep these parts alive. Ponytail palms really are easy to care for. As long as you check in on them every few weeks, they’ll be healthy and thriving.

The Best Hardiness Zones For Ponytail Palms

Ponytail palms are native to the semi-desert regions of Mexico. They thrive in dry, warm climates with little rainfall. Luckily, many gardeners in the US have been able to grow ponytail palms with great success. Here are some of the best-suited zones to grow this type of succulent:

  • Hardiness Zones 10 – 13: These zones have warm temperatures and high humidity. Ponytail palms will get full exposure to sunlight while escaping detrimental frost. You can find California, Florida, and Hawaii in these hardiness zones.
  • Hardiness Zones 7 to 9: States in these hardiness zones have warm summers and mild winters. Your ponytail palm will grow well indoors if you place it in a spot with enough light. New Mexico, Alabama, Arizona, and Georgia are situated in these zones.

However, your success will depend on more than finding a compatible growing zone. How you care for your ponytail palm has a significant influence. You can still try to grow this succulent even if you’re not located in zones 7 – 13, as long as you make sure to show your plant some extra care and attention.

Reasons To Grow Ponytail Palms

There are many reasons to grow ponytail palms, but these are some of the most convincing:

  • Ponytail palms are visually attractive: No matter where you place your ponytail palm, it’s sure to demand attention. These succulents look stunning indoors and out. Ponytail palms have long leaves that drape and a bulb-like trunk, making them unique. If you take good care of your ponytail palm, it’ll add to the aesthetics of your indoor areas or patio.
  • Ponytail palms are hardy and evergreen: Succulents typically don’t die easily. Ponytail palms are native to hardy environments and adapt well to their area. Your plant will withstand almost all weather conditions it faces. You’ll also get to enjoy the beauty of your ponytail palm year-round! They’re evergreen, so even if you put them through the worst frost, they’ll stand tall in the cold.
  • Ponytail palms are easy to maintain: Besides being relatively easy to grow, ponytail palms are easy to maintain. They only need a good water and sun ratio to stay happy and healthy! If you plant your ponytail palm in adequate soil, give it enough water, and ensure it gets at least 8 hours of sunlight a day, you won’t have issues like browning leaves or root rot.
  • Ponytail palms have health benefits: If you keep some ponytail palms around, your air will be much cleaner. These plants are great air purifiers! Ponytail palms suck toxins from the air, break them down, and release clean oxygen. If you struggle with sinuses or have trouble breathing indoors, a few ponytail palms will ease the strain on your body.

Your ponytail palm will help purify the air around it while standing tall and looking pretty. These plants are true showstoppers, and if you take proper care of them, you won’t have to worry about them becoming an eyesore.

Should I Plant My Ponytail Palm Indoors or Outside?

Ponytail palms grow well both indoors and out, so choosing where you should plant them is entirely up to you!

If you grow this succulent in a container or pot, you can expect it to reach a height of 6 – 8 feet (1.83 – 2.44 m). Its leaves will drape from its top and can exceed its trunk length, often making swirls.

Growing your ponytail palm outdoors in a pot is a good idea if you don’t want it to get too big. Ponytail palms can reach heights of 25 – 30 feet (7.62 – 9.14 m) when planted directly in the ground. California, Florida, Hawaii, and other hardiness zones 10 – 11 regions offer the best outdoor growing environments for this type of plant. 

Ponytail palms look great in bedrooms, well-lit bathrooms, patios, and gate entrances.

Two Ponytail Palm - 4" Pot - Beaucarnea - Great Indoors!


Ponytail palms are the perfect beginner or family plant. Neither a tree nor a palm, this succulent is easy to grow and maintain. You can keep your ponytail palm indoors or outside and determine its height by planting it in a container or on the ground.

If your ponytail palm leaves turn brown, you can save them by taking immediate action. In most cases, they just need a better water-to-sun balance, some fertilizer, or a trim.

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