Ponytail Palm: How To Care For The Ponytail Plant

The “Ponytail Palm tree” is really not a palm at all. It’s a member of the Lilaceae (lily family,) and known by several names.

It earned the name “elephant’s foot tree” due to its bulbous base, thrown in the thin trunk and some call it a “bottle palm”.

Native to the desert of Mexico along with the Yucca tree it makes somewhat of a curious landscaping plant outdoors in direct sunlight, on the patio, as an indoor houseplant or planted and displayed in a bonsai pot.

Ponytail palm blooming in Hawaii - Image: Forest and Kim Starr

Ponytail palm blooming in Hawaii – Image: Forest and Kim Starr via flickr

A sturdy plant used as a single specimen usually in containers 14 inches or larger, or planted in several 6- to 10-inch pots to appear more bushlike. Single specimens, range in height from 6 to 18 feet tall.

Its large base and head of pendulous, smooth-edged flat leaves, makes the “Pony tail plant” unique. NO TWO are specimens alike.

Video: Ponytail Palm Indoor Plant Care Instructions

Look Native For Ponytail Palm Care – Watering and Lighting

The Ponytail’s native habitat, a dry Mexican climate, allows it to survive interior winter heat very well.

Watering The Pony Tail Palm

The ponytail palm plant is very drought tolerant and does not like too frequent waterings. Never allow water to sit in the bottom of the saucer or pot. An interesting fact is that Nolina recurvata stores its water in its base.

The good drainage of a cactus mix or sandy soil mix will generally minimize the probability of root rot, especially compared to the peaty mixes normally used with most tropical indoor house plants. Specifically, allow the soil to dry out well between waterings, and if you have any doubt on whether or not to water the plant, skip it until the next week.

pony-tail-landscape

Signs of under watering usually, show up with dry, brown foliage, a shriveled stem or desiccated roots. If overwatering occurs, you might see light new growth, stem rot or root rot.

Ponytail Light Requirements

Fight requirements for ponytails are pretty easy to remember if you think of where they are native to – the Mexico desert landscape.

Provide bright indirect light to full sun.

Any window space indoors particularly one facing north will suit the light requirements of this bright light plant. For optimum performance, however, full sun is best.

Pony Tail Insect Free

Generally, you’ll find the ponytail an insect free plant, but on occasion does attract mealybugs, spider mites and scaleBeaucarnea recurvata – the “Ponytail Palm” is a plant to enjoy.

Although pest don’t bother the ponytail much we do have some recommended products for controlling pests.

Our Top Natural Pest Control Solutions

For more info on these recommended products, read our detailed review here.

You provide plenty of bright light and water it less frequently than you think necessary, and this plant will add a unique beauty wherever your use it.

ponytail palm plant

I’ve always enjoyed reading how others described the plants many years ago. Below you’ll see…

From The World Book Of House Plants
Elvin McDonald 1963

Description: Beaucarnea recurvata, the Mexican bottle plant, or “ponytail,” is an unusual, desert-dwelling member of the lily family, notable primarily for a large, swollen base in which it can store a year’s supply of water.

With great age, Beaucarnea may attain a height of 30 foot tall, but small plants (grown from seeds) are ideal as indoor specimens, and slow-growing enough to remain a convenient size for many years.

Topping the bulbous base, the bottle plant has a rosette of thin, exceedingly long, tough leaves. In lily fashion, it produces panicles of whitish flowers, small and lightly fragrant.

Culture: Light, sunny to semi-sunny. Temperature, average house, preferably not over 75°F. in winter. Humidity, average house. Soil, equal parts loam, sand, and peat moss; keep evenly moist. Propagate by removing offsets.

Ponytail Palms For An Interesting Garden

ponytail-flower-021013Many plants are grown for their flowers, and some grown because of the love of their foliage. However, the ponytail’s desirable trunk makes it popular, in addition to its foliage. The Ponytail Palm is treasured by many primarily because of its bottle-shaped trunk.

Another species, Beaucarnea guatemalensis does not have the same bulbous base.

Generally, the elephant foot tree has a flat and fleshy bottle-shaped trunk topped with strappy green leaves. When the plant has almost no trunk at all when it is still young.

At this stage, the trunk looks like an enlarged onion bulb with ribbon-like leaves emerging at its top curling downward. As the plant matures, the trunk becomes thicker and its base gets swollen until it looks more like a bottle or an elephant’s foot.

The plant can have several branches towards the top as it grows over the years. When grown outdoors, Ponytail Palms can reach a height of up to 16 foot tall or more. They do produce flower stalks, consisting of clusters of small creamy white to beige blossoms when grown outdoors.

Image: source

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