How To Care For Ponytail Palm Outdoors

Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is sometimes called Elephant Foot because of its thick, gray trunk. Hailing from the Mexican deserts, this is a rugged, exciting, and distinctive plant that is not a palm at all.

This desert succulent does quite well as a large container plant or outdoors as a landscape plant in ideal settings.

ponytail palm growing outdoors in FloridaPin

In this article, we share tips to help you keep your Ponytail Palm outdoors. Read on to learn more.

Begin With the Right Climate

If you live in a warm climate, it’s effortless to grow Ponytail Palm in the landscape. These small trees do well in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 12.

Under ideal situations, they can grow to be 30′ feet high. They make an excellent addition to your garden as a specimen tree or a large outdoor container plant.

If you live in a tropical or desert setting and have an indoor Ponytail Palm that has gotten too large, you can move it to an outdoor container or transplant it into the landscape.

But, do so slowly and carefully. It will take time for your overgrown houseplant to adjust to outdoor lighting, temperatures, and ventilation. The process can take several weeks.

These hardy succulents can also be successfully transplanted from one landscape to another. They are quite resilient and will set down shallow roots and adjust to their new settings reasonably enthusiastically.

10 Tips To Establish The Right Culture For Your Outdoor Ponytail Palm

You must remember that these plants are not palms at all. Instead, they are more closely related to Yucca plants.

They have thick, swollen trunks because they store a great deal of water. It makes them very drought tolerant and a perfect addition to a desert garden or a xeriscaping project.

To thrive, your Elephant Foot will need:

Plenty of Room

When choosing a site for your Ponytail Palm, be sure to give it plenty of space all around because it does not have especially deep roots.

The combination of shallow roots and loose, sharply draining soil can lead to toppling in high winds. Give it plenty of space to grow to its full height without endangering nearby structures or thoroughfares.

Excellent Drainage 

The perfect outdoor setting for Ponytail Palm includes

  • bright, full sunlight
  • sandy/loamy well-draining soil
  • deep, infrequent watering.

Mulch

To help keep moisture in the soil, surround your small tree with a layer of mulch about 4″ to 6″ inches thick. Be sure not to allow the mulch to touch the tree’s trunk as this can cause rotting.

Ample, Infrequent Watering

Because these plants are desert succulents, they thrive with a soak and dry watering. They cannot tolerate poorly draining soil or standing water, which are sure to lead to root rot.

In scorching, dry weather, your tree may need more frequent watering, but don’t overdo it. Be sure to check the ground surrounding it.

If it is completely dry to a depth of about 6″ inches, use a soaker hose for several hours to water to a depth of about 18″ inches. Don’t water at all during cool weather or the rainy season.

Lots of Sun

To help your outdoor Ponytail Palm reach its full potential, you must provide it with full sun. This desert tree likes at least eight hours of full sun daily.

Consistent Warmth

Remember that this succulent is only winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 12. It can tolerate short periods of freezing weather, but it will not live through a freezing winter.

Annual Feeding

Like most succulents and cacti, Elephant Foot is not a heavy feeder. You only need to fertilize it once annually, early in the springtime, with a balanced (10-10-10) slow-release fertilizer.

Apply the fertilizer in a circle surrounding the tree base about 6″ inches from the trunk all the way around. Rake the fertilizer into the soil lightly, and then water thoroughly.

Occasional Pruning

As your plant grows and matures, some leaves and fronds will yellow and brown with age. When this happens, use a set of very sharp, sterile pruning shears to trim them off about a 1/4″ inch above the joint of the stem.

Light Pest Management

These resilient plants are pest resistant, but spider mites and aphids can become problematic. If you see signs of them, try blasting them off with a strong stream of water.

Keep watching the plant for a couple of weeks to make sure they don’t return. If they do, try a treatment of insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Check out this article on Getting Rid Of Mealybugs on Ponytail Palms.

Optionally, a Mate

When your outdoor Elephant Foot is fully mature, the female trees will produce large panicles of rich, sweet-smelling pink flowers.

Male trees produce smaller panicles of white flowers. If you want your female tree to have viable seeds, you’ll need both a male and female tree.

Ponytail Palm is a slow-growing succulent. It takes a great deal of patience to grow the plant to maturity. When you do, you’ll be able to enjoy its artful branches and showy panicles of flowers.

What If You Live In A Cold Climate?

Your Ponytail Palm can reach an impressive and towering height of 30′ feet in an ideal landscape setting. Indoors it’s relatively easy to control its growth by controlling the size of the container. For this reason, it’s possible to keep this hardy succulent as a houseplant in almost any climate.

If you cannot keep your Ponytail Palm outside year-round, you can keep it outdoors during the summer and indoors during the winter.

Additionally, this hardy succulent is a great choice as a bonsai.

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