How to Grow Ponytail Palms
These eye-catching, minimal-care houseplants aren’t actually palms (they’re succulents). Let us show you how to grow ponytail palms!
Long-lived and easy to grow indoors, the ponytail palm (Beaucarnea) is not a palm tree at all. Instead, it’s a succulent. Ponytail palms are part of the agave family, but while the leaves are rough to the touch, they are much less stiff and thorny than generally expected from an agave. Those leaves sprout from the top of the stem in a fountain-like manner and look a bit like ponytails. Because of the plant’s wide, grayish base with cracking bark, ponytail palms are sometimes called “elephant foot trees.” The base of each ponytail palm tapers up to a slender, graceful trunk, which is why a common name for this plant is “bottle palm.” Ponytail palms are native to Mexico, and gardeners in zones 10 and 11 can grow them outside in well-drained, sunny areas, where they can reach up to 20 feet tall.
Where to Grow Ponytail Palms
Ponytail palms need bright light, so plan to grow plants in the sunniest room of the house, near the window but not directly in the sun. They tolerate dry conditions well, which makes them perfect for the low humidity of most indoor conditions.
You can give your ponytail palm a break from the indoors by moving it outside during the summer. Give it a few days to acclimate by placing it in a protected area, such as on a porch or patio near the house. Then, if desired, move it to an outdoor area that gets indirect light. (Outdoor light is much stronger than indoor light and, at its brightest, can harm plants used to growing inside.)
How to Plant Ponytail Palms
Ponytail palms like to be a little crowded in their containers, so select a pot that is no more than 2 inches wider all around than the base of the plant. It should also have a drainage hole. Fill the container 1/3 of the way with Miracle-Gro® Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix, which will provide the plant with the excellent drainage it needs. Gently tease the roots to loosen the root ball, then put the plant in the pot so that the place where the bottom of the stem and top of the root ball meet is about an inch below the rim. (Do not bury any part of the stem or the plant will rot.) Fill in around the root ball with more potting mix. Thoroughly water the plant and let it drain before moving it to where you would like it to grow.
How to Water Ponytail Palms
Because they are succulents, ponytail palms can go long periods without water. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever water them, but you don’t want to overwater them. Allow the top 2 to 3 inches of soil to dry out between waterings and then give the plant a good soak. Indoors, that means you’ll probably end up watering your ponytail palm every 3 to 4 weeks. If you’re allowing the plants to summer outdoors, keep an eye on the forecast and move plants under cover if several inches of rain are predicted. Do not allow plants to sit in standing water.
How to Feed Ponytail Palms
A month after planting, feed ponytail palms with Miracle-Gro® Succulent Plant Food, which provides instant nutrition and is specially formulated to help succulent plants grow. Apply directly to soil, using 1 pump for small pots and 2 pumps for larger pots (over 6 inches in diameter), then water as normal. Be sure to follow the directions on the label.
How to Prune Ponytail Palms
The short answer is, don’t! Ponytail palms are slow growers and, when grown as houseplants, should not require pruning. However, if you want to stimulate your plant to grow multiple trunks, you can cut off the growing tip and allow the plant to re-sprout. Little stems will begin to grow all around the outside of the cut edge.
How to Grow More Ponytail Palms
Sometimes ponytail palms will produce offsets, or baby plants, at the base of the stem. If desired, you can cut or break these off and replant them (chances are, they will already have roots). Let the cut sides dry out for a few days, then pot them up as you would new plants (see above), taking care not to bury the stems.
How to Grow Ponytail Palms: Recap
- Place plants in bright indoor light or grow outside in sunny areas of zones 10 to 11.
- Plant ponytail palms in Miracle-Gro® Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix.
- Water when the top 2 to 3 inches of soil are dry.
- A month after planting, start feeding with Miracle-Gro® Succulent Plant Food.
- If desired, cut off the top to stimulate side shoots.
- Grow more ponytail palms by removing them from the parent plant and repotting.
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