Ponytail Palm Care

The ponytail palm, or Beaucarnea recurvata, is one of those plants that's got a misleading common name. They are not actually a palm or a tree, because why give plant common names that actually make sense?! In fact, it is a caudiciform, hence the fat base with a bulbous bottom. Thankfully the fact that they are one makes their care incredibly easy. You will see a lot of websites telling you that they thrive on neglect, but it truth, nothing actually thrives on neglect. Everything has a certain type of care that it requires. Let's get into how to care for these slow growing beauties.

Lighting: They like a lot of sun, like south facing window degree of sun. A lot of people put their ponytail palm outside for the summer, but my big guy (which my son named Burly) lives indoors year round. These plants may love sun, but they will also do well in part shade, like a south facing window that is shaded by a big old tree. Just remember that if they have less light, it will take them longer to grow.

Here you can see how bulbous the base is, and how this B. recurvata is not in need of a drink

Water: Since ponytail palms are a caudiciform that hold water in their big, round trunks, they don't need as much water as most houseplants. In fact, treat them as you would a succulent. During the warmer months I water mine thoroughly whenever the soil is completely dry. On average this equals about once every two to two and a half weeks. Make sure that when you water that you give your plant enough water that it runs out of the bottom of the pot, and remember to not let it sit in the runoff water. Letting these sit in water is a good way to get root rot. During the cooler months I may water once every month or two. In fact, mine has gone all winter with no water before with no problems.

Fertilizer: These are not heavy feeders and since they are a caudiciform, you should be fertilizing them with a good quality cactus/succulent fertilizer. I give mine a dose of fertilizer in the spring, then once again in mid summer. That’s it.

Re-potting: Make sure to use soil that won't hold too much water. The last thing you want is for your ponytail palm to be sitting in a puddle. It is best to use a cactus potting soil, or better yet, make your own extra porous soil mix. Either way, make sure that it is fast draining. Also, don't bury the rounded bottom part of the base of the plant, keep that above the top of the soil. Always grab a pot that is about and inch or two bigger than the previous pot that it was in. If you use a pot that is too big you will have more soil around the roots, which means it will take them longer to dry out. These plants rot easily if given too much water, so if I forget when I watered mine I just wait until the following week to water. Another good tip is that it is best to go for a heavy pot, because these plants can get pretty top heavy. Also, if your ponytail palm came like mine, with a layer of glue and rocks, you can hack that away to find the hidden dirt. It can be a bit of a pain in the butt, but it can be done and it makes things a whole lot easier.

Troubleshooting: If you notice brown leaves and/or a shriveled base, then you are not giving your ponytail palm enough water. Likewise, if you notice yellow leaves and/or a squishy base, then you are watering too much. Brown leaf tips are a fairly common thing that I’ve seen in the group. If you don't like how it looks, you can take some sharp clean shears and cut off the brown bits. Just know that the old, bottom leaves will fall off as the plant grows taller.

If you have any questions, want to see pictures of other ponytail palms, or just want to share pictures of yours, feel free to click here to be directed to our Facebook group!