Ponytail Palm Care – How to Grow Beaucarnea Recurvata

Ed Wike
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Ponytail Palm Overview

I am referring to the Beaucarnea recurvata plant which is also commonly known as the Ponytail Plant, Spiral Plant, or Recurved Cork Plant. While it may be native to Mexico, this succulent plant also thrives in other warm and arid regions of North, Central, and South America. Its widespread popularity rests on its ability to tolerate higher levels of heat and sunlight. Shady areas are best for this plant.

Ponytail Palm Care – How to Grow Beaucarnea Recurvata

Why would you grow a ponytail palm? Some gardeners prefer gardening indoors to limit any damage due to lack of control over natural elements. However, this plant is perfectly designed to deal with harsh outdoor conditions. It will tolerate both warm and dry climates. As long as the soil is well-drained, this plant will thrive under stressed soil conditions and low-water environments. However, provide plenty of direct sunlight, as it does not do well with dim lighting. In addition, it also does well in containers as long as it receives a lot of direct sunlight.

In the event you are thinking of growing this plant outdoors, be sure to protect it during the winter. The intense summer heat as well as the fluctuating temperatures that happen during the season are too much for this plant.

Ponytail Palm Care

A final note about care is that ponytail palms need more water during the summer months than they do in the winter. In the summer months, water it every two or three days if possible. Use lukewarm water, and make sure the water is very slow in draining from the flowerpot. During the winter, reduce watering to once a week, or once every 10 days. You might need to move the plant to a cooler location during cold weather, especially if the plant looks unhealthy.

Just as ponytail palm care can vary with the seasons, it can also vary with the conditions. If your plant catches a cold, or your home’s humidity is fairly low, it may need more water than usual to fight off the ailment. Make sure that drainage is sufficient in the pot, or that the plant has good drainage in the location it’s in. Good drainage is important in terms of preventing root rot, a common ailment for palm trees.

Sometimes even a healthy ponytail palm may need to be re-potted. The roots can become matted, and the palm can become pot bound. If your potting soil is dry in the top one-third, it’s time to repot and freshen up the soil with well-draining soil.

Light

These plants come from the Sonoran Desert, so bright indirect light is fine. Full sun is ideal, but may be too much for the plant. A spot by a south-facing window is a good spot to give the plant sunlight.

Water

The first step to proper Ponytail Palm care is watering. Beaucarnea is a succulent plant and must be watered correctly to ensure a long-lasting life.

How much should I water it?

Watering your plant on a regular schedule is extremely important. Most plants need water once every three weeks. Depending on how much light and heat your plant is exposed to will determine how much water it needs.

Beaucarnea are great at soaking up water. Therefore you may think that they need to be watered more often. However, be careful not to over water your Ponytail Palm.

The plant’s soil must be allowed to dry between waterings, but don’t let it get too dry. You should be checking the soil with a finger prior to each watering.

Stonecrops are plants native to deserts, and therefore usually have thicker, tougher leaves than other plants.

If the leaves of your plant seem too thin/flimsy, try watering it less frequently.

If Beaucarnea still seems to be drooping after watering, you should consider moving it to a cooler location.

Soil

Beaucarnea is called the ponytail palm because of its long, slender trunk. It does not tolerate wet feet, however. The soil should be well drained and a bit on the sandy side. You may need to take measures to ensure that the soil stays well drained and does not become waterlogged.

In container growing, a little broken brick or some other drainage material in the bottom of the pot is advised. Plant the Beaucarnea recurvata in a container that has a hole in the bottom, or drill the hole with a drill made for ceramic tile.

If you keep the soil too moist, the plant may suffer from root rot.

Overwatering is cause for concern, but so is under watering.

If the plant is suffering from a lack of water, its signature will start to droop, and the leaves may appear dull and limp.

If you are unsure of whether to water or not, apply the squeeze test. Run your hands along the sides of the trunk, and if it is dry or very dry, water the plant. If water comes away on your fingers, it is definitely time to water the plant.

Fertilizer

Ponytail palm fertilizer should only be applied at the most half-strength one per month, unless otherwise directed by a professional.

Ponies do not need more than this. Unlike plants that use the sun for photosynthesis, ponies convert nutrients from the soil and from the air, which is pulled into the plant by the leaves.

If the leaves were to use too much of the phosphate contained within the fertilizer, the rich amount of dissolved phosphate in the air as fertilizer would be pulled into the plant as well. This could cause too high a concentration of dissolved phosphate and the plant would not be able to absorb nutrients.

Are you using a slow-release fertilizer? Another reason to use only a little fertilizer is because it can take several weeks or months for this type to release nutrients. So if you use too much, the plant would be over-fertilized for that time.

Repotting

Most Beaucarneas are easily repotted and care is similar to other succulents, with a few Beaucarnea specific requirements. Repot your plant every 2 years for best results. Use potting soil or a 50-50 mix of potting soil and sand. Avoid fertilizers that contain urea or ammonium, only fertilizers that contain at least an equal amount of nitrogen to phosphorus and potassium are acceptable. Pot your Beaucarneas in pots with at least one hole for water drainage.

Beaucarnea plants appreciate a bit of shade in the summer. If the leaves begin to turn brown, your plant needs more shade and water. If you ignore the symptoms, or the problem is from a lack of watering or over-watering, the problem will become too severe to reverse and could lead to death.

Pruning

These care tips on growing a ponytail palm in the home can be applied to all species of Beaucarnea. Even though the Beaucarneas are drought-tolerant succulents, regular watering is necessary to maintain their health.

Pruning the ponytail palm is important to give your ponytail palm enough light to grow its stem. It is also necessary to maintain the plant’s overall health.

Remove the branches from the trunk, which have fallen off over the winter and focus on the planting pot. Pour any excess water out of the pot.

Remove all yellow, brown, or dead leaf matter. This might be easier to do by gently pulling the dead leaves off the plants.

Be forewarned – some of the leaves might still be attached, so be careful of the rocks.

Replace the rocks in the pot, ensuring that there are no sticks, twigs, or other debris holding the rocks together. Place three rocks in the bottom of the pot.

Place rocks around the stem to encourage branching. This will add to the overall health of the plant.

Pour water into the pot until the water level reaches 1 inch below the soil level.

Gently shake the water off the leaves the same way you would do with a dog.

Ponytail Palm Propagation

Ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata) are native to the rainforests of Mexico. They have a distinctive, graceful and elegant appearance. Those of you who have a ponytail palm will know that they are easy to maintain and quick to increase in number. The ponytail palm makes a perfect gift for anyone because they are relatively easy to keep alive (if you have the right information) and they look attractive on any coffee table or desk.

If you are looking for a unique and beautiful plant to add to your home (or for your home-office) consider palm plant propogation. The ponytail palm is an ideal candidate for the house plant hobbyist who is looking to increase the number of their plants.

Ponytail palms are fairly low maintenance; the only thing they really require is moderate watering and some sunlight. You should keep your ponytail palm plants in an area with bright light but not in direct sunlight. Too much direct sunlight could damage the leaves and might even set it on fire. How much sunlight you need is dependent on the type of ponytail palm you get. Some handle lots of direct sunlight while others can only handle a little.

Problems

Camping is one of the most relaxing and entertaining pastimes you can do with family and friends. However, there are things you should take into account to ensure that your upcoming camping trip is not a disaster that will cost you your priceless memories and possibly your lives. By reading this article, you will be able to determine the best campsites for camping and avoid common mistakes others make that result in many deaths and accidents.

The most important things to consider when choosing a campsite is your safety and the safety of your family members. There are many factors that can be hazardous to your safety, including dangerous animals, environmental conditions, and criminals. When tent camping, you should always avoid camping near bodies of water. You don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night having a slumber party with crocodiles, alligators, or snakes. Avoid camping in areas that are known for disease-carrying mosquitoes and other insects. It is also best to keep campsites away from wooded areas because of vicious animals like bears, wolves, and mountain lions.

Another bad camping site is one that is located close to a road. Camping near a road can disturb your peace and quiet, and can also be potentially dangerous, because a large truck can run you over. Another bad idea is camping in some unoccupied housing area. You could be mistaken for a criminal, and shot or even killed by a homeowner.

Ponytail Palms and Your Cat or Dog

Ever wonder why cats or dogs sneak into your backyard and hoist themselves up on the branches of your ponytail palm? It's not because the trees are shaped different, so it must be the way they smell?

Actually, it's because catnip is irresistible to many types of animals. In fact, many cat toys are made of synthetic granule and contain natural catnip.

If you plant them together, your cat or dog will spend hours of playtime in your ponytail palm.

Growing Problems

Ponytail palms you have grown at home are quite likely to develop yellow edges to the leaves or fronds. The plant may also just sit there with brown edges and never get a new leaf. This is known as etiolation occurred for several reasons.

The yellow ring is caused by a loss of chlorophyll from the leaf. Chlorophyll is what makes a leaf green. A lack of light is a reason why chlorophyll is lacking. Ponytail palms like lots of light.

Normally the chlorophyll in a leaf lasts for a long time but it can run out if the leaves are not exposed to a good amount of sunlight from the window or artificial light. Chlorophyll allows photosynthesis to take place. Without this chemical process the plant cannot make food for itself by ingesting carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen through the process of breathing.

So in plain language, it is starving.

Some of the causes of a lack of light could include.

Leaves Covered by Other Leaves

Too many pots on the windowsill.

Fluorescent Lights Not of an Appropriate Type to Support Plant Growth

Young plants may not be getting direct sunlight so you need your plant to be outside or positioned in front of a window that receives good sunlight during the first year.

Pests

Ponytail palm trees are generally considered to be a sturdy plant. However, they’re not spared from pest attacks. One of the most common pests affecting them is caterpillars. These hairy bugs can stay camouflaged even when they stand out with their white wings. When inspecting the leaves, look at the edges of the leaves. It’s a good bet that you’ll spot caterpillars there. Examine the center of the leaves for other problems.

A good way to protect your Ponytail Palm Tree from caterpillars is to wash the plant with water each day and examine its leaves frequently.

Like all other plants, you should also keep your Ponytail Palm Tree healthy by providing it with adequate nutrition.

Diseases

If you have a ponytail palm that is not developing normally, it may be infected with pests. In either case, you should take it to a trained professional for treatment. They can mend your plant if it's sick as well. These pests can be eliminated with the right plant treatment.

A common infection is caused by nematodes. Nematodes are worm-like organisms that feed on the roots of plants. This can cause erosion of the tissue along the roots and death of the lamina. You may have noticed brown foliage and yellow leaves. If your ponytail is not growing normally, you may see brown spots on the leaves, which could indicate nematodes. Your plant should be taken immediately to a qualified professional for treatment.

Ponytail palm mortality can also be caused by poor watering. The soil should be evenly moist. Don't let the soil get soggy or too dry. Another cause of ponytail palm death is brought on by incorrect soil pH. The ponytail palm is sensitive to pH that is either too acidic or too alkaline.

FAQs

Ponytail palms are one of the most popular houseplants around. They are relatively carefree and tolerate a range of lit and growing conditions. Because of that, they make great plants for beginner gardeners. If you are trying to grow ponytail palm trees that are Beaucarnea recurvata, or desert rose, you might have a few questions.

Just like kids who grow up, ponytail palm trees seem to develop behaviors that are a little different than the rest. You can care for a ponytail palm effectively with the right "tough love". Giving the right amount of care at the right times keeps your ponytail palm tree healthy and attractive.

Here are some of the questions we’ve answered about caring for ponytail palms and also some great tips for getting the most out of your ponytail palms.