How grow and care ponytail palm (Well Researched Tips)

The ponytail palm has gained popularity in the recent plant as the perfect house plant. These plants are preferred over others for two main reasons, one it looks beautiful and unique and two these plants are extremely easy to maintain and care for.

This piece focuses on the ponytail palm, we will through the course of this article explore facts about the plant. Go into details about ponytail palm care with details on how often do you water a ponytail palm? The quality of soil required, the amount of sunlight they need to grow and other questions alike.

Ponytail palm indoors

Ponytail palm indoors
Ponytail palm indoors

Ponytail palms get their name from how their leaves grow and fall over the stem, resembling a ponytail. An odd fact about the Ponytail palm, however, is that this plant is neither a palm nor is it a tree.

It belongs to the Agave family and is actually a succulent. This explains why the ponytail palm is so low on maintenance and requires very little water to grow. This makes it an excellent choice to grow the ponytail palm indoors.

The bulbous trunk acts as a water reservoir for the plant, helping it retain moisture for long. Hence, when planted indoors they need to be water less often as compared to when planted outdoors which is again minimal.

These plants are not native to the US so the question arises.

Where do ponytail palms come from?

These plants are native to Mexico. In the US if planted outdoors they do well in zones 9, 10 and 11 and grow up to 20 feet in height. On the contrary, when planted indoors they have stunted growth and can grow in almost any region as long as the growing conditions are right.

The ponytail palm has several other names that it goes by owing to its looks. One such name is “elephant foot tree” this name comes from the fact the bark of this plant is wide, with a greyish base and a cracking bark resembling an elephant’s foot.

The structure of the stem – thick base with a slender trunk resembles a bottle and hence the other common name for this plant is “bottle palm”.

As mentioned, ponytail palm care is not a difficult task and one can be rest assured that these plants will not die on them easily. this being said it is important to understand the planting and growing process, to make caring for them a walk in the park.

How to grow a ponytail palm

As the ponytail palm is succulent it grows well in semi-dry conditions. This means that the plant can go on without being watered for days on end. So if the question of how often do you water a ponytail palm? Is on your mind, the answer is simple – not very often. We will get into details about that as we progress through the article.

According to plant enthusiasts, ponytail palms are also the most forgiving of indoor plants. It is not a secret that these plants love a sunny spot but if for some reason that is not possible, they will adjust to low lighting provided they receive bright light once in away.

All in all these plants are easy-going and ideal for people that do not have too much time at hand when it comes to planting care. Here is how you can plant these green splendours.

How to plant a ponytail palm in a pot?

 plant a ponytail palm in a pot
ponytail palm in a pot

The Ponytail palm can be purchased as a sapling at local greenhouses or over the internet. Once you have the plant inspect the plant and pot ratio. If the pot is big enough you can let the plant sit in it for a few months.

If you feel the pot is not big enough or the pot is in these makeshift carry containers you will need to repot the plant before including it in your living space.

How to choose a pot for my ponytail palm?

The ponytail palm being a succulent does not require much water hence the pot used needs to have drainage holes at the bottom. Most gardeners swear by earthen pots for this plant as it absorbs the excess water from the soil helping it drain faster.

When it comes to the size it is better to go for medium-sized pots and change them after the plant has outgrown it (which will take a considerable amount of time).

After the pot is chosen it is important to go in for a potting mix that is suitable for the plant and does not do more harm than good.

How to choose a potting mix for my ponytail palm?

As this plant is not a fan of soil that is soggy, a fast-draining potting mix is what it requires. The ponytail palm grows well in desert soil and it can be replicated at home without much effort. For a dessert soil mix, all you need is one part potting soil mixed with one part perlite and one part sand. Mix these ingredients well and use as desired.

If you wish to use the potting mix you already have simply added a draining agent like sand, pieces of broken earthen pots. This will aid in the draining process and keep the soil habitable for the ponytail palm.

In most cases, the ponytail palm is sold in small pots or carry containers. This makes it important to repot the plant in the beginning and sometimes after it outgrows the pot. So how is it done?

How to re pot a ponytail palm?

Repotting the ponytail palm is simple as the roots are structured in a way more compact. Therefore, these plants do not need very large pots and grow well in medium-sized pots. If you are planning to pot a pup getting a small pot that is about 2 inches bigger than the pup is sufficient.

Another interesting quality of this plant is that it is not very demanding in terms of space, if you plant it in a small pot it will remain small if planted in a bigger one it will grow bigger.

Tip: repotting the plant every other year is good enough depending on the size of the plant you are aiming at.

The only criteria while selecting a pot is that it needs to be one that has drainage holes and does not retain water.

The repotting process is simple.

Loosen the soil at the corners so that you can work with the plant easily. After the soil is prepped grasp the base of the plant and twist it to dislodge the root ball.

Caution: the leaves of the ponytail palm, have tiny serrated edges – be careful while handling the plant.

Knock off the excess soil from the roots and examine them carefully for damage or rot. If you see roots that are dark or mushy get rid of them.

Once the roots are examined and the plant is ready to set it aside.

Fill a pot with a potting mix the drains well.

Now place the plant and carefully fill the pot with the remaining potting mix to secure the plant.

Tip: If you have a mature plant that had pups growing on them. You can remove them from the plant and place them in a smaller container with potting mix and allow it to grow.

Once repotted the plants needs to be watered till the water drains out of the bottom holes and the plant is set in place you can also add fertilizers and compost to the soil.

Here are tips on how to care for the ponytail palm.

Ponytail palm care

As the ponytail palm comes under the low maintenance category, these plants do not need much attention and care. There are a few things that you need to keep in mind though to make the care journey easier. Read on to find out more about ponytail palm care.

How often should I fertilize my ponytail palm?

Fertilization is part of ponytail palm care, along with questions like how often do you water a ponytail palm? And how much sunlight does the ponytail palm require? There are concerns about the composition of the fertilizer this plant can be fed and the dosage. 

This plant does well with a 10-10-10 composition fertilizers in the slow-release form. These plants are sensitive to too much fertilization, the tips begin to turn brown and the plant will start to wilt.

Other than fertilizing you can also use compost (either homemade or store-bought) once in a while.

Coming back to the basics namely light and water, there are always speculations about how much of these two elements is required for the plant.

How often do you water a ponytail palm?

Ponytail palms are succulents and hence, do not require frequent watering. They are accustomed to drought-like conditions and when grown or cared for at home can be water once in about 2 to 3 weeks.

It is advisable that you let the soil dry out sufficiently before you water it again, the duration will depend on where you live. A simple way to check if your plant needs watering is by sticking your finger in the soil, if it comes out clean it’s time to water, if you see loose soil particles you can wait about a day or two and if it comes out soggy and muddy its too early. Ideally, the first 2 to 3 inches of the soil need to be dry before the next watering session.

What will happen if you over water or underwater a ponytail palm?

Overwater and under watering are both common problems gardeners face when they care for plants indoors. If you are not careful you can easily over water plants.

In the case of ponytail palms, you need to wait it out before the next watering session. This makes it stressful for over-enthusiastic plant parents as they feel the need to keep an eye on the plant more often.

Same is the case with those that forget to water their plants. These plants do not require as much water as other house plants demand but completely neglecting them will also cause harm.

Here are signs you need to look for to make sure you are on the right track when it comes to answering the most daunting question how often do you water a ponytail palm?


These plants like desert-like conditions and if they are left in soggy soil the roots will start to rot. This will lead to stem rot. The leaves will also start turning yellow and the stem will become squishy. and eventually, the plant will wilt.

To solve the problem, hold off watering for a bit. Depending on the extent of damage the plant will recover on its own, give it time.


When you are over-cautious to not overwater the plant you may sometimes neglect it too much at a point that it starts to show signs of underwatering. The tips of the leaves will start to turn brown and the plant will start drooping. This is indicative of the fact that the plant is craving some love and definitely water.

To solve the problem, water the plant and have a watering schedule. The plant will recover with time.

Another important aspect of ponytail palm care is sunlight.

How much sunlight does the ponytail palm require?

Ponytail palm care

The ponytail palm prefers full sun or bright indirect light. They do well in conditions above 45-degree F at night, below which they will need a little extra warmth. In most cases when they are planted indoors the temperature is regulated and the plant is comfortable at night.

When it comes to sunlight requirement, these plants are forgiving and can tolerate lower light. They will grow slowly as compared to those that receive more sunlight, but it will not affect the overall health of the plant.

These plants are not very particular about humidity either and can be placed indoors without worrying about misting them. The only thing you need to be careful about is placing them close to heating vents, this will dry out the foliage.

Tip: If you have a low-lit space and can take the plant out for an occasional sunbath do it with caution. Expose it slowly or else it will end up burning the foliage.

Along with details about the conditions required for these plants to grow it is also important to explore other aspects related to plant care

How to prune a ponytail palm?

How to prune a ponytail palm? Unlike other plants, these plants do not essentially require pruning. These plants are slow growers and do not need pruning. This being said if you feel the plant is growing too slow and you need to stimulate the growth of multiple trunks, cut off the growing tip of the plant and allow it to re-sprout. In no time you will see little stems growing from the cut end.

How to grow more ponytail palms from the one I have?

When mature the ponytail palm produces offsprings or pubs at the base of the plant. These can be cut off and replanted. the potting process is the same as mentioned in the previous section and you should see them grow in a few days.

How fast does a ponytail palm grow?

The ponytail palm is not a fast-growing plant. It takes it time to grow and hence people prefer them over other house plants. These plants will grow considerably faster when planted in bigger pots.

Hence, if you wish to have a fast-growing plant invest in a bigger pot. another factor that promotes faster growth is sunlight.

If the plant is left in a sunny spot it will grow faster and healthier as compared to those in a low-lit area. You need to also check how often do you water a ponytail plant; watering too often will do more harm than good.

Water adequately, expose them to better sunlight and plant them in bigger planters, this will help grow the ponytail plant fast.

How to propagate a ponytail palm?

The propagation of a ponytail plant can be done using seeds of the plant and sprouting them to plant. But if you have access to an existing plant, it’s easier to propagate using the pubs. These tiny plant off springs begin to grow at the base and can be used for propagation.

Simply cut them once they start to grow roots and plant them in another pot after applying a rooting agent. The rooting agent ensures that the pub develops its own rooting system and becomes independent rather quickly.

Other than the ones mentioned above online plant health care forums are swarming with questions related to ponytail plant health. We have put together the most common.

My ponytail palm is not growing. Am I doing something wrong?

My ponytail palm is not growing. Am I doing something wrong? The answer to this is No, more often questions pop up about why the ponytail plant is taking long to grow. The answer to this is simple, these plants are slow growers.  They are not like other houseplants that grow and mature quickly. These take their sweet time. So, if the plant looks healthy don’t worry about the growth all is fine.

How can I tell if I am overwatering my ponytail palm?

How can I tell if I am overwatering my ponytail palm? If you are overwatering your ponytail palm the leaves will start to turn yellow, you will also see droopy leaves and the stem will become squishy and soft. Once you notice these changes in your plant, hold off the watering for a bit. In most cases, the plant will recover on its own. You can then have a watering schedule so that you avoid committing the same mistake twice.

Why are the tips of my ponytail palm turning brown?

Why are the tips of my ponytail palm turning brown? Brown tips are indicative of the fact that you are underwater the plant. It could also mean that you are over-fertilizing the plant. If the leaves are turning brown and crisp prune off the damaged part and start watering the plant more often. If your watering schedule is on track reduce the amount of fertilizers you are adding.

If all is fine the plant can also have brown spots due to overexposure, keep them in a spot where it receives indirect light. To sum it up we can say that though the ponytail palm is not an actual palm or plant we love every bit of it. These add uniqueness to rooms they are placed in and the low maintenance tag makes them absolutely desirable.

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This article provided tips on ponytail palm care focusing on specific questions like how often do you water a ponytail pant? How much fertilization and sunlight the plant requires? And also, other pruning and maintenance-related queries. Hope it makes the planting and care journey easier. Happy gardening!