Melinda's Low Maintenance Plant: Ponytail Palm

Melinda's Low Maintenance Plant: Ponytail Palm

Sculptural and easy to grow.

Stunning and low maintenance best describe the ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata). And one look at this beauty reveals the inspiration for the common names. The long narrow curled leaves that sprout from a single stem are sure to remind you of a ponytail. The swollen base and elephant skin bark inspired the other common name elephant foot palm.

This plant is not a true palm but rather a succulent related to agaves. It is native to the scrub and semi-desert areas of southeastern Mexico. This means bright light and minimal water is needed to keep them thriving. Water the plants thoroughly and pour off excess water that collects in the saucer. Wait for the top few inches to dry before watering again.

Ponytail palms are slow growers, making them perfect additions to the indoor garden. You won’t need to constantly prune and repot the plant or find a new home when it outgrows its location. Use a pair of sharp scissors if you want to trim away any brown tips that develop.

As a succulent, ponytail palms need minimal fertilization. Feed the plants once in spring if you feel they need a nutrient boost. Do not feed in the winter when the days are short and gray. One application is usually sufficient. Avoid over-fertilization that can damage the plants.

This plant prefers cooler temperatures and even drier soil in the winter. Adjust care as needed to keep the plant thriving year round.

Overwatering can lead to root and stem rot. Make sure your plant does not sit in excess water that collects in the saucer. Then allow the soil to dry before watering. The plant is often able to recover from minor problems if you adjust the watering. Otherwise they are basically pest free.

Don’t be overanxious to transplant your ponytail palm. They prefer to be pot-bound. If your plant outgrows its current pot, transplant to a container one size larger with drainage holes. Moving it into a container that is much bigger results in soggy soil and can lead to root rot.

So consider adding a ponytail palm to your indoor garden. You'll enjoy their unique silhouette and carefree nature.


Ponytail Palm at a Glance

Name: Ponytail palm, Elephant foot palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)

Size: Small transplant to tall floor plant

Light: Bright light...  near a sunny south-, east- or west-facing window

Water: Thoroughly when top few inches of soil are dry

Fertilizer: Once or twice a year in spring, then in summer when needed

Soil: Cacti and succulent potting mix


Written by, gardening expert, Melinda Myers.  Each month Melinda will feature a low maintenance plant perfect for beginning and experienced gardeners looking for attractive easy care plants.  Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience.  She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Low Maintenance Plant of the Month with you!