The Q&A Archives: when can I put my bottle palm in the ground?

Question: At one of your stores, I bought two bottle palms. They are approx. 2-3 ft. tall. At what size/height should I plant them in the ground? And what is the growth rate for them? Thanks

Answer: Ponytail makes a large and handsome houseplant, doing well even in rooms with air conditioning as long as it has bright light. It's a good specimen plant for a rock garden in a dry, warm climate. They do well even in rainy climates like Florida as long as the soil is sandy and extremely well drained.

Ponytail palm is often sold as a potted plant for the interesting appearance of its swollen base, which is in fact an adaptation for storing water during times of drought. It is, of course, not a palm, but related to the yuccas and century plants.

The ponytail is a weird palmlike succulent with a greatly expanded base and a single trunk with a rosette of long, straplike leaves that arch and droop. With age, the trunk eventually develops a few branches. Ponytail can get up to 30 ft (9.1 m) tall and the base up to 12 ft (3.7 m) across, but houseplants generally remain less than 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) tall. The leaves are thin and flat, up to 6 ft (1.8 m) long and only 1 in (2.5 cm) wide. They are clustered in dense tufts at the ends of the branches and arch upward, then droop downward. The plant looks a little like a palm, and a little like a big onion sitting on the ground with a single stalk growing up and sporting a parasol of drooping, straplike leaves. Flowers are produced only on large specimens. They are creamy white and inconspicuous individually but borne in large showy upright clusters that extend above the leaves.

B. recurvata var. intermedia with shorter leaves, less than 3 ft (0.9 m) long, is the most commonly cultivated variety.

Plant at any size in full sun. This plant is drought tolerant so water deeply but infrequently.

Best wishes with your plants!

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