The Q&A Archives: Pony Tail Palm

Question: Hi,

I recently bought a potted pony tail palm. Its small in height, but pretty wide. There are 3 bulbs in this one pot. But, they are covered with rocks that seem to be glued together?? Actauly bought from Home Depot! How do I take care of this as far as water, etc? Can I take each bulb out and replant each one in separate pots? If I can do this, what how do I replant it? This is one of my first house plants and I just want to take good care of it! Thanks.

Answer: Overwatering will cause a quick death of your ponytail palm so it is potted in cactus mix, which is like cement when it dries! When it is thoroughly wet, though, it will be crumbly and you will be able to brush it away from each of the plants if you decide to separate the group and repot them in individual pots.

The "Ponytail Palm" is really not a palm at all. It is a member of the Lilaceae (lily family), and is known by several names. It has earned the name "elephant's foot" because of its bulbous base. Because of its base and thin trunk have some people call it a bottle palm. It is native to the desert of Mexico and is somewhat of a curious interior landscaping plant.

A sturdy plant that can be used as a single specimen usually in containers 14 inches or larger, or planted in groups in 6- to 10-inch pots to appear more bushlike. Single specimens, range in height from 6 to 18 feet tall.

What makes the "Ponytail" unique is its large base and head of pendulous, smooth-edged flat leaves, There are NO TWO specimens alike.

Ponytail's are native to the dry Mexican climate, this habitat allows it to survive interior winter heat very well, as long the plant doesn't receive too frequent waterings, and never allow water to sit in the bottom of the saucer or pot. An interesting fact is that Nolina recurvata stores its water in its base.

A sandy-mix or cactus soil minimizes the probability of root rot and is preferred over the peaty mixes normally used in most tropicals. Specifically, allow the soil to dry well between waterings, and if you have any doubt on whether or not to water the plant, skip it until the next week.

Dry, brown foliage, a shriveled stem or desiccated roots are usually signs of underwatering. If you are overwatering, we normally see light new growth, stem rot or root rot will appear.

Light requirements for ponytails are pretty easy to remember if you think of where it is native to - the Mexico deserts. Provide bright indirect light to full sun. Any window space - particularly one facing north will suit the light requirements of this high-light plant. For optimum performance, however, full sun is best.

Generally, the ponytail is insect free, but on occasion does attract mealybugs, spider mites and scale.

Nolina recurvata ? the "Ponytail Palm" is a plant to enjoy. You just provide plenty of light and water it less frequently than you think necessary, and this plant will add a unique beauty to your interior.

Hope this answers all your questions!

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