Beaucarnea Longifolia - Knowledgebase Question

Rockwell City, IA
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Question by hannah_monta
June 3, 2007
Over the winter, my large (about 5' high, bulb fills a 15

Answer from NGA
June 3, 2007
Nolina recurvata is the "Ponytail Palm". 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.

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 soil generally minimize the probability of root rot, especially compared to 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.

These plants are typically propagated by seeds, not by offsets, but you can try to remove one or two of the babies from the trunk. If they have their own roots, they will grow on their own; no roots and it is not likely they will live.

Hope this answers all your questions!

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