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Ponytail Palm care – How to Grow Beaucarnea Recurvata

Ponytail palm (beaucarnea recurvata) is not actually a palm, but a succulent in the Asparagaceae family. It is easy to care for and makes an impressive looking plant, particularly if you have one with multiple stems.

The plant has a bulb-like trunk with the texture of elephant skin and long curling leaves. The bulbous trunk stores water and the growth habit of the leaves makes it easy to see why people call it a ponytail palm.

The plant is very forgiving and adapts well to many different light conditions indoors. As long as you don’t over-water it, you should have great success growing this unusual plant

If you are looking for a plant which is great for those that don’t have a green thumb, ponytail palm is a good choice for you. It is perfect for those new to growing succulents.

Large elephant foot palm plant on a table near a window with home decor nearby.

Facts about ponytail palm

Brush up on your knowledge of this pretty plant with these fun facts. Some may surprise you!

  • Family: Asparagaceae – includes asparagus, agave, dracaena, hosta, and a number of other succulents
  • Botanical name: beaucarnea recurvata
  • Type of plant: evergreen shrub/tree in the succulent family
  • Common names: ponytail palm, elephant foot tree, bottle palm, ponytail plant, ponytail palm tree, sometimes called nolina recurvata
  • Native to:  southeastern Mexico and Central America. In its natural habitat, it typically grows in rocky areas and scrublands.
  • Height: Outdoors, the plant can reach a height of 15 to 20 feet (4.5 to 6 meters) or even taller. However, as a houseplant it usually tops out at 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters).
  • Hardiness zones:  It will only overwinter outdoors in zones 9-11. In other zones, grow it as an indoor plant.
  • Bloom time: It is unusual for a ponytail palm grown indoors to bloom.
  • Toxicity: generally considered non-toxic to humans and pets.
  • Customs: beaucarnea recurvata is considered a symbol of good luck and austerity.

Ponytail palm on a table near a lamp and statue.

Ponytail palm care tips

Beaucarnea recurvata is a unique and attractive plant known for its long, slender leaves that resemble a cascading ponytail.  With a distinctive swollen base and slow growth, it makes an excellent choice for both indoor and outdoor gardening.

Here are some growing tips.

Sunlight needs for ponytail palm

In its native habitat, beaucarnea recurvata sometimes grows under a thin canopy of taller trees. For this reason, it doesn’t need as much light as some other succulents.

This make it ideal for growing indoors. Bright, indirect light will do fine, such as near an easterly or south-facing window.

Bottle palm in a white pot near a sunny window.

The plant will also benefit from a summer outdoors, where it can enjoy more sunlight. Take care, though, since too much sunlight can cause the leaves to burn.

Watering requirements for beaucarnea recurvata:

Related to yuccas, ponytail palm can go for a year without water in the wild. Although this is not the case indoors, it is important to be very careful not to water the plant too much.

When watering ponytail palm, use the “soak and drain” method.  To do this, give the plant a really good soak, allowing the water to drain out of the drain hole in the bottom of the pot.

Blue watering can ready to water a ponytail palm.

Don’t water again until the soil starts to get quite dry on the top few inches. During the winter season the plant is dormant, so cut back watering to about once a month.

The bulbous trunk actually stores water, which makes it an ideal houseplant.

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Soil needs

Like all succulents, a well draining soil mix is needed for ponytail palm since the plant is prone to root rot.

You can choose a specially formulated soil for succulents. If you don’t have this, add gravel or coarse sand to ordinary potting soil to enhance drainage.

Ponytail palm in a pot with a garden spade and text reading ponytail palm soil requirements.

Beaucarnea recurvata likes a neutral soil with a pH about 6.5 – 7.5.

How to fertilize your plant

Fertilize your ponytail palm sparingly, (about once a month) during the growing season in spring and summer. These plants are not heavy feeders, and excessive fertilization can lead to overgrowth.

Avoid fertilizing during the dormant winter months.

Look for a fertilizer that with a balanced N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) ratio, or use a diluted succulent fertilizer during the growing season (spring and summer).

Dilute the fertilizer to half or quarter strength and feed according to the package instructions. Too much fertilizer can result in salts building up in the soil, potentially harming the plant.

Humidity and ideal temperature range 

Warm, dry temperatures are best. Keep the plant in a room with temperatures between 65-75°F (18-24°C).

Ponytail palms can tolerate occasional drops in temperature but should be protected from frost.

These plants are adaptable to different humidity levels, but they generally prefer average humidity. They can thrive in drier indoor conditions.

Growth habit

Ponytail palm will begin to grow its enlarged base when still quite small. To keep its size indoors, don’t repot it too often.

Bulbous stem of a ponytail palm.

Beaucarnea recurvata actually enjoys being pot bound.

The plant grows with one to several swollen trunks at the base for water storage. This will allow it to survive dry conditions.

At the top of the swollen trunk is a dense rosette of narrow, thin leaves. The plant is a very slow grower.

Plants with multiple growing stems are the most attractive since the leaves at the top are larger and more fluffy. When the trunk has multiple stems, each has its own set of leaves!

This can be done at home by cutting the trunk (take care doing this!) or purchasing a plant with multiple trunks.

Ponytail palm with multiple stems at top.

Ponytail palm flowers

The ponytail palm is not known for frequent or showy blooming. In fact, it is relatively rare for indoor-grown ponytail palms to produce flowers.

When the plant does flower it is likely to be on specimens grown outdoors after many years.

Ponytail palm flowers are small, cream-colored, and arranged in clusters on long stems. The flowering structure emerges from the center of the plant.

When flowering, the plant may produce seed which can be used for ponytail palm propagation.

Flowers of a mature ponytail palm plant.

Ponytail palm problems, diseases and insects

Beaucarnea recurvata is generally a trouble-free plant, but it can be susceptible to pests and diseases under certain conditions.

Like most succulents, root rot caused from over-watering is something to be on the look out for. 

Mealybugs, spider mites, and scale are insects that can be a problem. Mealy bugs show up as tiny white insects that have a cotton- like look to them.  

Scale insects are found on the stems of succulents and are quite hard. They can be scraped off with a fingernail. 

Pruning and trimming the plant

A common question from readers is “should I cut the brown tips off my ponytail palm?” The answer is “yes.” This is a part of the plant maintenance.

Under-watering or not enough humidity can make the tips of the leaves go brown. and sometime the entire leaf dies and should be removed.

Use clean and sharp scissors that have been sanitized to avoid the risk of introducing infections to the plant.

Trim the dead or damaged leaves at the base, as close to the main stem as possible. Make a clean and straight cut without leaving any jagged edges. This helps the plant heal more efficiently.

Lady trimming the brown leaves of a ponytail palm with clean scissors.

Trim any brown tips at an angle, making a clean cut. Cut the tips just above the point where the leaf is no longer healthy. Avoid cutting into the green, healthy portions of the leaves if possible.


Ponytail palm is generally considered non-toxic to humans and pets. It is classified as a safe plant, and its sap is not known to be harmful.

However, it’s essential to note that while the ponytail palm is not toxic, it’s always a good practice to keep plants out of reach of pets and small children.

Even though many plants are considered safe, children and animals like to chew on them. This might give mild affects once they are ingested.

How to propagate beaucarnea recurvata

Offsets and seeds are the main methods used to propagate ponytail palm.

The plant may produce pups or side shoots, around the base of the main trunk. These babies can be separated and propagated into new plants.

If  you are lucky enough to have your plant flower, you can collect seeds, or purchase ponytail palm seeds.

Plant the seeds in a well-draining potting mix at a shallow depth and water the soil lightly.

Where to buy ponytail palm

Check the garden center of both Lowe’s and Home Depot. They often have ponytail palm for sale. I found my plant at a small local garden center.

The Farmer’s Market is a great place to purchase succulents. The plant is also available online:

Be sure to check out my tips for buying succulents. This gives information on what to look for both locally and when buying online.

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Ponytail palm near a pink window and words How to Grow Ponytail Palm.

Yield: 1 happy houseplant

How to Grow Ponytail Palm

Ponytail palm on a table near a lamp and statue.

Beaucarnea recurvata is an easy to care for succulent with a bulbous trunk an fluffy leaves on the top. It has the common names of bottle plant, elephant trunk plant and ponytail plant. These growing tips will make sure your plant survives.

Active Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Difficulty easy
Estimated Cost $10


  • 1 ponytail plant
  • Succulent fertilizer
  • Cacti and Succulent soil
  • I pot


  • hose or watering can


    1. Sunlight needs: Will benefit from a summer outdoors. Give it bright indirect sun indoors the rest of the year.
    2. Watering requirement: Water well and then allow to dry out on the top layer of soil. The bulbous trunk holds water so don't over-water the plant.
    3. Fertilizing: Once a month during the growing season with diluted half strength succulent fertilizer.
    4. Growing Season: spring and early summer. Dormant in winter.
    5. Flowers: Rarely blooms indoors.
    6. Propagation: seeds and offsets.
    7. Cold Hardiness: cold hardy in zones 9-11. For colder zones, treat as a houseplant.
    8. Trim brown leaf tips with clean, sharp scissors.
    9. Monitor for mealybugs, aphids and scale insects.
    10. Toxicity: considered safe for dogs and cats.


Be careful of overwatering. The plant is susceptible to root rot.

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