Having houseplants would surely give a fresh look for your house. As an additional benefit, the air around the house would also be healthier. This is why many people even try to cultivate the tropical plant in their garden and inside the house. While some houseplants may be difficult to handle, there are varieties that are easy to take care.
One of them is the ponytail palm. With an exotic decorative look, the ponytail palm care is suitable for those who like to plant but has limited time to garden. Before learning how to take care of it, you might want to know the characteristics of the plant a little bit deeper.
Is It Really A Palm?
The appearance of this ponytail palm is somehow cheerful with long thin curly leaves hanging from the top of the tree. If you look closer, the leathery leaves are serrated and often look spiky. What makes this plant unique is the bulbous trunk that bulges on the bottom side of the tree. It might be the reason behind the nickname “elephant’s foot”.
Coming from the Asparagaceae family, the plant’s scientific name is Beaucarnea recurvata. Though it is widely known as ponytail palm, this plant is neither a palm nor a tree. In fact, its relation is closer to a succulent. The bulging trunk on the bottom of the plant is called as a caudex, a place where the plant stores its food and nutrition.
The plant is considered an evergreen variety because it can live for a long time and does not shed in a particular season. Matured ponytail palm can go as old as 10 years old, where it finally blooms small white flowers in a panicle formation. Occasionally, the plant is an object for potted bonsai with 1,2 meters of height. However, when the ponytail palm care is done naturally outdoors, the plant can grow up to 5 meters in height.
The Right Environment to Grow Ponytail Palm
The plant is native from subtropical Mexico in southern North America. Because of the durability to face its natural weather, ponytail palm tends to be strong and can withstand drought or warmer season. Whether you are planting it on the ground or pot, the temperature should not be lower than -5˚ C.
It needs plenty of sunlight or at least under shades that receive 4 – 5 hours of sunlight every day. Its succulent characteristics mean that this plant does not favor too much water. Overwatering can cause parts of the plant to rot and eventually invite mealybugs and other mites.
Planting and Caring for Ponytail Palm
Just like planting other succulents, the perfect soil mix, water amount, and temperature are several aspects to consider in ponytail palm care. Healthy plant care would also prevent pests and diseases to happen. If you are planting it indoors, a clay pot with holes and base dish on the bottom is the best container for the plant.
Soil and Fertilizer
The best soil for the ponytail palm care is the cacti and succulent potting mix. It may consist of sand, soil, and perlite to imitate the natural habitat of the plant which is more like a sandy desert. The ponytail palm soil needs to have a good drainage property so that the plant does not sit too long in water.
Though the plant has an excellent ability to store nutrition, you can still add fertilizer at least once a year in spring. The right fertilizer to use is the one that is appropriate for cacti. Still, the plant would live healthily as long as you don’t overwater it.
Light and Temperature
Most of the year, the plant would grow normally as long as it gets the right amount of light. In summer, make sure that the plant drenches several hours under the full sun. In freezing winter, the use of artificial or grow light can be a major help to avoid the plant getting hardy. It is also recommended to place the ponytail palm away from windows in the cold season.
Once you water the plant, you need to wait until the soil is fairly dry before the next watering schedule. Wait until at least 1 – 2 inches of the topsoil to be completely dry. To let it maximize the water absorption, soak the plant for several minutes before throwing out the remaining water on the pot’s dish.
Repotting Ponytail Palm to See It Grow
It would take a rather long time for the plant’s flower to bloom and to wait for the offset to come out. If you do find a small offset shooting from around the ponytail palm’s base, it may mean that the plant is ready to be propagated.
Ponytail palm propagation can be done by cutting the offset and place it onto another pot. As an additional note, it is best to wait until the shoot is around 4 inches in height. Before putting it on smaller pot, you may want to see until the cut wound is healed.
As it is possible for the plant to grow tall, ponytail palm repotting would allow it to do so. The trick in repotting the ponytail palm is to check how big the roots have grown over the years. The roots are rather strong, so it may be a bit hard to pull out from the old pot. Consider getting a bigger pot that can handle the roots.
Handling Problems in Ponytail Palm Care
How to care for a ponytail palm is all about the right amount of light and water. As mentioned above, overwatering may cause the plant to rot and invite pests and diseases. The most common pest to attack ponytail palm is the spider mites. To fix the problem, you may rub a mix of water and soap onto the leaves.
Rotting ponytail palm plant can be seen from browning edges on the leaves, you can opt for ponytail palm pruning, or you can let the plant to heal internally. Remember that the plant is durable due to its succulent characteristics and its natural habitat condition. With its easy care and tropical look, the ponytail palm would definitely make a pleasing addition to your house decoration.