Care Instructions For Ponytail Palm - Tips For Growing Ponytail Palms

Ponytail palms area actually succulents, rather than palms. They can live for years in a pot and make excellent houseplants.

Three branches of a ponytail palm
(Image credit: Nadja Abele / Getty Images)
Ponytail Palm Quick Facts

Botanical name

Beauarnea recurvata


6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 m)


3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 m)

Sun exposure

Full sun

Soil requirements

Loose, well-drained

Hardiness zones

10 to 11

When to plant

Any time indoors

The ponytail palm is a unique palm tree native to parts of Mexico that can grow very tall in the wild, but that stays reasonably sized as a houseplant. Also known as elephant foot tree or bottle palm, the ponytail plant has a bare, bulbous stem with a tuft of long, narrow leaves at the top that spill over like a ponytail. Its sleek bulb-like trunk and lush, long curly leaves make it visually stunning, and the fact that a ponytail palm is forgiving and easy in its care makes this an ideal houseplant for many people.

Here we are going to cover all elements of indoor ponytail palm care, including light, water, temperature and soil requirements, as well as pruning, propagating, repotting, and overwintering.

Oddly enough, a ponytail palm tree is neither a palm nor a tree. In fact, it is a member of the Agave family and is actually a succulent. It used to be classified as Nolina recurvata, but has since changed to the current and correct Beaucarnea recurvata.

The common characteristics of this plant include a bulbous trunk, which is used to store water, and its long, hair-like leaves that grow from the top of the trunk like a ponytail, giving the plant its renowned name.

Growing Ponytail Palms

Growing ponytail palms in the home is easy. Technically, a ponytail palm tree needs bright light, but because it is such a forgiving plant, it will be okay if you give it bright light about half the time. In fact, if you keep it in low light conditions half the year and provide bright light conditions the other half the year, it will be perfectly happy.

This means that as long as you place a ponytail palm outdoors in the summer, it will tolerate any indoor light conditions you keep it in during the winter. Since this plant is a succulent, it grows best in semi-dry conditions. When growing ponytail palm as a houseplant, you should let the soil dry out significantly in between waterings.

How to Care for a Ponytail Palm

While it can be grown outside as a full-sized tree in the right climate, most people grow ponytail palms as houseplants. Keeping it in a container restricts its size. Indoor care for ponytail palm is minimal, making this a good choice for newbies.


As a desert native, ponytail palm needs bright, direct sunlight. Place it in a sunny window, preferably south-facing. You can take it outside in warmer months to get more light.


Water your ponytail palm deeply but infrequently. Let the soil dry out between watering and water even less in winter.

Temperature and Humidity

Ponytail palms do well in standard indoor temperatures. You can allow them to get cooler during winter dormancy. They do not need much humidity and tolerate dry indoor air very well.


The soil you use should be very light and drain well. Your palm will not tolerate overwatering or excess moisture in the soil. A mix designed for cactuses is a good option.


Use a cactus or succulent fertilizer once or twice during the growing season.

Problems, Pests & Diseases

Ponytail palms are not particularly susceptible to pests, but like any houseplant might have mealybugs, spider mites, or scale. Root rot is the most common issue for a ponytail palm. Avoid this with good drainage and by not overwatering.

How to Plant a Ponytail Palm

If you need to pot up a new ponytail palm, choose a container with adequate drainage holes. Use a light potting mix, such as those designed for cactuses or succulents. You can pot a palm any time of year if you are growing it indoors, but springtime is best.


You don’t have to spend much time pruning a ponytail palm. Remove any dead or dying leaves any time of year to tidy its appearance.


There is no easy way to propagate an indoor ponytail palm. Rarely, a plant might produce an offset at the base. If you see a ponytail palm pup, you can snip it off and repot it. It's typical to propagate ponytail palm by seed, but if you're growing it in a container, you're not likely to get ponytail palm flowers or fruit.


Ponytail palms make your life easier by being perfectly content in their little containers. You won’t need to repot it very often, maybe every few years. Choose a container that leaves about one inch (2.5 cm). of space between the base of the trunk and the edge of the pot.


For winter, reduce sunlight, water, and temperature. Move the palm to a spot with indirect light, and if possible, let temperatures drop to 55 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit (12.8 to 15.5 Celsius). Water less frequently and let the soil dry thoroughly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Ponytail Palms Toxic to Cats or Dogs?

Ponytail palm is a great choice for pet owners because it is not toxic to dogs or cats.

Should I Cut the Brown Tips Off My Ponytail Palm?

You can cut off brown tips on the leaves, but if there is a lot of discoloration, remove the entire leaf.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.

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