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Ponytail Palm- Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#73

The deceptively named Ponytail Palm is in fact not a palm at all, but a relative of the yucca plant! This semi-succulent plant requires less care than you may expect.

Who wouldn't love to have a low maintenance "palm" in their collection?!


Botanical Name: Beaucarnea recurvata (some call it Nolina 'recurvata' also)

Common Names: Ponytail Palm, Elephant Foot, Bottle Palm

The Ponytail Palm is characteristic in its long green leaves that resemble a ponytail with a bulbous base or caudex. There are different cultivars and varieties out there, including variegated or dwarf sizes, but those are harder to find in plant shops. You will mostly find them labelled "Ponytail Palm" anywhere you look.


Sun Requirements:

The more sunlight you can give this plant, the better! They prefer to be in bright indirect light or even direct light. A south window would be best for that type of light but a west window would be next best. In my experience they can also tolerate medium light as well. For example, the plant picture in this blog is from my friend Sierra. She currently has it off of a bright, indirect window and it has grown a decent amount in the last couple years!

If you need any guidance to understanding light or are in need of a grow light to help increase your light, check out the links!


Water Requirement

Even though this is called a palm, don't let that fool you! The elephant foot-like base is used for water storage so they don't need be watered as often as you may expect. It is best to think of these as succulent-like plants and water less often. All of that means this is a low water plant that should be watered only when the plant is dry. I also reduce watering in winter which is common with almost all houseplants. If you aren't quite sure if you are providing too little or too much water, I would highly recommend trying a Moisture Meter Reader. It is a great tool to measure the moisture until you understand the watering cadence needed for your conditions.


This plant does not like a lot of humidity, so it is okay to keep it in a low to zero humidity environment. This makes sense given this plant is more succulent-like.


Fertilizer

As I always say, there are LOTS of ways to fertilize plants. Unless you are extremely over-fertilizing your plant, there isn't necessarily a wrong way to do this. I currently use Fox Farm's Grow Big Liquid Fertilizer and I normally fertilize every 2 weeks when I water my plants, starting around the end of February through October. I honestly probably only fertilize once or twice in winter because the plant isn't as active! I use about 1/2 to 3/4 the recommended amount of fertilizer because I would rather under-fertilize than over-fertilize my plants.


The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual: "In spring and summer, feed monthly with a balanced houseplant fertilizer. In fall and winter, do not feed."


Practical Houseplant Book: "Apply a half-strength balanced liquid fertilizer once a month in spring and summer."


There are MANY ways to fertilize and it is completely up to you! There are tons of products out there you can try but an overall rule of thumb for houseplants is that it is best to under-fertilize, rather than over-fertilize. Always use the recommended amount, or less, when applying your fertilizer to houseplants.


Other Facts

  • All part of the Asparagaceae family

  • Native to parts of Mexico and South America.

  • Natively these can grow upwards of 15 ft, if not more, in the right conditions.

  • The leaves look very smooth but they actually have serrated edges and feel sharp when you touch. The leaf blades can get upwards of 5 ft long and usually are a dark green color.

  • The bulbous base of the plant will continue to get wider and taller as the plant matures as well.

  • As a houseplant, this will more than likely not bloom. Natively is does have a very showy cream/white/yellow color flower cluster that can reach up to 3 ft tall. It looks similar to some Yucca flowers.

  • They are NOT toxic to pets. If you are interested in learning about more pet friendly plants, check out Podcast Ep#31 for more info or the corresponding blog post!

 

WANT TO LISTEN?

Go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and more! Search for Houseplant Homebody to hear this episode and MANY more! You can also listen directly on my website under the Podcast page!


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Always written with extreme plant passion!

Love, Holly (Owner & Creator of Houseplant Homebody LLC)

 

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