Beaucarnea recurvata, also known as Nolina recurvata, elephant’s foot or most commonly as the ponytail palm, is a rather odd looking houseplant. Juvenile plants look somewhat like onions with a round underside and grass-like leaves on top, while adult specimens have a thick, brown stem from which the leaves sprout like a ponytail. Keep reading for everything you need to know to grow this interesting plant in your own home!
|Easy||Direct sunlight||When dry (often)||Well-draining|
Beaucarnea recurvata care
As with all houseplants, the best way to figure out how to care for your ponytail palm is to keep in mind the way it naturally grows. Despite the name, this plant is not actually a palm – it’s closer related to agaves. It naturally occurs in dry areas in Mexico and uses its thick trunk to store water. This gives us some good care guidelines that are described below!
Beaucarnea recurvata location & temperature
Because the ponytail palm naturally occurs in very sunny areas, it will appreciate being placed in a bright spot with plenty of direct light. It will also survive in less bright conditions, but growth will be slower and the plant won’t thrive as much as it will with direct light.
Temperature-wise, the ponytail palm is not too demanding. It’s actually quite hardy, which means it can be kept outside during the summer months in most areas. This is a great way to allow it to catch some extra sunlight and encourage growth!
Planting Beaucarnea recurvata
As mentioned earlier, this plant naturally occurs in dry areas and stores water in its trunk.
- Like cacti, ponytail palms need well-draining soil: if the soil stays wet for too long after watering root rot can become a problem.
- A cactus mix is a great option, or you can mix regular potting soil with plenty of sand and/or perlite.
- Be sure to also always use a pot with a drainage hole instead of a closed pot to help improve drainage.
- The ponytail palm is a very slow grower, which means that even with proper light and watering, it doesn’t have to be repotted often. If your watering schedule or the lighting is incorrect, there will be almost no growth at all.
- A healthy, growing plant can be repotted once every two years or when it outgrows its current container. Over the years, this plant can become quite large!
Watering beaucarnea recurvata
Establishing a good watering schedule for your ponytail palm can be a bit tricky.
- Watering frequency is similar to cacti and succulents.
- It’s important to let the soil fully dry out between waterings to prevent any rot. How long this takes depends on the time of year.
- During Summer, watering every week is usually necessary. During Winter, only watering once a month or so is usually fine.
- Humidity is not a huge deal for ponytail palms, but the air shouldn’t be overly dry.
Feeding Beaucarnea recurvata
Ponytail palms don’t require much fertilizer and may do well without any at all. In fact, feeding too much is not a good idea and can lead to damage. Feeding a few times during Spring and Summer is all this plant needs. A regular fertilizer should work fine for this.
Buying Beaucarnea recurvata
It shouldn’t be too difficult to find this plant in most larger garden/plant stores. If you live in a warmer area, you may find it in the garden area. When buying a ponytail palm, be sure to keep in mind the very slow growth. If you prefer the look of the adult plant, it’s best to pay a little more for an older specimen or you may end up waiting a very long time for it to grow.
You can also buy ponytail palms online!
Is ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) toxic to cats and dogs?
The ASPCA and other sources list Beaucarnea recurvata as non-toxic to both cats and dogs. Yay!
If you have any more questions about ponytail palm care or want to share your own experiences with this rather curious houseplant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.