Beaucarnea recurvata: Ponytail palm

Family: Asparagaceae
Common name: Ponytail palm, Elephant’s foot, Bottle palm tree, Nolina

Beautiful plants that are rugged and masculine towards the lower half, pretty and feminine towards the upper half, Ponytail palms quite unique. They are technically not palm plants but are succulents that store water in their enlarged stem called caudex.

These enlarged stems are a striking feature of Ponytail palms, making them look like the plants are growing from a large rock. Though their purpose is to store water, these stems look dry, cracked, and fissured.

The stem tapers towards the top, where it produces a cascading fountain of long, thin, strap-like leaves that look like a ponytail. The plant grows to a height of 4-6 meters in the wild, with leaves as long as 2-3 meters. But home-grown plants only grow to about 2 meters tall.

The caudex can become as long as 3-4 meters with a diameter of 50 cms towards the base. Since these plants are essentially succulents, overwatering them can be dangerous leading to root rot and rot in the caudex too.

Ponytail palms are sun-lovers, that thrive in full bright sunlight, but they are also capable of growing well in partial shade. They can be grown as indoor plants but should be placed outdoors for a few days every week.

Ponytail palms are ideal for amateur gardeners since they don’t need regular watering or fertilization. Watering is only required once a week, and fertilization is needed only a couple of times a year. They are very slow-growing, and hence need repotting only once in 2-3 years. What more can an amateur gardener ask for?!

They make brilliant indoor plants, desktop plants, bonsai, and centerpieces for your gardens. These beautiful ornamental plants can live for many decades, bringing a majestic touch to your garden. After many years, they produce panicles for small white flowers that are quite inconspicuous. Flowering is not very common in houseplants.

Ponytail palms don’t need trimming or pruning since they grow into wonderful shapes if left to themselves. They thrive on neglect. So place them in a sunny spot and forget about them, until your visitors start complimenting you on the look of your plant.

Well-drained soil is very important for Ponytail palms to prevent root rot. They are susceptible to mealy bugs and spider mites, which can be controlled with some neem oil and soap mixture.

Propagation is through seeds, but flowering happens very rarely. Parents plants sometimes produce offsets called pups, which can be cut from the parent plant using a sharp knife and replanted.