How to Plant and Grow Ponytail Palm

This houseplant can grow to the size of a small tree indoors.

Equipped with a massive bulbous trunk for storing water, ponytail palm tolerates long stretches of dry conditions. It makes an easy-to-grow houseplant perfect for tabletops, nightstands, and coffee tables.

Also known as elephant's foot tree, ponytail palm is not a palm at all. Instead, it's a succulent plant mistaken for a palm due to its single leafless trunk and the mass of leaves that emerge from the top of the plant. You can limit its growth by planting it in a small container and not repotting it to a large container.

Ponytail Palm Overview

Genus Name Beaucarnea recurvata
Common Name Ponytail Palm
Plant Type Houseplant
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 4 feet
Special Features Low Maintenance
Propagation Division
Problem Solvers Drought Tolerant

Where to Plant Ponytail Palm

A desert plant, ponytail palm is adapted to bright sun. Place it near a window where it will receive as much light as possible. This plant can be moved outside for the summer. Transition it slowly from indoors to outdoors by placing it in part shade for several days before moving it to a full-sun location.

How and When to Plant Ponytail Palm

Plant ponytail palms in shallow pots. You can plant it any time as an indoor plant. It won't grow outside in any Zone other than 10 or 11. Keep it watered and in sunlight and it will do fine.

Ponytail Palm Care Tips

Ponytail palm is a very easy houseplant to care for. It's slow-growing, so you'll need to be patient.


Ponytail palm grows best in full sun. Give it as much bright light as possible when grown indoors.

Soil and Water

A quick-draining soil mix for cacti is a great choice for ponytail palm in containers. To create quick drainage, you can incorporate sand or small gravel into regular potting mix. If grown outdoors, it can be planted in sandy soil with rich organic properties.

Watering ponytail palm differs from summer to winter. In summer, water ponytail palm deeply but infrequently, allowing the plant to dry out before watering again. Reduce watering significantly in winter. In its native environment, ponytail palm receives little or no water in winter. Mimic those conditions by watering the plant deeply every few weeks in winter.

Temperature and Humidity

A little cool weather is fine for ponytail palms—but no lower than 50ºF. It does best in dry conditions with temperatures above 60ºF.


Fertilizing is rarely necessary, but plants can be fertilized once or twice during spring or summer. Use a general all-purpose plant food and follow manufacturer's instructions for the amount to use.


Brown leaf tips are common in winter and aren't cause for alarm. Simply snip off the brown ends to clean up the plant's appearance.

Potting and Repotting Ponytail Palm

The size of your pot will determine the size of your tree. If you want to let it grow bigger, repot it after a few years to give it more room. Confining its roots will keep it healthy and at the size you want.

Pests and Problems

Ponytail palms may have the same problems as other houseplants, including spider mites and mealybugs. Use horticultural soap or oil to eliminate these pests without using chemicals.

Leaf spots, root rot, and bacterial leaf streak are unusual but possible infections. Too much water is often the cause of these issues.

How to Propagate Ponytail Palm

It's difficult to propagate ponytail palm, since there aren't any flowers with seeds on indoor plants. Sometimes you can get the offsets on the trunk to root, but it's not easy.

Types of Ponytail Palm

'Gold Star' Ponytail Palm

Gold Star ponytail plant
Denny Schrock

Beaucarnea recurvata 'Gold Star' is an exciting selection that has leaves streaked in chartreuse. It does best in high-light situations. It grows 8 feet tall. Zones 9-11.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How fast does ponytail palm grow?

    This desert native is slow-growing, ranging in size from less than a foot tall to more than 6 feet when grown indoors. Outdoors, it can grow up to 30 feet.

  • Why is ponytail palm sometimes called "elephant's foot?"

    When ponytail palm is planted, there's a large, bulbous stem that can be seen rising up from the soil. It's thought to look like an elephant's foot.

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