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How to Make a Ponytail Palm Grow Taller: Tips and Advice

Learn about light, water, planting, and more to help your Ponytail Palm thrive.

Ponytail Palm

Adding a ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) to your home can instantly draw attention and introduce a touch of the tropics. In their natural habitat, these beauties can reach impressive heights of up to 30 feet tall.

With such a towering height out in nature, you may be curious as to how tall you can grow a ponytail palm in your home. While they won't tower to the heights of their wild counterparts, you can certainly encourage your ponytail palm to grow taller.

Here's our guide to Ponytail Palm growth...

Ponytail Palm Growth Rate

Contrary to its name, the Ponytail Palm isn't a palm tree at all. Rather, it belongs to the succulent family, closely related to the Agave.

Fun fact: The distinctive shape and coloring of the plant have earned it another unique nickname: the "Elephant Foot Tree".

These plants take a slow and steady approach. Typically, they add around 6 inches in height annually. However, provide them with the right conditions and they may surprise you.

Well-draining soil, ample bright, indirect sunlight, and consistent watering, with breaks to let the soil dry, is the formula for a thriving ponytail palm that can grow up to 3 feet every year.

When cozied up indoors, a mature Ponytail Palm rarely grows more than 4 feet tall. When cultivated in garden landscapes, they tend to cap off at around 10 feet tall — the perfect hiding spot for your feline companion.

Despite the plant's inability to grow to elevated heights in your home, they promise to look fabulous for a lifetime. In fact, these remarkable plants have a lifespan of several decades.

Ponytail Palm
Typically, Ponytail Palms will add around 6 inches in height annually.

How Much Light Does the Ponytail Palm Need?

Similar to their succulent family members, Ponytail Palms are light lovers. They grow best in bright, indirect light for around eight hours daily when kept indoors as houseplants.

If you wish to give them an outdoor break during summer, introduce them gradually. Let your Ponytail Palms adjust on a sheltered porch before exposing them to indirect outdoor light. Remember, outdoor light is more potent and can be overwhelming for indoor-adapted plants.

When indoors, place your Ponytail Palm near a south or west-facing window to satisfy their light cravings. Brighter light fuels their growth, but they can still manage with moderate light levels.

A key tip is to watch out for any leaning toward the light source. Rotate your Ponytail Palm regularly to keep their growth upright. As your plant matures, it will become more tolerant of direct sunlight, but keep an eye out for any signs of leaf scorching.

Ponytail Palm
The Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is a tropical plant, and grows best in bright, indirect light.

How Often Should You Water Your Ponytail Palm

Watering your Ponytail Palm demands a delicate balance. Remember, these plants are succulents; they store their hydration in their bulbous base and stem. Overwatering puts them at risk, as it can lead to root rot.

For potted Ponytail Palms, you want containers with drainage holes to prevent root rot and your plant from potentially dying. And don't forget a well-draining potting soil mix to support their water needs.

Ponytail palms prefer to dry out completely between watering sessions. To ensure the soil is completely dry, press your finger into it. Is the soil dry throughout, reaching the roots? If yes, it's time to water. If you sense any moisture, wait a few days and retest with the "touch test" before watering.

Generally, you should water every 7-14 days in the growing season.

Stepping outside, garden-planted Ponytail Palms have a different watering schedule. Regular rain usually takes care of them. However, in dry places, a small drink every 2-3 three weeks is enough.

Remember, this is just a start. Your Ponytail Palm may have its own schedule. Pot size, soil type, where it grows, and your home environment all matter. More light and warmth? They'll want more water. Bigger plants and cooler temperatures? They'll need less.

How to Plant Ponytail Palms

You're likely reading this with that glorious Ponytail Palm sitting next to you, freshly bought from the nursery. Now, you're eager to plant it and show off your latest addition.

Knowing how to plant a ponytail palm also means understanding the best types of pots and soil mix for these plants. The right pot and potting mix for your ponytail palm make all the difference.

Opt for well-draining soil, the kind that's ideal for succulents and desert plants. If you have potting soil, sand, and perlite on hand, you can create your own desert soil blend by mixing equal parts of each.

For the pot, choose one that is made of terracotta or another clay-based material. These pots are porous and help the soil dry out faster – a beneficial trait for your cacti and succulents. Most importantly, the pot should have drainage holes at the base.

With all that information under your belt, it's time to plant. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Pick a slightly larger pot for indoor planting (2 inches larger in diameter) or a sunny spot with well-draining soil for outdoors.

  2. Carefully invert the potted palm, tap to loosen the root ball, and gently remove any excess soil from the roots.

  3. Add succulent potting mix to the pot (indoors) or enhance the garden soil with organic compost for extra nutrients and aeration (outdoors).

  4. Place the root ball into the hole, ensuring the palm sits at the same height it did in the pot.

  5. Spread the roots out to prevent crowding. For baby plants, let their wide bases protrude slightly.

  6. Give it a generous water to help it settle. Place it near a well-lit window (indoors) or provide some shade initially outdoors (if transitioning from indoors).

How to Maintain a Thriving Ponytail Palm

Growing thriving and happy Ponytail Palms is a task that gardeners of all experience levels can handle.

How to Feed Ponytail Palms

A well-balanced fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season will provide the plant with essential nutrients, which can help it grow taller and thrive.

Remember to dilute the balanced fertilizer by half and to skip feeding during the winter.

How to Prune Ponytail Palms

Generally, a ponytail palm plant doesn't need pruning due to its slow growth. However, to encourage multiple trunks, trim the growing tip. Little stems will sprout around the cut edge.

As it ages, yellow or brown leaves are normal, which you can snip off at the base with clean pruning shears or scissors.

How to Boost Humidity

Ponytail Palms prefer low-to-average humidity (around 40-50%). It's not too fussy about humidity, but it will appreciate an occasional misting to help remove dust from its leaves.

How (and When) to Repot a Ponytail Palm

Ponytail Palms prefer the cozy confines of a pot or planter. Depending on its size and root density, repotting every 2-3 years can give your ponytail palm a boost of nutrients and encourage fresh growth.

If you want both height and width growth, choose a slightly larger pot. Bear in mind that larger palms can become a bit unwieldy if not properly managed.

When you repot your plant, leave about an inch of space between the trunk and the pot rim.

Common Problems, Causes, and Solutions

Caring for Ponytail Palms is a breeze, but a few hiccups can occur along the way. Luckily, there are solutions!

Yellow Leaf Tips

  • How to spot this issue: You'll notice yellowing on the tips of the leaves, as well as a droopy appearance.

  • Cause: This is often the first sign of overwatering. It could also be a lack of sunlight.

  • Solution: If overwatering is the culprit, you'll notice that the soil is very damp or wet. The remedy for this is to withhold water until the soil is completely dry and reduce the amount and frequency of water you give the plant.

Browning Leaves

  • How to spot this issue: You'll notice crispy, browning foliage that feels dry and fragile.

  • Cause: Excessive exposure to direct sunlight is often the cause of brown tips. These plants do best with natural, indirect light.

  • Solution: Shift your plant to a spot near a sunlit window, but one that doesn't directly catch the rays of the sun. You could also filter the natural light by placing a sheer curtain over the window.

Root and Stem Rot

  • How to spot this issue: You'll notice yellowing leaves and a mushy, brown base of the stems and roots. You may also notice a musty smell emitting from the pot.

  • Cause: Root and stem rot often arise from excessive moisture in the soil. Proper drainage is crucial for the health of Ponytail Palms.

  • Solution: Remove the affected roots and stems with clean, sharp pruning shears and repot the plant into fresh, well-draining soil. Adjust your watering schedule – give your ponytail palm a drink when the soil is dry.


Do Ponytail Palms flower as they grow?

Ponytail Palms are flowering succulents, although indoor flowering is quite rare. Flowering outdoors may be possible, but it typically takes about 30 years!

Can you propagate a Ponytail Palm plant?

Indeed! You can propagate a Ponytail Palm plant using methods like pup division, stem cuttings, or germinating seeds. These plants naturally develop side shoots called "pups" as they mature, which can be separated to grow new palms.

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