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How to Grow Ponytail Palm — Beaucarnea

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Beaucarnea–commonly called Ponytail palm–is an evergreen palm that is native to semi-desert southern regions. Its swollen base and tuft of strap-shaped leather leaves give it specimen quality. It can be grown indoors in bright light.

Young plants are single-stemmed often with a flared base. Once a tree flowers it will begin to branch. Trees can grow from 3 to 25 feet tall. Leaves are evergreen, linear, and strap-shaped; they are leathery with finely serrated margins.

Beaucarnea is a genus of flowering plants native to Mexico and Central America. 

Get to know Beaucarnea

  • Plant type: Palm native to deserts of Mexico
  • Growing Zones and range: 10-11
  • Optimal growing temperature: day 68° to 75°F (20°-24°C), night 50° to 60°F (10°-26°C).
  • Height and width: Mature plants can reach 3 feet (90cm) tall.
  • Foliage: Grassy clump of narrow leaves growing from a swollen, enlarged base. As plant ages, the base expands and the plant develops a greenish-brown trunk topped with a tuft of thin, leathery, strap-like, green leaves. Ponytail palm produces only one flush of growth a year in spring
  • Common name: Ponytail palm, elephant foot palm
  • Botanical name: Beaucarnea recurvata
  • Family: Agavaceae
  • Origin: Semi-desert and scru southern United States to Guatemala

Where to plant Beaucarnea

  • Beaucarnea needs high to medium light.
  • Grow Beaucarnea in a well-drained cactus mix.

How to water and feed Beaucarnea

  • Water Beaucarnea thoroughly, then allow the soil to dry before you water again.
  • Fertilize Beaucarnea annually in early spring.
Beaucarnea palm

Beaucarnea care

  • Too little sun causes limp, pale leaves; move the plant to a brighter location.
  • Wait several years between repotting.

Growing Beaucarnea as a houseplant

  • Give Beuacarnea direct light, average room temperature, and low humidity.
  • Allow the soil to dry out substantially between thorough waterings; the swollen stem holds water to protect the plant against drought.
  • Fertilize once a year in spring or summer with an all-purpose feritlizer.

Beaucarnea pests and diseases

  • Spider mites and scale are problems indoors. Knock pests from the plant with a stream of water or spray with insecticidal soap.
  • Beaucarnea is sensitive to fungal diseases and stem rot.

Beaucarnea propagation

  • Separate and repot offsets in spring.
  • Sow seed in warm soil in spring.

Beaucarnea varieties to grow

  • Beaucarnea recurvata, ponytail palm. Evergreen tree grows 12 to 25 feet (4-8m) tall and 6 to 12 feet (2-4m) wide with flaring to flask-shaped base; trunk branches sparingly with age; rosetted, mid- to deep green leaves to 6 feet (1.8m) long; produces mauve-tinted creamy white flowers.
  • B.r. var. intermedia is the houseplant variety with leavfes less than 36 inches (91cm) long.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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