Ponytail Palm, Elephant’s Foot Palm, Elephant Foot Tree, Bottle Palm, Palma Culona and Monja.
Scientific Binomial Name
Description of Ponytail Palm, Beaucarnea recurvata
The Ponytail Palm is not a true palm or even closely related to one of them. There are Ponytail Palms living in Mexico that are officially documented to be over 350 years old. It has a single trunk-like stem that can grow up to 30 feet tall. The base of the bulbous trunk looks swollen. The bark of the trunk at maturity turns a brownish-gray. With some imagination the base of the trunk resembles an elephant’s foot.
The leathery leaves grow in long strap-like shapes that first arch upwards and then droop or curl down. The leaves are thin and usually only about 1 inch wide. The leaves have a feathery or stringy look at the bottom half so altogether some people see these looking like a pony’s tail.
The Ponytail Palm is a hardy drought tolerant slow growing plant that is easy to grow both indoors and out. It will be many years before the first branches appear.
Mature Size: Outdoors it may grow up to 30 feet high but inside when in a container they usually grow to about 8 feet. They can grow from 6 to 12 feet wide.
Pot Size: Use a minimum of a 3 gallon container that drains well.
Uses: The Ponytail Palm is successfully grown as a houseplant and is often used in open areas of offices. Its color, size and hardiness make it one of the best office plants. It can do well outdoors in temperate climates and is often used in xeriscape settings.
Growing Conditions for Ponytail Palm, Beaucarnea recurvata
Light: It does better in full sun but can also grow in partial shade.
Soil: Use a well draining soil mix.
Flowers: After 10 years it can produce small white flowers in the late spring or early summer.
Hardiness Zones: 8b – 11
General Care for Ponytail Palm, Beaucarnea recurvata
Water: Although this is a large plant you still need to be careful not to overwater it. Water deeply but infrequently and only when it has completely dried out first.
Fertilizer: Twice a year you may want to apply a palm fertilizer that is a continuous release formula.
Pests and Diseases: Watch for mealybugs and cochineal insects.
Pruning: Although the ends of the leaves may look a little ragged these should not be trimmed off or they may die.
Propagation: The most successful propagation is from offsets.
Repotting: It can be repotted to larger pots but it must always keep all it’s roots when this is done.
Medicinal and Other Uses
The Beaucarnea recurvata or Ponytail Palm does not have a patent but some of its cultivars such as ‘Gold Star’ do.
Some commonly used synonyms for Beaucarnea recurvata include Nolina recurvata, Beaucarnea inermis, Beaucarnea tuberculata, Dasylirion inerme and Dasylirion recuvatum.
The Beaucarnea recurvata is actually closely related to the Yucca family so they grow well together in similar environments.
Although it may seem unlikely the Ponytail Palms will actually attract birds and butterflies.