Ponytail Palms can be such a nice addition to your houseplants, recreational area, or outdoor garden. If you want to expand your collection, read on to find more about ponytail palm propagation.
Believe it or not, ponytail palms are not true palms at all. Although it certainly looks like a palm tree, this majestic plant is actually a succulent.
Typically, ponytail palms have a big, greyish, dome-like stump or base that looks a bit like an elephant’s foot, hence, its other common name “elephant foot trees.”
From the base, it raises a thinner stem where a thick leaf crown forms. You’ve probably noticed that ponytail palms are popular as houseplants.
It’s because they really easy to maintain and have a long life. However, they can be planted on the ground outside too.
Before learning how to propagate them, here are some quick facts about ponytail palms.
- Scientific Name: Beaucarnea recurvata
- Common Names: Ponytail Plant, Elephant Foot, Bottle Palm, Ponytail Palm Tree
- Height: 80 to 150 cm when grown indoors but can reach up to 30 feet outdoors
- Native in: South America, primarily Mexico
- USDA Hardiness Zone: 9a to 11b
- Growth: Very Slow
- Life Expectancy: Can last up to 100 years
- Light Needs: Full Sun to Filtered Light
- Water Needs: Drench, Infrequent Watering, Let Dry,
- Humidity: Average, Low Humidity
- Temperature: Cool, 20 degrees F (-6.7 °C) to 45 degrees F (+7.2 °C)
How to Propagate Ponytail Palms
There are only a few known ways to propagate ponytail palms, namely through seeds and cuttings.
Although there are not many methods to multiply your ponytail palms, these ways are easy to accomplish and will reward you of a new long-living plant.
Propagating Ponytail Palms through cuttings
Basically, this method is making use of the pups that your main ponytail palm has. What are these pups?
Well, as your palms mature, they make side shoots or pups from the base of the plant. It is your plant’s way of propagating itself.
These little versions of your ponytail palm or elephant’s foot are totally effortless to splice away from the mother plant, they are also great as cuttings.
You can just break the side shoots right from the stem. However, if you want to make cleaner cuts, make sure your knife, pruners, saw, or trimming shears are sharp and clean. You can also apply a little rooting hormone on the stem if you want.
It’s up to you if you want to get one or more shoots from the stem. When you make a cut, make sure to leave at least 2 or more inches of stem above the bulbous base.
Don’t worry since new heads will grow just below the area where you make the cut. However, you must be patient because it could take a while for them to appear.
Next, you should have a potting soil with a good drainage system ready. Personally, I use a combination of sand and peat but you can also use a cultivation soil.
Plant the cutting about a third of its total length into the medium. If needed, compress the soil around the shoot to keep it upright.
Irrigate with a bit of water just to moisten it. Make a warm and humid surrounding by placing a transparent cover over the newly planted shoot.
You can also use a plastic bag that is supported with two wooden sticks so that it won’t make any contact with the leaves.
Ponytail Palm Care For Newly Potted Plants
Place the pot in the area where it is partly shaded, or in a place with moderate light. A warm window sill is perfect.
Make sure to check your plant from time to time to keep the soil a bit wet and to let the air out of the cover.
You can remove the cover once there are new buds that are starting to appear. Keep on watering it regularly but be careful on overwatering.
If you notice that your new ponytail palm has grown new roots all over the pot, you now place it in a planting bowl or new pot. Continue caring for your new plant the same way as the mature ones.
Propagating Ponytail Palms using seeds
Indoor ponytail palms rarely bloom, and if they don't bloom, there's no way that you'll get seeds. One option is just buying seeds.
However, note that propagating using seeds has a lower success rate compared to using cuttings or shoots. On average, only one new ponytail palm can fully grow out of five seeds.
Now, if you already have the seeds, I’ll share two ways that you can propagate them; you can use paper towels first or directly on cultivation soil.
Method 1 :
For the first method, place them over two layers of paper towels. Moisten the paper towels until they are slightly damp.
Put another layer of damp paper towel over the seeds. Put the paper towel in a cool and dry area with no sunlight, heat, or wind.
Check the towels from time to time and make sure that they are still moist and not drying out. After that, you just need to wait for the seeds to germinate for about two weeks.
Once the sprouts start appearing, take the seedlings out carefully as well as the fallen seed hulls using tweezers. Be extra careful since these little babies are fragile.
Place them on seedling trays. Using seedling mix, cover the seedlings until only the top leaves are out.
Put the seedling tray in a place where it can be subjected with direct sunlight for two to three hours. If your fragile seedlings get too much light, they’ll dry out and die.
Be careful in watering them too so that the seedling mix that covers the seedling won’t wash away. When the seeds sprout for about two inches high, move the seedling with the soil around it onto a fresh pot with potting soil.
Position the pots in an area where it can get direct sunlight; water the new plant two times a day. You can also opt to plant them in an outdoor garden or just on the ground if they are bigger than the pot.
This is basically the same as the method above. The only difference is that you’re using a cultivation soil in a pot.
Simply press the seedlings down, about four to five centimeters apart from each other on the soil. Use a plastic bag to cover the pot. You can also place the pot in a greenhouse.
The ideal temperature around the germinating seeds is about 73-77 degrees F. Gently but regularly water them. With the perfect conditions, it can take a few weeks or months for the seeds to germinate.
Only move them to another pot (or again, on the ground) once the leaves start sprouting. If placed on the pot, position it on a partly shaded window sill; do not crowd the seedlings.
Obviously, more will opt to propagate with the ponytail palm shoots. One final tip is to do it in spring when the plant is in prime. Good luck!
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.