Beaucarnea recurvata, commonly called ponytail palm, is an evergreen caudiciform shrub or tree that is native to semi-desert areas of southeastern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala where it typically grows to as much as 30' tall. Where not winter hardy, it is commonly grown as a houseplant that over time will eventually rise to as much as 6-8' tall. Notwithstanding its common name, ponytail palm is not a true palm. It is noted for having a large, swollen, often flask-shaped, water-retaining base (caudex) from which rises a trunk-like stem bearing narrow, flat, palm-like, spreading to recurved leaves (to 6' long but only 1" wide) that droop fountain-like in clusters from the branch ends. Trunks are usually single with young plants, but several smaller trunks as well as some sparse branching near the top may develop with age. Old plants may produce tiny creamy white flowers in clusters.
Winter hardy to USDA Zone 10 where it is best grown in sandy soils with sharp drainage in full sun. It is a very popular houseplant in more temperate climates. Houseplants should be placed in a sunny window. Plants like sunny, warm, dry conditions and overwinter well with furnace heat. Houseplants are best grown in relatively small pots with excellent drainage. Plants may be moved outdoors after last spring frost date with gradual adjustment to full sun locations and cooler temperatures. Outdoors in summer, plants should be given regular water but allowed to dry out between applications. Reduce watering for plants brought indoors for winter. Garden Uses. Excellent specimen in dry frost-free areas. Elsewhere ponytail palm makes an excellent houseplant that can be moved outdoors each year after the last spring frost date. Hardy in zones 10-11.
The seeds have a hard seed coat that has to be treated, or scarified, in order for water to enter the seeds so that they can sprout.
- Scarify the seeds by nicking or sanding the seed coat.
- Soak the seed in warm water for 24 hours.
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
- Put the seeds on the soil.
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. The seeds need light to germinate.
- Water the seeds.
- Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade. The seeds start to germinate in 14-28 days but some seeds may take 1-2 months to start to sprout.
- When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.