Ponytail palms, also known as elephant foot, are fantastic and cute indoor houseplants, as their caudex makes for a striking appearance…
But growing a ponytail palm outdoors is actually more common, believe it or not! You get to take advantage of the full spring, summer, fall, and winter growth cycle of this incredible plant.
Without further ado, read on for tips to make your elephant foot plant grow tall and love growing outdoors.
Growing Beaucarnea Recurvata Outdoors vs. Indoors
When you’re deciding whether to grow your ponytail palm indoors or outdoors, here are the four major points of consideration:
If you want your ponytail palm to reach its maximum potential – it can grow up to 30 feet tall – then you must plant it outdoors.
If you want to limit its size, then planting your bottle palm into a container indoors is a good option. If you choose a larger container, your plant may grow up to 6 feet tall. The smaller the container, the more you limit its growing potential.
Light and Temperature
Can ponytail palms take full sun? Of course! Outdoors, ponytail palms want full sun for as long as possible, at least 8 hours a day. Indoors, you should place it in a window facing south and supplement with your indoor ponytail palm with a grow light if necessary.
Water and Humidity
One benefit of growing your ponytail palm (Beaucarnea) outdoors is the natural drainage. Soil will dry completely between waterings, avoiding one of the main killers of this plant – root rot!
If you’re growing indoors, you have to use a free-draining cactus style soil mix and a pot with proper drainage. Remember, this plant has a large caudex for storing water – it doesn’t need a ton from you!
You’ll only get flowers by growing your ponytail palm outside of your house. It will take a lot of time, as these are slow-growing palm trees, but small white flowers will eventually bloom.
5 Tips to Grow Ponytail Palm Outdoors
As a heads up, the best gardening zones to start growing ponytail palms outside are USDA Hardiness Zones 9-12. Just how cold hardy is a ponytail palm, though? It can tolerate temperatures as low as 15°F for short periods of time, as long as it’s a mature plant.
The huge trunk of a ponytail palm tree acts just like a camel’s hump, i.e., it stores water and supplies moisture to the stems and leaves whenever needed. This is an adaptation for hot, dry climates where rain is slow to come and other plants would brown and die.
Here are the 5 quick tips for outdoor cultivation and care of these gorgeous plants – but don’t cut this short – read the full article for in-depth explanations:
- Water it thoroughly, wait for the soil to dry between watering turns
- Keep it in a bright and sunny area
- Fertilize it once a year with a 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer
- Prevent pests and diseases by applying neem oil or an insecticidal soap on the leaves
- Prune the browning leaves
Materials Needed for Growing Ponytail Palm Outdoors
The following tools and materials may be required when planting out your ponytail palm:
- Leaf rake
- Garden hose
- Balanced organic slow-release fertilizer
- Neem oil or an insecticidal soap
- Pruning shears
Make sure to water your ponytail palm more frequently in the peak of summer, when temperatures are 90°F or higher and there isn’t any rain. Always make sure the ground is completely dry before you water it again.
When watering, use a high-quality garden hose to flood the ground right around the caudex of your elephant’s foot tree. Ensure the soil is wet to 12-18″ deep. Many growers wonder if ponytail palms have deep roots, and the answer is no! Like many other succulents and cacti type of plants, they have a rather shallow root system.
Soil and Fertilizer
Use a leaf rake to surround the base of your elephant’s foot palm with at least 1″ of mulch. Make sure to keep the mulch layer 4-6″ away from the trunk of your tree to avoid moisture accumulating and causing rot.
You need to give it well-draining soil. If the soil remains wet for too long, your plant will develop root rot. Sandy and loamy soils are the best types for growing outdoors. Modify regular potting soil with agricultural sand or rocks.
Fertilize your ponytail palm once a year in spring, using a 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer at the rate of 1 tablespoon of fertilizer per square foot of soil. Circle around the base of your tree with fertilizer, making sure it’s 6″ inches away from the base. Rake it into the top 3″ of soil and thoroughly water the area.
If you see any pests hanging out on the foliage of your ponytail palm tree, hit them with a blast of water from your hose. This washes them off. Keep a particular eye out for aphids and spider mites, as they can both suck on the the sap of your leaves. Thin spidery webs are a sign you’ve got mites, which can make short work of the foliage. You can apply some neem oil or insecticidal soap as a spot treatment.
Pruning an Outdoor Ponytail Palm Tree
If you want to shape your tree, prune off brown or yellow leaves by cutting it 1/4″ above the stem joint. Use a good pair of clean pruning shears to get the job done. To sterilize your shears and prevent disease, use a 9:1 ratio of water to bleach and dip your shears in before pruning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Where do you put a ponytail palm outside?
A: Generally, you’ll grow a ponytail palm outside in USDA zones 9 through 12. In areas where you’re container growing outdoors, make sure it’s in full sun, and in conditions that aren’t often outside temperatures of between 60° and 90°F (16° to 32°C).
Q: What is the lowest temperature a ponytail palm can tolerate?
A: While they can tolerate short periods of 15°F (-9°C), they will take on damage in prolonged cold weather. Keep them indoors when temperatures are consistently below 45°F (7°C).
Q: How do you care for a ponytail palm outside?
A: More generally, give your palm plenty of sun, warmer weather, and water sparsely, allowing the soil to dry completely between irrigation.
Q: What temperature should a ponytail palm be outside?
A: Ideally, keep them in temperatures between 60° and 90°F (16° to 32°C). Move them into a protected area in temperatures at or below 45°F (7°C).
Q: Can a ponytail palm be left outside?
A: If it’s in a warmer climate or season, yes!
Q: Can a ponytail palm live outside in the winter?
A: Yes, but use the temperature guide above to determine whether it can grow in the ground or in a container.
Q: What happens if ponytail palm gets too cold?
A: It will take on cold damage, which presents as blackened leaf tips.
Q: Can ponytail palms get too much sun?
A: While sun is necessary for ponytail palms, too much can singe the leaves.