Guest Author - Lisa Beth Voldeck
Though not an actual palm tree, Beaucarnea recurvata (Nolina recurvata) goes by several names that describe it as one. Ponytail Palm and Bottle Palm are two names for it that describe its shape: a fat, fleshy trunk topped by a mop of leaves. Some other names for this plant include Elephantís Foot, Palma Culona, and Monja. The Ponytail Palm was formerly considered a member of the lily family, but has been reclassified as a member of the Ruscaceae family. It shares this classification with Dracaena, Sansevieria, and Lilyturf.
Ponytail Palms enjoy full sun. The more sun you can provide this plant with, the happier it will be. You may want to summer this plant outdoors if you live in an area where the winters are cold and cloudy. Remember to slowly introduce the plant to the outdoors to avoid shocking the plant and scorching its leaves.
If you provide enough light and water appropriately, you just might get to see the occasional flower. Donít feel badly if you never see one: Ponytail Palms donít frequently flower indoors. Also, the white flowers and the stalk they appear on are fairly unattractive. It is the trunk and foliage of this plant that are desirable.
Ponytail Palms use those thick trunks of theirs as a water storage area. For this reason, water your plant less often than you think is necessary. Ideally, you want to water your Ponytail Palm thoroughly, pouring off any excess water, and then let it dry pretty much all the way out before you water it again.
Over-watering can spell death for the fleshy base and roots of this plant. Once rot has set in it is pretty difficult to intercede on the plantís behalf. Additional steps you can take to avoid over-watering are using a potting mix with plenty of extra perlite mixed in or using a clay pot.
Ponytail Palms love dry air which leaves them open to attacks by spider mites. Scales and mealy-bugs are also potential pests so keep an eye out for stippling of the leaves, webbing, brown scabby lumps on the undersides of leaves, and white fluffy masses.
You can rest easy knowing that Ponytail Palms are not known to be toxic. They are a great choice for homes with pet or children.
Propagation is done most often by seed. As previously mentioned, flowers arenít a common occurrence; when growing Ponytail Palms as a houseplant, youíre better off just purchasing a new plant if youíd like more of them.