Varieties Of Ponytail Palm: Identify Which One You Have!

Title of Ponytail Palm


A drought-tolerant, Ponytail Palm is a slow-growing species, which is quite forgiving and does well, even without much attention. It is the perfect pick for lazy people who forget to water their plants, are not home the whole day, or travel frequently.


If you let it soak in sunlight and water once in a few weeks, it can still do well. This is one of the prime reasons it has become hugely popular as a houseplant in the last couple of years.


Its curly, long leaves, slender, bulb-like trunk and lush make it visually appealing and give it a ponytail-like look. Nonetheless, it is a perfect addition to any home setup. We attempt to address the multiple categories through this guide.


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What is another name for ponytail palm? Is elephant foot the same as ponytail palm?

Often people refer to ponytail palm by different names. Botanically known as Beaucarnea recurvata, ponytail palm is also known as the bottle palm tree.


Is elephant foot the same as ponytail palm? Well, yes, many even refer to the ponytail palm as the Elephant foot tree. However, all the prevalently growing Beaucarneas are typically given the same name.


Surprisingly for many, even though all types of ponytail palms are called so, they are not a palm and not even closely related to it.


Moreover, it is also not a tree. Belonging to the Agave (Asparagaceae) family or once used to be. Typically, it is a succulent or a foliage plant.


You may not know, but unfortunately, over the past many years, the ponytail palm, in fact, all the varieties of ponytail palm, have struggled hard with classification.


Some botanists classify them as part of the Nolinaceae family, while others think of them as a member of the Lily family. Now, let us move ahead and discuss the beaucarnea varieties.


What does a ponytail palm look like?

The general characteristic of all ponytail palm types is a large, domed stump. It further tapers off into a thin stem. Its bulbous trunk preserved the water, and its hair-like, long, green leaves grow as the plant grows.



Leaves are annexed to the trunk, appearing like a ponytail. The leaves can be about three feet long in an indoor setup, but they tend to grow twice the size outdoors.


Are there different types of ponytail palms?

Are there different types of ponytail palms
Even though there are not many verities for ponytail palm, some beaucarnea varieties are available and, in fact, widely popular. It is easier for you to identify the varieties of ponytail palm via their leaf morphology.


Typically, the branch in every Beaucarnea ends with a tuft of grass-like leaves. However, when you look at ponytail palms, you will see that the primary variation is in the stiffness, number, thickness, length, and color of species.


Below, we will address some of the familiar ponytail palm types.


Beaucarnea variegated

How can we sum up the ponytail palms without including the Beaucarnea variegated? It is widely found as the variegated tissue-cultured form.


Experts refer to these types of ponytail palms as Beaucarnea recurvata albomarginata. Such beaucarnea varieties have rare, yellow striped, traveling down the leaf’s sides.


Even though they were a rarity a while ago, these are becoming prevalent today and are widely cultivated as rooted cuttings can be found in large numbers in the market.


Beaucarnea recurvata

One of the most prevalent varieties of ponytail palm is the Beaucarnea recurvata, and it is called so, courtesy of the shape of its leaves, as they are recurving and quite long.


If provided the proper care and growing conditions, these ponytail palm types can grow up to about 30′, with their trunk bases expanding to 15′ in diameter.


However, if you plant them as houseplants, these types of ponytail palms may not get that height.


‘Gold Star’ Ponytail palm

Another one of ponytail type is the Gold star. It has an attractive leaf selection, which streaks out in chartreuse. This foliage plant thrives in Zones 9-11 with high sunlight situations. It can grow up to 8-feet.


Beaucarnea gracilis

Next, another fantastic addition in the ponytail palms is the Beaucarnea gracilis. These ponytail palms have distinctive blue or dull greyish-green leaves, which is their stand-out feature.


Beaucarnea compacta

Now, we have the last one of the beaucarnea varieties. As is apparent from the name, these varieties of ponytail palm never really get too tall. Instead, they have grassy tufts, and that adds to the whole of their height.


So, these are the different types of ponytail palms. But, of course, it is not an all-inclusive list. There sure maybe more kinds, which are not a part of the list, but these are some popular ones that you may find in your surroundings.


How do you care for a Beaucarnea ponytail?

care for a Beaucarnea ponytail
Here are some palm care guidelines for your Beaucarnea ponytail.


1. Sun

Ponytail palm is a desert plant. So, it is well-adapted to bright and sunny days. Typically, the plant shows slow growth even in the best times of the years and can grow ok in a little shady spot.


So, if yours is an indoor plant, you must place it in the brightest location, probably a window that gets ample direct or indirect sun. However, for it to thrive, a bright sunny light is necessary.


2. Soil For Ponytail Palm

Since all types of ponytail palms are succulent, a draining soil mix for cacti can be the right pick. You can also include small gravel or sand in the potting mix to help drainage. Typically, sandy, organically-rich soil is suitable.


3. Water

During summers, as per the varieties of ponytail palm, they must be watered every seven to fourteen days, and more in peak summers. The plant’s watering requirement is different from summer to winter.


Usually, frequent and deep watering is needed in summers, and the watering can be reduced in winter, but deep watering will help every few weeks.


Do assess the soil before the next watering. Also, if the plant is in an area that receives a lot of rain, no watering is needed.


4. Humidity

Humidity is not very important for the ponytail palms. However, it must be away from super dry areas. When the humidity is low, leaves begin turning brown.


5. Fertilizer

For ponytail palms, fertilizing is essential. However, fertilizing once or twice in summers or spring will suffice. You can use general all-purpose plant food. You can either use a slow-release pellet fertilizer in spring or feed the liquid fertilizer weekly during the growing season. The fertilizer requirement is minimum in winter.


6. Temperature

Temperature above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, arid and warm weather, is just suitable for the plant. But, of course, they can survive when the temperature goes below 50 degrees. However, it should not be prolonged.


7. Repotting

You can pot the beaucarnea varieties in a small container with succulents or a cactus potting mix with peat added to it. When the plant is growing well, you can repot every once a year. If the growing conditions are unsuitable or you do not want the plant to grow very tall, you can repot once in two or three years. Spring is the right time for repotting.


8. Diseases or concerns

If you overwater the plant, stems may begin rotting, this applies to all types of ponytail palms. Some symptoms of overwatering are squishy or extremely soft stem and base, along with yellow leaves. On the other hand, the leaves start turning brown if underwatered or overfertilized. So, check the soil before watering.


Like most other houseplants, even the ponytail palms are susceptible to scale, mealybugs, and spider mites. To combat them, you can use horticultural oils or soaps. They are non-toxic alternatives. You can also run a cloth of water and dish soap on the stems to tackle them. 


9. Pruning

Whenever and wherever you see damaged leaves, regardless of the varieties of ponytail palm, they should be trimmed off immediately to give the plant its healthy appeal.


What is the lifespan of a ponytail palm?

Thee ponytail palms can live for many, many decades. Hence, there is a good chance that they may outlive mo

st of you, as the plant is known to survive over a century easily.


How big can ponytail palms get outdoor?

If you are located in a warm-weather locality in zones 9 through 11, the ponytail palm gets just the right environment. Herein, it can grow about 30-feet tall. However, you cannot expect such height in houseplants.


Related: Small palm types, Fan palm types, Date Palm Types


How big can an indoor ponytail palm get?

The indoor palm beaucarnea varieties can get quite tall if grown outdoors in its hardiness range. However, as a houseplant, the plant will have a maximum of 8-feet height even upon maturity.


Do ponytail palms need full sun?

Yes, the ponytail palm types are sun-loving succulents. They enjoy bright and full sun, followed by ideal temperatures over 45° F (7° C) at night. Even though the bright sunny weather is the best, the plant can tolerate a slight shade too. However, that will definitely slow down the growth rate of the palm.


RelatedHow long do palm tree live?European palm growth ratePygmy palm growth rate,Mexican palm growth guide.


How cold can a ponytail palm tolerate?

If your ponytail palm is mature, it can tolerate temperatures below 15°F for short periods.


What are varieties of ponytail palms good for?

Ponytail palms are quite tolerant plants. They are ideal for people who do not want to spend too much time caring for their palms. It is because they are pretty forgiving and are very tolerant. So, anyone wishing for a plant that can elevate their space can invest in this plant.


Why are the tips of my ponytail palm turning brown?

my ponytail palm turning brown
If your ponytail palm has brown leaves, it could be a sign of underwatering or overwatering.


Too much water can often result in the tips being distinctively yellow in all types of ponytail palms, and when there is inadequate water, the leaves appear crispy and brown.


You must take a clean pair of sheers and prune the leaves when such an incident happens. Also, check the soil, and alter your plant’s watering frequency accordingly.


Related: How fast do ponytail palm grow?, How to care for ponytail palm?


Frequently Asked Questions

Ques 1. Are ponytail palms pet safe?

Ans. Ponytail palms are not poisonous. Hence, they are not toxic to cats, dogs, or people. But, it is still advised to keep them away from the pets as they may mistake it as some playing object and damage the plant with their teeth or claws.


Ques 2. Where are ponytail palms native?

Ans. Ponytail palms or Beaucarnea recurvata is a caudiciform shrub. This evergreen tree is native to the semi-arid areas of Guatemala, Belize and southeastern Mexico. It is also a good South Florida plant.


Ques 3. What plant looks like a ponytail palm?

Ans. Ponytail palm looks quite like the Beaucarnea recurvata. As a matter of fact, the two are often regarded as the same. However, the ponytail palm is only succulent. Therefore, it is not a true palm or a tree.


Ques 4. What is the trunk of a ponytail palm called?

Ans. The trunk of the ponytail palm is known as caudex. It has a bottle-like or elephant’s foot appearance, so the plant is also called the bottle palm.


Ques 5. Can you root a ponytail palm in water?

Ans. No, ponytail palms do not enjoy sitting in water. Hence, you must water it only when the top two inches of the soil seem dry.


Ques 6. Can you grow multiple trunks on a Ponytail Palm?

Ans. Yes, you can grow multiple trunks on your ponytail palm. One of the most effective ways to do this is by chopping off the main stem. It will help you create numerous new branches.


Ques 7. How can you tell if a ponytail palm is male or female?

Ans. The sex determination for the beaucarnea varieties happen from the color of its flowers. Female ponytail palms have pink flowers; the male counterparts have ivory flowers.