Ponytail palms are beautiful, and many people love keeping them in their homes. They can be a stunning addition, but you do need to know how to take care of them properly.
If you recently started caring for one, you might be worried if things don’t seem to be going well. If you’re noticing that your ponytail palm looks as if it’s dying, you could be concerned about whether you’ll be able to turn things around.
Read on to learn about why this is happening and whether or not your palm is in danger. This should give you the information that you need to try to save it.
1 – Not Watering the Plant Properly
Watering is the most common reason why a ponytail palm will have issues. Many people accidentally water them too much, and just as many new plant owners forget to water them enough.
These plants need to have their soil dry out in between watering sessions. If you’re watering them while the soil is still moist, you’re watering them more than you should.
Overwatering a plant can cause it to essentially drown, and this could kill the plant if you keep doing it. Of course, failing to water the plant at all will kill it over time, too.
Generally, you’re supposed to water a ponytail palm once every two or three weeks. You can check the soil to see if it has dried out to determine if it is time to water it.
During the winter months, you’re going to want to be even more careful with how often you’re watering the plant. Don’t go overboard, and be sure that you’re letting it dry out properly.
If you’re ever unsure about if you should water the plant, it’d be best to wait. If you’re worried that you’re not watering enough, look for signs such as brown foliage, shriveled stems, and desiccated roots.
2 – Fertilizer Issues
Fertilizer issues can cause your palm to develop problems as well. This could be happening for a few reasons, but one of the more common ones is that you’re using low-quality fertilizer.
Take the time to find a fertilizer that is good for ponytail palms to get the best results. Once you have good fertilizer that is the right quality, it’s going to be important to use it properly.
When fertilizer gets too close to the roots, it’s going to cause issues with this plant. Try to follow the instructions and be careful about what you’re doing.
Ideally, you want to keep fertilizer two feet away from the roots of your ponytail palm. If you keep this in mind while you’re using the fertilizer, you should be able to avoid having problems.
Also, you shouldn’t be using fertilizer too much. Using fertilizer more often than you’re supposed to will only harm the plant, and you want to be smart about what you’re doing.
3 – Drainage Issues
You know that ponytail palms don’t like receiving too much water, but you also need to consider drainage. If your palm isn’t draining well, you might need to put it in a better pot.
Your plant needs to be in a pot that has good drainage holes if you want it to thrive. It doesn’t like sitting in water for a long period of time, and this means that you have to pay attention to how well it’s draining.
If you set it on a saucer, you’ll want to remove the water instead of allowing it to sit there like that. Be proactive and you should be able to avoid the worst issues.
4 – Soil Issues
Soil issues can cause a ponytail palm to die because of how careful you need to be about moisture. Particularly heavy soils aren’t good for this plant because they will stay too moist.
You want to use a type of soil that is a bit gritty because this gives the plant something that is closer to its natural environment. A lightweight gritty soil is going to be just the thing for this houseplant.
If you’re going to repot your palm to give it better soil, you’ll want to be careful about the type of pot that you’re using. You want the pot to be a little tight, but not too small.
It would be bad to place one in a pot that is way too large, though. This will make it harder for the soil to drain, and you’re going to encounter more issues.
Choose a pot that is the right size for your plant along with the proper soil. Doing so should allow you to have good results.
5 – Improper Light Conditions
Improper light conditions can kill a ponytail palm if you aren’t careful. These are plants that like things to be bright, and you’re going to want to place them in the sunniest room in your house.
If you currently have your palm in a room that receives very little sun, that’s likely the cause of your problems. To get your plant to thrive, you’re going to want to place it near a window where it can get the sunlight that it needs.
You don’t want it to be in direct sunlight, though. This is a plant that is going to do best with indirect sunlight that is very constant.
Give your ponytail palm lots of sun without placing it in direct sunlight. You can place the plant near a window without getting too close so that it won’t get burned.
6 – Root Rot
Root rot happens when you water your plants too much, and this is really bad for a ponytail palm. You can try to save one that is showing signs of root rot, but it might not always end well.
When your palm is experiencing root rot or stem rot, you’re going to notice signs such as discolored and mushy roots. The leaves might become wilted and yellow as well.
The only way to bring one back when it’s experiencing rot like this is to stop watering and to try to dry it out. Often, it’s already going to be too late by the time you have noticed root rot and stem rot.
7 – Dehydration
Dehydration occurs when a plant hasn’t been watered in a long time. This is easy enough to remedy, and you’ll likely be able to bring your plant back to life if it is simply dehydrated.
However, if you wait too long, it’s still possible that the plant will die. This is less problematic than root rot, but it’s still an issue to be careful of.
Your palm might be dehydrated if it has droopy leaves that are starting to turn brown. Sometimes the leaves will begin to curl as the dehydration gets worse, and this will show you that it’s time to take action and water the plant.
Even when you’re trying to bring a ponytail palm back from being dehydrated, it’s important not to go overboard with watering. Water it thoroughly, but allow the plant to drain properly before you decide to water it again.
8 – Pest Issues
Finally, you should know that pests could become a problem for your plant in certain situations. Pests can eat it and cause it harm, but you should be able to take care of pest issues once you notice them.
There are three basic types of pests to look out for when caring for a ponytail palm. You’ll need to watch out for spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects.
If your plant has a severe spider mite infestation, you might notice spider webs on branch tips. You might also notice yellow leaves when spider mites are bothering it.
Scale bugs can be identified by looking for brown or black bumps on the branches. The bumps that you’re seeing have insects inside, and the bumps are actually a type of waxy shell.
The best way to combat issues such as this is to use neem oil spray. It should help to get rid of the pests and you won’t have to worry so much.
You know more about what can cause a ponytail palm to die now, and this should give you the ability to stop it. If you catch these issues fast enough, you can turn things around, but sometimes your plant will be too far gone.
The most dangerous issue by far will be root rot, but hopefully, your plant isn’t experiencing that. Be very careful about how you water your palm in the future so that you won’t put it in danger.
As long as you get used to taking care of your ponytail palm the right way, it’ll be easy to keep it healthy. You have the knowledge, and you’ll be able to find a care routine that works for you.
These plants are beautiful and they’re great to have in your home. You should be able to enjoy your plant for a long time to come so long as you follow the tips listed above.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.