How to Save a Dying Ponytail Palm?

Although a resilient plant by nature, the Ponytail Palm can sometimes act up. It can look like it’s dying and it might very well be, if neglected for long periods.

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Plant Index

Similarly, if something in how you’ve been caring for the ponytail palm is not in line with the plant’s requirements, the plant can act up, having you believe it’s living its final days.

To help you take the guesswork out of why your ponytail palm may be dying, I’m going to cover the causes that are most likely to cause problems.

Having even a cursory understanding of these issues can help you save a dying ponytail palm.

Why is Ponytail Palm Dying?

Despite its palm tree like look, the ponytail palm behaves more like a succulent. Still, whatever might be ailing your ponytail palm, the chances of its revival are high, especially once you manage to zero in on the problem.

Here are some of the possible causes of your ponytail palm seemingly looking like it’s about to die:

– Root and Stem Rot

Rotting that’s happening at the root or stem level is one of the chief reasons why a ponytail palm can look like it’s dying.

Unfortunately, rotting of the roots and stems is one of the more serious causes and difficult to reverse, especially when it’s in advanced stages.

– Stress

Although the plant can take some neglect in the watering department, not watering it for prolonged periods of time will cause dehydration.

The stress associated with dehydration can cause the plant to look like it’s dying. A severely dehydrated ponytail palm will feature crisp and curled leaves.

Exposure to frost or extreme cold can also induce temperature shock. When it happens, your ponytail palm will have droopy or yellowing leaves that might start to fall off even.

Another stressor for the ponytail palm is pest issues, especially mealybugs that will feed on the sap of the plant. Left unchecked, mealybugs can overtake your ponytail palm and weaken its defenses.

– Excess Fertilizing

Not a heavy feeder by any means, it’s easy to overfertilize this plant even when you’re using fertilizers formulated for cacti and succulents.

To prevent causing fertilizer burn, make sure to dilute the fertilizer to half strength and use it sparingly during the growing season only. There’s no need to fertilize the ponytail palm during winter.

The way you can tell you’ve been overfertilizing your ponytail palm is that the tips of its leaves will turn brown.

How to Revive a Dying Ponytail Palm?

Now that I’ve mentioned the chief reasons why your ponytail may be dying, let’s see how you can revive a ponytail palm.

– How to fix stem/root rot?

But first — what causes stem or root rot in ponytail palms? Overwatering!

Whether you water your ponytail palm too often with too much water, or whether it’s planted in a potting mix that offers poor drainage, the result is the same — overwatering can lead to root rot and stem rot.

The leaves of an overwatered ponytail can turn yellow, the base can feel soft and mushy and if you check its soil, you may even see fungus growing on top of it. At times, the soil can even become smelly.

As I mentioned, bringing back a ponytail palm affected by root rot depends on how advanced the problem is.

If it’s early stages, you can move the plant to a different pot and replace its soggy potting mix with a fresh batch that offers better drainage and aeration.

When repotting, remove parts of the root that are diseased, soft or rotten. Hopefully, once transplanted your ponytail palm can recover.

Likewise, revisit the watering needs of the plant. Wait for the soil to completely dry (check with your fingers or a wooden stick) between two watering sessions and discard any excess water that pools in the saucer.

– How to fix overfertilizing issues?

If you’ve been overfertilizing your ponytail palm, there are a few things you can try to nurse it back to health.

If it’s a one-time thing, you can try to flush the soil under running water to wash away as much of the fertilizer as possible.

If it’s an ongoing problem, you should repot your ponytail palm in fresh potting mix and withhold any fertilizing.

– How to fix stress related issues?

Because stress can be induced by a number of things, possible fixes are dependent on the underlying issue.

If your ponytail palm is severely dehydrated, you can try to revive it by bottom watering it. Simply place the pot about 4 inches deep in room temperature water, and let it sit for 45 minutes.

Regulating temperature so that the plant isn’t exposed to extreme temperatures or fluctuations will prevent temperature shock.

While pest infestations should be dealt with at the first signs of infestation so that they don’t get out of hand. You can use soapy water to spray the leaves or a mix of alcohol and water to remove mealybugs and other pests.

How Long it Takes for Ponytail Palm to Recover?

Depending on the underlying issue, your ponytail palm may take as long as 8 weeks or even more to recover, assuming that you’re doing everything well to nurse it back to health.

In extreme situations — advanced stages of root rot, stem rot, or frost — your ponytail palm may not recover at all.

You should take these situations as an opportunity to learn how to manage your plant’s needs in the future.

Conclusion

The ponytail palm can withstand some neglect, but it will not do well when overwatered or if its needs are constantly overlooked.

Many beginners assume that because of its looks, it behaves as a palm. The truth is that the ponytail palm has more in common with succulents and cacti than with palm trees.

Therefore, to prevent the plant from struggling and potentially dying, make sure to get up to speed with its basic requirements.

And if you see that plant struggling or seemingly dying, use my tips above to identify and remedy the issue as soon as possible.

Houseplants   Updated: December 7, 2021
avatar Hey, this is Amy, plant lover. I've created this website to help beginners care for their plants.

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