How Do I Know When to Water Ponytail Palm?

Watering the ponytail palms can get tricky. I check the top few inches of soil and water the ponytail palm accordingly.

After I bought two ponytail palms in my living space, I learned the tricks to check if my ponytail palm needs a drink or not!

As a general rule, Ponytail palm should be watered once in 2- 3 weeks. The First 1-2 inches of soil must be checked before watering.  Dry soil indicates the time to water. Moist soil means the plant is hydrated. 

Ponytail palm plant
Healthy Ponytail Palm Plant (Source: iStock)

Are you worried about when to water your plant? Well, we all are, so let’s find out together. The article will discuss the tricks to find if your ponytail palm needs water or is overwatered.

I also discuss the solutions and ways of saving your ponytail palm if it’s already overwatered or underwatered.

Does Ponytail Palm Require Regular Watering?

If you are watering your ponytail palms once a week, then you are doing right by them.

Ponytail palms do not require regular watering because the bulb base stores water for them.

Hence, ponytail palms can go for weeks without watering.

Warm, dry air, moderate temperature, and enough sunlight is best for the plant, and they can grow up to 2 meters in height.

During the growing season, water them once a week. However, it would be best if you let the soil dry between the waterings.

Otherwise, your ponytail palm can be vulnerable to root rot leading to pests and diseases.

1. Watering During Summer

Ponytail palms require a bit more water in summer than during the winters.

However, overwatering is also equally common. So, you should not allow the plant’s roots to sit in water for long.

Hence, to avoid any inconvenience to the plant, water your ponytail palm every 2-3 weeks.

You should check the soil first. If the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry, it’s time to water the plant.

If the top 2-3 inches of soil is still wet, you should wait some days till it’s time to water.

Summer is the active growing season for ponytail palms. Hence, they need more nutrients along with more water. Also, the summer heat can cause a loss of water. 

2. Watering During Winter

During the winter, the plant undergoes slow growth. Hence, the water requirement is reduced along with the reduced temperature.

During the cold, you can water once a month. Check the soil. If the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry, you can water your plant.

You can keep the plant in a sunny spot so that the roots do not have to stay wet for a longer time. This can prevent root rot. 

You can water your ponytail palm just once a month, and it will be enough.

Methods to Know When to Water Ponytail Palm

Even if you take good care of your palm babies and water them once a week, there remains a slight chance you can overwater or underwater the plant.

Hence, here are some easy and trustable methods to know when to water ponytail palm plants.

1. Weight check

Water your ponytail palm and take note of its weight.

You can use your hands to lift the pot and notice the weight.

After some days, you can see the soil at the top is drying out. It can be the sign your plant is thirsty. Hence, you can lift the pot once again to notice the weight.

If your plant feels lighter, it’s time to water. Hence with a weight check, you don’t have to dirty your fingers checking the soil.

2. Touch test

For the touch test, you need to dip your finger into the soil so that you can check the moisture availability.

Overwatering is one of the most common problems while owning a ponytail palm plant. Hence, you need to avoid it if you want your plant to have healthy roots.

If the finger feels dry down to the roots on the touch test, you can water the plant.

Since the soil is sandy, it is easy to dip your finger down to the root level.

However, you need to wait a day or two if you detect moisture. 

3. Check for a Deflated Bulb

The bulb at the base of the ponytail palm stores water for the plant. 

If your plant is hydrated, then the bulb looks filled and lively. However, if the bulb looks wrinkled, deflated, or shrunken, the plant needs water.

Hence, if you notice a shrunken deflated bulb, your plant is thirsty!

ponytail-palm-rootbase
Hydrated Ponytail palm bulb (Source: Unsplash)

4. Moisture Meter

You can check the moisture of your ponytail palms pot with a moisture meter.

A moisture meter is commonly used by gardeners nowadays.

If you want more accurate soil moisture, you can get a moisture meter for your plants. 

Factors Influencing the Need for Water

As we know, plants take up more water in the growing season and less during the cold.

Therefore, here are some factors that influence the plants for water need.

  • Higher temperature evaporates the water from soil and plants body.
  • During the summers, sunlight causes more water loss than on cloudy or winter days.
  • Low humidity increases water use in ponytail palms and other houseplants as well.
  • Wind can increase the water use as it dries out the plant.
  • Using a well-draining soil mix for your Ponytail Palm needs to be watered frequently because the soil will quickly drain extra water.
  • Watering frequency must be reduced if the potting soil is heavy. The plant will become overwatered if this is not done.
  • Water requirements can also vary on the pot size. A larger pot contains more soil. More soil means more water can be held. As a result, the soil will take longer to dry up, requiring less water.
  • A plastic pot takes time to dry, whereas a ceramic pot requires watering relatively often.
  • Bright light on sunny days can dry out the moisture; it will automatically increase water intake.

Signs of Underwatered Ponytail Palm

Ponytail palm shows the signs so that you can notice how you are underwatering the plant.

You may sometimes forget to water the plant. Also, if you are frequently traveling, you may leave the plant without water for several weeks.

Here are some of the signs of underwatered ponytail palm. 

1. Dry, Brown, and Crispy Blades

The tip of the leaves starts to become brown initially. Further, you may notice plant’s leaves are dry. Finally, the leaf blades look dry and become crispy.

The leaves also start to curl at the edges if you don’t water them immediately.

2. Shriveled Stem / Deflated Bulb

The bulb at the base and the stem look filled and lively in case the plant is watered well.

If the bulb looks deflated and the stem looks shriveled, your ponytail palm is deprived of water. It’s the sign of underwatering.

A deflated bulb indicates the plant’s water reserve is running low.

3. Limp and Droopy Leaves

Lack of water wilts the leaves. Ponytail palm, when undergoes underwatering, the leaves will wilt, limp, and starts hanging lower than usual.

A long-time underwatered ponytail palm starts dropping its leaves.

Its trunk starts to wrinkle and go limp.

4. Dry Compost

The top few inches of the soil mix dries out even you water the ponytail palm in time. However, if the compost till the bottom dries out, you are underwatering your plant.

You can test the compost by the “touch test” method.

How Save Underwatered Ponytail Palm?

You can save the underwatered ponytail palm if it’s not severely damaged.
 
To save the underwatered ponytail palm, you need to soak the plant in water.
 
Here is a step-by-step guide to soaking the underwatered ponytail palm.
 
Step 1: First, fill your basin with water. The water should be at room temperature. 
 
Step 2: Remove the saucer and place your plant in the sink. Check if the drainage hole of your pot is blocked. Allow the plant and soil to hydrate for good 45 minutes to one hour.
 
Step 3: The water must reach the top of the soil. Check the soil to make sure to top 1- 2 inches of soil is also moist. You can also water the soil from the top to saturate the plant with water.
 
Step 4: When the soil is moist and evenly damped, you can drain the sink and allow your ponytail palm to rest.
 
Step 5: Lastly, place the pot in the saucer. However, do not forget to check on your plant often. A good soak helps the ponytail palm recover. 
 
Step 6: Further, you can safely remove the dried, brown, and damaged leaves with a good trim. Take a sterile pair of scissors and trim off the damaged leaves. However, do not cut the green part.
 

Want to have many Ponytail Palm babies? You can grow offsets and plant them in a new pot. Read on to find about it in detail: How to Grow Multiple Trunks on Ponytail Palm?

Signs of Overwatered Ponytail Palm

Although we talk about the signs of underwatering, we can’t deny the signs of overwatering. 

Even making a watering schedule and following them can lead to overwatering.

Hence, knowing the signs of overwatered ponytail palm is beneficial for you and your plant.

1. Yellowing of leaves

The yellowing of the leaf tip is the first sign of overwatering in most indoor plants. Hence, ponytail palm leaf tips begin turning yellow if they are receiving too much water.

Young foliage also turns brown or yellow in case of overwatering.

2. Desiccated Roots

If the roots of your ponytail palm are discolored, mushy, and moist all the way, your plant roots are probably rotting. 
 
Overwatering makes the soil soggy and wet all the time. Ponytail palms do not prefer waterlogged soil; hence the roots can rot.
 
Root rot eventually leads to bulb rot, damaging the plant beyond repair.
 
Pothos Root Bound
Healthy plant’s roots (Source: Unsplash)

3. Squishy Bulb

Roots and bulbs at the base are prone to rotting if overwatered. Hence, if the bulb at the bottom of your ponytail palm is soft and squishy, it’s probably because it is deteriorating.

If the bulb starts to rot, there is a good chance that your ponytail palm may not recover.

How to Save Overwatered Ponytail Palm?

Even while you follow the watering schedule, you can overwater the ponytail palm sometimes. However, the plant won’t survive in wet and soggy soil.

Here are few ways how you can save the overwatered ponytail palm plant.

1. Add Sand in the Soil to Enhance Draining

If the potting mix is not draining fast and the roots are wet for a longer time, the plant shows signs of overwatering.

Hence you can add a bit of perlite to the soil mix. This increases the aeration, therefore, leading to a fast water drain.

You can add Sand, which is even better for draining the water quickly.

potting mixture
A Handful Sand (source: Unsplash)

2. Cut Off Rotten Roots

Ponytail palm roots cant sit in water for a long time. They rot easily. Hence to treat them, you need to cut off the rotten roots.

Steps to cut off the rotten roots while protecting the ponytail plant are as follows.

  • First, wear protective gloves on your hands.
  • Remove the plant from the soil. You can pull off the plant gently.
  • Take the plant to the tap and wash the roots in running water.
  • Take a pair of scissors and cut off the rotten roots.

Tip to remember: Take a pair of sharp and sterile scissors to prevent any further infection to the plant.

Root rot
Cutting off Rotten Roots (Source: Unsplash)

3. Re-pot the ponytail palm

After you finish cutting off the rotten roots, it’s time to re-pot!

You can re-pot your ponytail palm in the same pot, after cleaning, of course, or in a new pot.

Steps to re-pot the ponytail palm:

Step 1: Prepare the new potting mix. Make sure the soil mix has enough Sand on it to ensure the fast drainage of water.

Step 2: It would be best to clean the pot before planting it in the same pot. You can wash the pot with hydrogen peroxide. A bleaching solution can also be used to clean the pot.  If you are using the new pot, make sure it’s clean.

Step 3: Before planting, you need to clean the recently trimmed roots. This is done to avoid any bacterial, fungal, or algae infection. Physan solution has all these properties.

Tip to remember: Do not overwater or underwater the plant after cutting the rotten roots and repotting.

Should you Mist Ponytail Palms?

Misting the ponytail palm leaves can help the plant stay clean. Furthermore, if the humidity is low, misting can help the plant.

Therefore, you can use a spray bottle to mist your ponytail palms.

However, too much misting is not good for the plant. Ponytail palms are succulents and require minimum water.

You can mist the ponytail palms once a week.

Also, too much misting can keep the leaves wet for a longer period. This can affect the plant with pests and infections.

Tips to Take Care of Ponytail Palm

Although ponytail pals are the easiest houseplants, they need attention after they go through stress.

Overwatering, underwatering, and re-potting stresses your ponytail palm plants.

Hence, here are some tips to take care of Ponytail palm plants:

1. Avoid Adding Fertilizer Too Close to the Roots

You need to fertilize your ponytail palms according to their need. Then, in the growing season, you can feed the plant once in two weeks.

However, during winter, feeding them once in two months is enough.

Additionally, you need to maintain at least a 2 ft distance between the roots and the fertilizer. 

Fertilizers can burn the roots and make the plant vulnerable to insects, pests, algae, fungi, and bacteria.

Tip to remember: Copper fungicide can protect ponytail palm roots from bacteria and fungi.

You can buy Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food on Amazon.

2. Maintain Optimum Temperature

The ponytail palm plants love warmth, so they prefer summers.

The temperature should be maintained between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

You may want to use an artificial heating method during the winters if your plant has undergone stress like watering stress or re-potting shock.

Cold night breeze can damage the plant, so keep the plant away from the window during the winter.

3. Water as Per the Plants Need

Ponytail palm plants prefer a relatively dry and fast-draining environment. 

So, watering the plant as per their need is essential if it has recently undergone overwatering or underwatering stress.

Check the first 1 to 2 inches of soil. Water the plant if the soil seems dry. Wait till the soil dries if it’s still moist.

You can water the ponytail palm once in 2-3 weeks in the growing season. However, during the winter, watering them once a month will be enough.

However, check the plant before you water.

Overwatering house plants
Watering Plants (Source: Unsplash)

4. Provide Enough Sunlight

Ponytail palm loves bright indirect sunlight. Unfortunately, direct sun can burn the plant. 

For a newly re-potted ponytail plant, indirect sunlight helps them to heal and grow healthy.

Also, enough sunlight can dry the soil faster, so make sure you water the plant as it demands.

Keep your ponytail palm plant in the indirect sunlight for 6 to 8 hours.

5. Check if the Plant is Receiving all the Nutrients

Ponytail palm shows the signs, usually on its leaves if it’s not receiving all the required nutrients.

If the ponytail palm begins developing spots on its leaves, it’s because the plant is potassium deficient.

Furthermore, calcium deficiency is indicated by stunted and deformed leaves.

Thin green veins and broken ends indicate iron deficiency.

Additionally, magnesium deficiency shows yellow bands on the leaves.

Hence, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron are the essential nutrients for the ponytail palm to grow healthy.

Check on the signs and treat the ponytail palm accordingly!

ponytail palm plant
Ponytail Palm Plant (Source: Pixabay)

Conclusion

Overwatering and underwatering is a common problem faced by plants, even if they are succulents.

Overwatering can damage the roots and base bulb beyond repair, and ponytail palm can die.

Removal of rotten roots can help the ponytail palm plant revive.

Underwatering can dry out the stem, bulb, and leaves. Water soak or water bath can hydrate the ponytail palm if it’s not dried out beyond repair.

Taking care of fertilizers, a watering schedule, and enough sunlight can bring the overwatered or underwater ponytail palm back to life!

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