Ponytail Palm Dying

Ponytail Palm Dying?(Troubleshooting 11 Common Problems)

A Ponytail Palm typically dies due to overwatering, underwatering, excess or deficient fertilizer. Pests, inappropriate soil, and temperature could also adversely affect a ponytail palm. Follow proper cultural practices to keep your Ponytail Palm healthy.

The ponytail palm plant is also called the Elephant’s foot palm, due to the stem’s resemblance to an Elephant’s foot.

Ponytail palms plant makes for a great indoor plant as it doesn’t require much attention. They do run into some issues, let’s see how to fix them.

Ponytail Palm Crown Rot

You’ll see crown rot/root rot in Ponytail Palm when the plant is overwatered. Overwatering causes waterlogged conditions.

Ponytail palm trunk soft

The trunk of the Ponytail palm goes soft and squishy when the plant is suffering from crown rot. Crown rot is seen when you overwater your Ponytail palm.

Waterlogged conditions of the soil favor the growth of various types of fungi. As a result, the roots of the Ponytail palm get rotten.

How do I know if my Ponytail Palm has root rot?

Roots and the lower part of the stem become brown if your Ponytail palm is affected by root rot. Roots will become brown and mushy.

Check the roots to make sure you’re dealing with root rot. This rot slowly spreads toward the lower part of the Ponytail palm stem.

Ponytail Palm Overwatering Signs

Ponytail palm leaves turn brown and droopy when the plant is overwatered. You’ll see waterlogged conditions around your Ponytail palm.

Check the soil with bare fingers and see if the soil is moist up to two inches or more. Get a soil moisture meter for precise results.

Why is my Ponytail Palm wilting?

Ponytail palm leaves wilt if the plant sits too long in waterlogged soil. Overwatering causes waterlogged conditions.

Such Ponytail plants can no longer absorb the nutrients efficiently and thus the leaves become wilted.

How do you save a ponytail palm with root rot?

You can save the overwatered Ponytail Palm by following the instructions below.

  • Make sure the soil/potting mix has good drainage. Ponytail palm loves well-draining soil as the plant is native to deserts.
  • Use a potting mix that is labeled for succulents/cacti. If you have the regular potting mix, add an equal amount of perlite/sand to it and use it.
  • Make sure your pot has drainage holes in it to drain excess water away.
  • Check the roots and cut off all the brown and mushy roots with a pair of pruning shears. Sterilize the pruning shears after use.
  • Check the trunk of your Ponytail palm and if it’s healthy shift it into another pot with fresh soil.
  • Remove the baby ponytail palms as soon as you notice rot in your plant. Plant these babies in a separate pot.

Ponytail palm leaves turning brown

Root rot/Crown rot is the reason why Ponytail palm leaves are turning brown. Ponytail palm leaves turn brown/black due to frost damage. Ponytail palm leaves also turn brown when the plant is underwatered(rare).

We shall discuss overwatering and root rot just after this section. Let’s see what the symptoms of underwatering are.

Underwatering Ponytail palm

Underwatered Ponytail palm turns brown too. The main difference is between overwatered and underwatered plants is that underwatered plant’s leaves turn dry and brown.

Tips of the Ponytail palm’s leaves turn brown in case of underwatering. If the plant has been in drought conditions for a long time, the swollen trunk shrinks.

Underwatering usually happens in summer. Check the potting mix with fingers and water if the top two/three inches go dry.

Underwatering is rare in Ponytail palm but it does happen if you don’t water the plant for a long time. The potting mix goes dry entirely.

The pot becomes lighter due to a lack of water. Check the pot to see if this is the case. If it is, water the plant thoroughly so the root ball gets moist.

How do you know when a Ponytail palm needs water?

Water your Ponytail palm once a fortnight. Let the soil/potting mix go completely dry before you water the plant.

Ponytail palm tolerates drought conditions well as it’s a desert plant. If the plant is underwatered you’ll notice that the size of the trunk/Caudex gets reduced.

Ponytail palm frost damage

In winter Ponytail palm plants suffer from frost damage if you don’t winterize them. The trunk of the plant gets rotten in a top-bottom fashion.

A part of the trunk gets rotten if it’s affected by frost damage. Cut off the top part with a professional pruning saw.

When you cut the top part of the trunk you can clearly see the infection. Cut the plant until you see a healthy cross-section of the plant.

Before the last cut, sterilize the pruning saw and go for the cut. Apply Cinnamon powder on the wound after making the final cut. Cinnamon is both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.

Ponytail palm leaves turning yellow

Ponytail palm leaves turn yellow when the plant is overwatered(first symptom). A deficiency of Nitrogen, Manganese, or Magnesium also turns the Ponytail palm leaves yellow.

What does an overwatered Ponytail palm look like?

Overwatered Ponytail palm leaves turn yellow and droopy. Such yellow leaves of Ponytail Palm eventually turn brown.

Check the soil with your fingers. It is probably wetter than needed.

Nutrient deficiency

Leaves of the Ponytail palm yellow if the plant lacks adequate Nitrogen, Manganese, or Magnesium. Get the soil tested or test it yourself with a DIY soil test kit.

Amend the soil according to the results. Use a slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote/Nutricote for good results.

Give the plant some time to recover. Fertilizer supplies the needed nutrients slowly, so you may need to wait for a month/two to see results.

What is the white stuff on my Ponytail Palm?

The white, fluffy fuzz you see on your Ponytail palm is caused by Mealybugs. The cottony hair-like material is secreted by Mealybugs.

Mealybugs are common pests of ornamental plants. Mealybugs are especially common on Ponytail palm plants. Keep the infected plant away from other plants.

How to get rid of Mealybugs on Ponytail Palm?

Here are some natural and chemical means to get rid of mealybugs on your Ponytail palm plant.

  • Spray 70% isopropyl alcohol/rubbing alcohol on the infected plant/plant parts. Alternatively, you can also rub the infected parts with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
  • Mix 5ml. soap in a liter of water and make a solution. Spray this solution on the infected plant parts. Look for these pests in the axils of leaves and other hard-to-reach areas.
  • Spraying natural pyrethrum works well too. You can use Neem oil on the infected plants too.

Ponytail palm trunk shrinking

Shrinking of the Ponytail palm trunk is natural. Ponytail plant stores water in the trunk for future use, that’s what the bulge is.

Ponytail palm’s trunk shrinks when the plant uses up the excess water. This is the most common reason why the trunk shrinks.

This happens when you haven’t watered the plant for a while. Shriveled bark and shrunk trunk are seen in drought conditions.


To acclimate a Ponytail Palm indoors, gradually transition it from outdoor to indoor conditions over a few weeks to prevent shock and ensure it thrives indoors.

  1. Gradual Transition: Start by bringing your outdoor Ponytail Palm indoors for a few hours each day. This allows the plant to slowly adjust to the change in light, temperature, and humidity.
  2. Choose the Right Spot: Place your Ponytail Palm in a location with bright, indirect sunlight indoors. These plants thrive in well-lit areas but avoid direct sunlight, as it can scorch the leaves.
  3. Maintain Temperature: Ensure the indoor temperature is suitable. Ponytail Palms prefer warmer conditions, ideally between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C).
  4. Adjust Watering: Indoor environments typically require less frequent watering than outdoor settings. Let the top inch or two of soil dry out before watering to prevent overwatering.
  5. Humidity Considerations: Ponytail Palms can tolerate low humidity, but they appreciate occasional misting or placement near a humidifier, especially in dry indoor environments.
  6. Monitor for Stress: Keep an eye on your plant for signs of stress, like yellowing leaves or drooping. Adjust care accordingly and be patient as it adapts to its new indoor home.

How to revive a dead Ponytail Palm?

Follow the instructions below to revive your dying Ponytail Palm plant.

  1. Root Check: Remove the Ponytail Palm from its pot and inspect the roots. Healthy roots should be firm and white, while unhealthy ones might be brown or mushy. Trim away any rotten roots.
  2. Trim Dead Leaves: Carefully prune away all the dead or yellowing leaves to promote new growth and prevent infections from spreading.
  3. Repotting: Choose a slightly larger pot with good drainage holes. Use a well-draining potting mix that’s designed for succulents or cacti. Repot your Ponytail Palm, ensuring that the roots have enough space to spread out.
  4. Light: Place your plant in a location with indirect sunlight. Ponytail Palms thrive in bright, indirect light. Avoid exposing it to harsh, direct sunlight, as it can scorch the leaves.
  5. Watering: Water your Ponytail Palm sparingly. Allow the top inch or two of soil to dry out before watering again. Overwatering is a common mistake, as these plants prefer being slightly on the drier side.
  6. Patience: Reviving a dead plant takes time. Be patient and monitor its progress. New growth may take several weeks or even months to appear.

Remember, each plant is unique, and success may vary depending on the severity of damage. With proper care and patience, your Ponytail Palm has a good chance of bouncing back to life.

Happy Gardening 🙂