Learning how to grow multiple heads on a ponytail palm is actually quite simple, but it can be difficult in practice to get it right.
The process involves simply cutting the main trunk to promote new buds to develop around the edge of the cut which will eventually grow into new heads. You can’t estimate how many heads will develop, however, and there is a greater risk involved when using this method on older plants.
As you can see from the image above, I’m fortunate to have a ponytail palm that has split into 4 heads, and in this guide, I’ll explain the method for achieving this and some tips to help the process go smoothly. Let’s get into it.
How To Get A Ponytail Palm To Grow Multiple Heads: 2 Proven Methods
When it comes to growing multiple heads there are only 2 methods that work; splitting the trunk or waiting for the plant to split itself which only happens rarely on mature specimens when grown outside.
Unless you want to wait years and years then cutting the trunk is the only practical option that you have to get your ponytail palm to split. I will share some tips for getting a mature ponytail palm to split by itself, but this is much less likely to happen.
A Quick Word Of Warning
These methods are not guaranteed to work, and in the case of cutting the trunk, I would only advise this if you have more than one ponytail palm plant.
You can always propagate a few pups and then attempt to split those into multiple heads instead of the main plant.
1. Cut The Trunk
Cutting the trunk is the only practice method you can use to encourage your ponytail palm to split into multiple heads. I recommend cutting before the growing season (before spring).
Keep in mind you will have no idea how many heads will form, if any at all:
- Use a saw to cut the trunk cleanly around 1 inch from the top.
- Rather than sealing the cut with a product such as a tree pruning sealer, let the cut heal itself. Extensive research has proven that this is the best way to go. If you’re worried about infections in humid environments then consider using a layer of cinnamon.
- That’s pretty much it. Once you’ve cut the trunk it’s a waiting game, but there are a few care tips you need to follow during this time to give yourself the best chance of success which I’ll explain shortly.
2. Wait For A Mature Ponytail Palm To Split Itself
You’ve probably already seen several mature ponytail palms in the wild that have multiple palms, and this is something that you can try to replicate if the conditions outside allow for it (USDA zones 9-12).
I know this isn’t a particularly proactive method, but it’s worth mentioning as it’s the only other scenario where a ponytail palm will split into multiple heads. Again, you can’t predict how many heads will form in this case either.
How Long Will It Take For New Heads To Appear?
In the case of cutting the trunk, it usually takes a few months for new shoots to appear and these can take a year or two to develop, depending on the conditions where you live.
Mature plants can grow multiple heads at any time, and these follow a similar timeline for growth once they start to develop.
4 Easy Care Tips For Splitting A Ponytail Palm
If you decide to cut your ponytail palm then it becomes even more crucial that you provide the right conditions to promote growth.
These tips will focus on ponytail palms that are potted or kept indoors rather than mature specimens kept outside, as they will only split if the conditions are ideal anyway.
1. Split Before The Growing Season
Timing is important if you decide to cut the trunk of your ponytail palm.
Most growth occurs during the growing season when temperatures are higher and there is more sunlight, so it makes sense to cut the trunk before this season so your ponytail palm has the best chance of developing new heads. Ponytail palms are slow growers as it is, which makes it even more important to cut the trunk before the growing season.
I recommend cutting the trunk right before spring, as most growth will occur during this season until the end of summer.
2. Optimize Temperature, Sunlight And Humidity
Here’s a quick rundown of the ideal conditions (temperature, sunlight and humidity specifically) to promote the growth of multiple heads after cutting.
- The temperature should be above 60°F (15°C) most of the time, with nighttime temperatures no lower than 45°F (7°C) for growth.
- Bright, indirect sunlight is optimal for growth. Avoid direct sunlight as this will scorch the leaves on any newly formed heads as they start to grow.
- Humidity is also important for ponytail palm growth, and they prefer a dryer climate with humidity between 40%-50%.
3. Watering Schedule And Fertilizer
Ponytail palms don’t have a huge requirement for water, so only water sparingly during the growing season at about once per month.
Supplementing with fertilizer is a great way to ensure all of the important nutrients are supplied to boost growth. Succulent or cactus fertilizers work great here.
4. Soil Type And Drainage
Ponytail palms require well-draining soil as well as drainage holes to prevent overwatered conditions.
If you allow the soil to become overwatered then there’s no chance that multiple heads will grow, and you will start to notice other symptoms such as the trunk itself turning soft due to rot.
Can You Plant The Top That Was Cut Off?
Although there are cases of the top growing after being cut off and planted in a separate container, it’s very unlikely to happen.
You can always give it a shot if you have a spare container, and if you manage this then please let me know down in the comments and I’ll be happy to update this article!