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Ponytail Palm Cold Tolerance: A Complete Guide

Ponytail Palm Cold Tolerance: A Complete Guide

Ponytail palm cold tolerance is quite high, especially for a plant that is native to areas like southeastern Mexico where temperatures can reach over 100°F (37°C) – but how good is it exactly?

Ponytail palms have great cold tolerance, especially those that are mature and have thick trunks. Temperatures down to 32°F (0°C) will slow down growth significantly, but anything below this can cause frost damage which can kill ponytail palms over extended periods of time.

In this guide I’ll take a deep dive into everything there is to know about ponytail palm cold tolerance using my own experience with the plant. Let’s get straight into it.

What Is The Ideal Temperature Range For Ponytail Palms?

The ideal temperature range for ponytail palm growth is between 60°F (15°C) and 85°F (29°C). They can, of course, withstand higher temperatures but this does require frequent watering.

At night time the temperature should ideally remain above 45°F (7°C) for optimal growth.

How Cold Is Too Cold?

Anything around or below 50°F (10°C) will slow down growth significantly, but as temperature approaches or goes below freezing 32°F (0°C) then more serious problems than just slow growth can occur.

What Happens To Ponytail Palms When They Get Too Cold?

When ponytail palms get too cold for extended periods of time they will lose their leaves and the trunk will start to turn soft from the top.

This is different to a case of overwatering where the trunk would turn soft from the bottom rather than the top, and this is an easy way to tell that your ponytail palm has been left in temperatures that are too low.

The trunk turns soft due to rot, which is a result of the trunk dying due to cold (usually freezing) temperatures.

Young Plants VS Mature

Young ponytail palms are much more susceptible to cold weather than mature ponytail palms due to the difference in size.

Young ponytail palms (like mine, pictured below) would freeze entirely through in a matter of days if the temperature was low enough. Mature ponytail palms have much more resistance due to their sheer size.

Ponytail palm trunk up close in front of a white wall
My ponytail palm would struggle to endure freezing temperatures!

Can A Ponytail Palm Live Outside In The Winter?

Keeping a ponytail palm outside during the winter is possible, it just depends on where you live.

Ponytail palms can be kept outside year-round in USDA zones 9-12

How To Protect Your Ponytail Palm From Freezing

The only 100% effective method to prevent a ponytail palm from freezing is to bring it inside during the cold months. This should be relatively easy as long as you have somebody who can help you carry the plant.

If the temperature drops just below freezing during the winter, like in USDA zones 9a, 9b and 10a then mature ponytail palms can be left outside. For insulation, I recommend adding a layer of mulch over the base of the plant.

Most mature ponytail palms can survive temperatures just below freezing for short periods of time, but a layer of mulch can be beneficial to keep temperatures just above freezing.

How To Revive A Ponytail Palm That Has Froze

If your ponytail palm has already frozen there is still a good chance that you can revive it – it all depends on how much of the trunk has died and begun to rot.

This is where the difference between a mature ponytail palm and a young ponytail palm shows, as mature ponytail palms have more trunk which means they’re less susceptible to the cold.

Remove Dead Trunk

Use a saw or other plant-cutting tool to remove the trunk from the top. Make sure you disinfect the tool of your choice using alcohol or a similar disinfectant.

To do this, use your hands to feel where the trunk is soft and where it begins to feel hard. Cut just above where the trunk turns hard and look at the surface – if there is any black or dark brown trunk visible then you need to cut more trunk off.

Repeat this until you have a clean cut that is completely light brown and healthy in color with a green band all around the circumference.

Trim Any Remaining Dead Leaves

Frost damage will kill lots of leaves, there is no doubt about that. Remove any leaves that have turned yellow or brown carefully and leave any behind that are still green.

Dust The Cut With Cinnamon (Wood Glue Optional)

It’s important to cover the cut to prevent moisture from getting into it that can turn into fungus.

Cinnamon powder is a great antibacterial option that you can use here – simply dust the surface and smooth the powder with your hands until it is covered.

After 24 hours you can remove any remaining cinnamon and seal the cut entirely with wood glue. This step is optional, and I would only opt to do this if you live in an area with high humidity or lots of rainfall to keep moisture out properly.

Consider Repotting

Frost damage can affect the soil as well, so it’s worth checking the potting mix to see if it has been affected or not.

You won’t always need to repot, but if the soil has gone dry and crumbly I would definitely recommend repotting with fresh soil. Succulent and cacti soils work great, or you can make your own DIY mix using 1 part potting soil, 1 part perlite and 1 part sand.

If you are changing pots ensure that you have good drainage in place as a lack of drainage holes can quickly lead to overwatering if you’re not careful.