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Ponytail Palm Drooping: 5 Most Common Causes

Ponytail Palm Drooping: 5 Most Common Causes

Ponytail palm drooping is a lot more common than you would think, and in my experience of keeping ponytail palms over several years, it can usually be explained by one of 5 factors.

Out of these 5 factors I’ve found that the most common reason for ponytail palms droop is overwatering. In other cases, it can be due to the opposite (underwatering) or external issues like humidity or drastic changes in temperature.

A Quick Note

I’ve found that ponytail palms are super hardy plants, and if you notice that yours has started to droop it’s usually not a big issue.

So, don’t get stressed out. Read through the common causes below, and then afterwards I’ll take you through my preferred routine for identifying the issue and then the steps needed for getting your ponytail palm back to total health.

5 Most Common Reasons Why Your Ponytail Palm Is Drooping

1. Overwatering

Overwatering is the most common reason why ponytail palms can droop, and it’s also one of the most common issues that can affect your ponytail palm in general.

A lot of people – myself included – water ponytail palms quite frequently at first like you would with other common houseplants. This is a mistake, however, as ponytail palms only require watering once or twice per month during the growing season at most and even less during the colder months.

Overwatering saturates the soil with water which starves the roots of oxygen and essential nutrients. The result of this is drooping leaves that turn yellow from the tip as they slowly die.

2. Underwatering

Underwatering can also lead to drooping leaves, although this is much less common given how little water ponytail palms actually require.

An easy way to tell the difference between overwatering and underwatering specifically for ponytail palms is to check the leaves. Underwatering creates a yellow band that quickly turns brown along the length of the leaves, unlike overwatering which starts from the tip.

3. Sunlight Levels

Providing the right amount and type of sunlight is essential for ponytail palms.

Ponytail palms thrive with plenty of bright, indirect sunlight. If you provide either too much or too little sunlight, it can cause the leaves to droop.

  • Too much direct sunlight – Direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time will scorch the leaves, causing them to droop.
  • Not enough sunlight – Sunlight is crucial for photosynthesis. Without enough sunlight, your ponytail palm will be stunted in growth and the leaves will droop as they will be unable to produce enough food for growth.

4. Humidity

Humidity is another important factor that can impact ponytail palms and cause drooping leaves.

Humidity affects transpiration, which in turn causes changes to the stomatal openings on the leaves that are responsible for water loss. This has a direct impact on photosynthesis which is a driving factor in the overall growth rate.

To put it simply, if the humidity is out of the ideal range then it will impact overall growth which can affect the leaves and cause them to droop.

Ponytail palms are quite unusual in the fact that they prefer humidity on the lower end of the spectrum – around 40%-50%.

5. Temperature

Temperature is also important for growth as it has a direct impact on photosynthesis.

Similarly to humidity, if the temperature is outside of the ideal range you may notice that your ponytail palm will start to droop. Aim for temperatures above 60°F (15°C) for the majority of the time, with temperatures no lower than 45°F (7°C) at night.

How To Tell What Is Causing Your Ponytail Palm To Droop (3 Quick Checks)

You may already have a good idea of what has caused your ponytail palm to droop by reading through the most common causes above, but if you’re still unsure I’ve included the steps that I personally use to figure out why my ponytail palm has started to droop.

1. Check The Soil

The first thing I like to do is check the soil. Overwatering is the most common issue, so it makes the most sense to take a look at the soil first to determine if this is the cause.

Overwatered soil should be quite easy to identify. Use a pair of gloves and gently dig into the soil with your hands a few inches down – if the soil is saturated with water at or near the surface it is likely overwatered. If the soil is completely dry, however, then underwatering could be to blame.

At this point, I also like to take a look at the drainage holes. If water has started to collect in the bottom of the container then this is another key indication of overwatering.

2. Check The Leaves

Checking the leaves afterwards is a good way to confirm overwatering or underwatering.

If the leaves are changing color to yellow or brown from the tips and are not crispy to the touch then this confirms that overwatering is the problem.

If the leaves are changing color along the edge of the leaves and are crispy to the touch then underwatering is the issue. The leaves may also be scorched from the sun – in this case, you will notice random brown spots on the leaves with yellow bands around the centre.

3. Check Other Conditions (Temperature, Humidity, Sunlight, etc)

Temperature and humidity can quickly be checked with a thermometer or hygrometer, both of which are inexpensive and can come in handy especially if you have a collection of plants.

A ponytail palm in a brass container next to a white wall
My ponytail palm with happy leaves

For sunlight, you should have a good idea of how much sunlight your ponytail palm receives depending on where it is placed. Remember that too much direct sunlight can scorch the leaves, and the ideal type of sunlight is bright and indirect.

How To Revive A Drooping Ponytail Palm

When reviving a drooping ponytail palm, I recommend trimming affected leaves if they turn yellow entirely as these leaves can still be useful to the plant if they have only partly changed color.

Once trimmed you can use the steps below to quickly get your ponytail palm back to full health.

Overwatered

Overwatering is the most difficult issue to deal with out of all factors that can cause a ponytail palm to droop.

Luckily, I have written a complete guide for this which you can read to get your ponytail palm back to health.

Underwatered

If your ponytail palm has been underwatered you should first move it to a more shaded area.

Afterwards, take it out of its container (but not the pot) and place it in a sink filled with a few inches of water. Leave it for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the roots to absorb moisture from the bottom, and then place it back into its new position with more shade.

If the leaves don’t start to bounce back after a few days, water the soil generously and give it another few days. If this doesn’t work, repeat the sink watering method again.

External Factors

This is the easiest problem to deal with.

If you know that the humidity and temperature are outside of the ideal range after measuring them, simply alter the position of your ponytail palm to a different area where the conditions are more suitable.

The same can be said for sunlight as well. Avoid areas that receive lots of direct sunlight and move your ponytail palm to a different spot with plenty of bright, indirect light.

How Long Does Recovery Take?

Recovery from drooping can take as little as a few days in the case of external factors like providing the wrong amount of sunlight or humidity. Once you move your plant and get it into a more suitable place the leaves should perk up in no time.

Overwatering can take a bit longer to recover from, and in the very severe case where root rot has set in your plant may not recover. This is super rare though, and there is no doubt that other symptoms will have started to show such as the trunk turning soft and changing color.