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Ponytail Palm Growth Rate: How Fast Do They Actually Grow?

Ponytail Palm Growth Rate: How Fast Do They Actually Grow?

Ever wondered how fast a ponytail palm will grow, and what factors affect the growth rate?

Ponytail palm growth rate can vary quite a bit depending on a few factors, but you can expect a ponytail palm to grow up to 12 inches per year in optimal conditions. This varies drastically depending on the environment and several other factors and is more likely to be anywhere from a few inches to 10 inches per year in practice.

Where Are Ponytail Palms Naturally Found?

Ponytail palms are native to southeastern Mexico.

Due to this, they naturally thrive in semi-desert environments. This means that in order to achieve a good growth rate you should try to emulate these conditions as much as possible.

Factors That Affect Ponytail Palm Growth Rate

12 inches per year is around the limit for a ponytail palm, and there are a lot of reasons why this is very rare to achieve in practice.

Watering Schedule

Ponytail palms are succulents, which means they can withstand long periods without water.

If you want a good growth rate, however, it’s recommended to water quite regularly during the summer (when the top few inches of soil dry out) to emulate the conditions in their natural habitat. Over the winter time, avoid watering often as it can saturate the soil with water which can lead to root rot or stem problems.

Water is essential for plant growth for many reasons such as cooling, photosynthesis and nutrient transport, so it’s crucial to provide enough water if you want your ponytail palm to grow – just don’t overdo it (this can cause other issues such as the leaves changing color).

Sunlight

Sunlight is a crucial element in ponytail palm growth rate as it is the driving force behind photosynthesis, which produces food for the plant.

In the semi-desert environments of southeastern Mexico, there is plenty of sunlight for long periods of time each day. Make sure your ponytail palm has access to plenty of sunlight, either direct or indirect.

If you keep your ponytail palm inside, indirect sunlight is better as there is less chance of sun scorching on the leaves. When kept outside, ponytail palms adjust to direct sunlight and become less vulnerable to this.

Humidity

Unlike a lot of houseplants, ponytail palms thrive in low-humidity environments (again, due to their native climate). Humidity around 40 to 50% is ideal and is important for the growth rate.

Humidity affects transpiration, which in turn affects the stomatal openings which control water loss. This directly impacts photosynthesis, which is a driving factor in the overall growth rate.

Soil

Soil is important for growth rate because it has a large impact on the nutrients that are available to the plant, as well as how well water drains which is crucial in preventing root rot or other issues.

When kept outside, sandy soil rich in organic nutrients is preferred for ponytail palms. When kept indoors a succulent potting mix will do the job just fine.

Nutrients (Fertilizer)

Soil is important for nutrients, but fertilizer can also be used to supplement a ponytail palm with key nutrients that are responsible for growth such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (the 3 major nutrients in complete fertilizers).

For optimal growth fertilize once per month during the growing season.

Temperature

Temperature affects growth in several ways, and it’s important to mimic the temperature ranges found in southeastern Mexico to achieve a good growth rate for a ponytail palm.

The temperature should ideally be above 60°F (15°C) most of the time, with nighttime temperatures no lower than 45°F (7°C).

Indoor Vs Outdoor

Ponytail palms grow faster outside and will reach a much larger overall size as well, around 20 to 30 feet tall to be specific.

This, of course, assumes that they are grown in the right conditions outside (USDA zones 9-12). If you tried to grow a ponytail palm outside where the temperature is too low, for example, then the growth would slow down drastically.

A ponytail palm in a brass container next to a white wall

FAQs

To make sure I’ve covered this topic in-depth, I’ve included a round-up of some of the most frequently asked questions about this topic.

What Is The Lifespan Of A Ponytail Palm

Ponytail palms can live a long time and have been known to live over 100 years in some cases, so there’s a good chance that your ponytail palm may outlive you.

How Big Will A Ponytail Palm Get?

The size of a ponytail palm depends on whether it’s grown inside or outside, and also the conditions that are provided.

In their natural environment ponytail palms have been known to grow over 20 or 30 feet tall, with a spread of 5 to 15 feet. Inside, though, they will likely only grow up to around 5 feet tall, which is something to consider if you want to keep one as a houseplant.

(Featured image credit – Dinseh Valke, Flickr)