Ponytail Palm Has No Roots Left? A Quick Guide To Recovery

If your ponytail palm has no roots left, then this is the guide for you.

It isn’t common for a ponytail palm to lose all of its roots, which will only happen in cases of severe root rot. Root rot is caused by overwatering and often happens for ponytail palms when people overestimate how much water they actually need.

In this article, we’ll explain exactly why your ponytail palm has no roots, what options there are, and how to prevent it from happening in the future.

Let’s get straight into it.

A Quick Overview Of The Ponytail Palm

The Ponytail Palm is a unique-looking plant that’s perfect for adding a touch of greenery and tropical vibes to your home.

Now, let’s talk about what makes this plant so special. One distinctive feature is its bulb-like base, often referred to as the “caudex,” which stores water and helps the plant survive in arid conditions.

Funnily enough, this caudex is the reason why some people face the problem of overwatering, leading to root rot and eventually no roots, but more on this later.

From this base, you’ll see long, slender leaves cascading down, giving it the appearance of a ponytail, hence the name.

A ponytail palm in a brass pot next to a money tree
One of my healthy ponytail palms

Ponytail palms are super hardy and actually thrive with a bit of neglect, so what causes them to have no roots?

What Causes A Ponytail Palm To Have No Roots?

The main cause of a ponytail palm having no roots is root rot.

Root rot originates from two things:

  • Dormant fungi in the soil that becomes active in overwatered conditions.
  • The second cause is roots that suffocate in excess water. Eventually, these roots die and start to rot, spreading to other roots.

Roots affected by root rot die off pretty quickly, and if the root rot isn’t addressed by repotting the plant, pruning affected roots, and treating the rest with a fungicide, then all of the roots will eventually die.

Overwatering is responsible for both causes of root rot, so it’s crucial to avoid overwatering your ponytail palm to protect the roots.

Factors That Make Overwatering More Likely

There are a few factors that can make overwatering more likely to occur, apart from simply watering too much:

  • Lack of drainage holes
  • Poor draining soil
  • Low temperatures

Remember the caudex from earlier?

Well, ponytail palms are succulents which means that they store a lot of water.

A lot of people make the mistake of treating their ponytail palm like a regular houseplant, watering often, which quickly leads to overwatering and then root rot.

A great piece of advice is to look out for signs of root damage early to prevent all of the roots from dying.

Warning Signs Of Root Damage

To identify root damage in your ponytail palm, look for the following signs and symptoms:

  • Yellowing leaves: If the leaves on your ponytail palm are turning yellow and wilting, this could indicate that the plant’s roots are not absorbing enough nutrients.
  • Slow growth: If your ponytail palm is not growing as fast as it should, this may be a sign of root damage. A plant with damaged roots will struggle to absorb nutrients and may not grow at the expected rate.

If the roots themselves have turned black and mushy and emit a could odor, they have rotten.

2 Options For Ponytail Palms With No Roots Left

If you find yourself with a ponytail palm with no roots, there are only two real options: propagating the pups and attempting to save the plant.

Propagate The Pups

One way to handle a ponytail palm with no roots left is to propagate the pups, which are the small offshoots that grow from the base of the plant.

A ponytail palm pup
A pup on my ponytail palm

Here are the steps for propagating the pups:

  1. Gently remove the pups: Use a saw or knife to cut the pup off from the plant’s stem.
  2. Choose the right soil & pot: Prepare a well-draining potting mix, such as a combination of equal parts perlite, sand, and potting soil. Make sure the pot has several drainage holes in the bottom.
  3. Plant the pups: Fill a pot with the prepared potting mix and plant the pups in it, ensuring to bury the roots about 1 inch deep. You can also use rooting hormones here as well.
  4. Care for the pups: Water the pups sparingly, keeping the soil slightly damp. Place the pot in a spot with bright indirect sunlight and monitor them over the next few weeks, watering when the top inch of soil dries out.

Pup propagation can be difficult, but if all of the roots are dead and the stem is rotten, it is the only option.

Attempt To Save The Plant

If there are any healthy roots (white in color) left at all, even one or two, there is a chance that you could save your ponytail palm.

You can also try this even if there are no visible roots, but this will only work if the stem has not gone soft and started to rot as well.

Here’s what you can do to give your plant the best chance of growing back:

  1. Trim the unhealthy parts: Remove any dead or brown foliage and trim the damaged root area away from the plant.
  2. Apply fungicide: Treat the remaining roots (if there are any) with a fungicide designed for root rot specifically.
  3. Use well-draining soil: Create a well-draining potting mix like the one mentioned earlier (perlite, sand, and potting soil).
  4. Repot your plant: Plant the ponytail palm in a suitable pot with drainage holes, and fill it with the prepared potting mix.
  5. Water sparingly: Water your ponytail palm sparingly at first, ensuring that the soil remains slightly damp but not wet.
  6. Provide appropriate care: Place your repotted plant in a location with bright indirect sunlight and maintain consistent temperature and humidity levels.

While the chances are slim, it’s worth trying to save your ponytail palm.

You could even do both strategies at once – even if the main plant dies, there’s always a chance that the pup will propagate successfully.

Tips For Promoting New Root Growth

Here are some top tips for helping your ponytail palm grow new roots for both methods listed above.


Probably the most important factor for root growth is watering the plant properly.

To do this, only water when the top inch of soil dries out. This will keep the soil moist, preventing underwatering as well and create the perfect environment for new roots to hopefully develop.


Fertilizing is also important to promote new root growth.

Nutrients found in complete fertilizers – those that contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – are beneficial for overall health and root development:

Once your ponytail palm is repotted, add a diluted liquid complete fertilizer to give it the best chance of revival.

Other Care Conditions

It’s also important to get the other care conditions as close to ideal as possible to promote new root growth.

  • Provide bright, indirect sunlight to avoid scorching the leaves.
  • Keep the humidity around 40-50%.
  • The temperature should ideally be above 60°F (15°C) most of the time, with nighttime temperatures no lower than 45°F (7°C).

In Summary

When it comes to a ponytail palm with no roots, there are not many options.

If all of the roots have completely died and the stem has started to rot, your best option is to propagate the healthy pups, if there are any. Otherwise, you might be able to repot the plant and nurse it back to health.

Want to learn more about ponytail palms? Check out some of our other articles below:

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About Me

Hi, I'm Joe! I'm the head of SEO and content management at Bloom and Bumble. I'm a huge plant lover and over the years my home has become more like an indoor rainforest. It has taken a lot of trial and error to keep my plants healthy and so I'm here to share my knowledge to the rest of the world.

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