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How to Repot Ponytail Palm: 3 Critical Steps (With Photos!)

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Are you ready to repot your Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) and you want to make sure that you’re doing everything correctly? I will show you step by step how I repotted my own plant. There are 3 very important things that you need to know for success so allow me to show you!

repot-ponytail-palm

I’ve had my own Ponytail Palm in the same pot for close to 5 years ever since I purchased it, and it had gotten very pot bound, so I’m going to show you exactly the steps I took to repot, and how I knew it was time to repot.

When to Repot Ponytail Palm

Every plant needs a larger pot eventually. My own plant was growing beautifully for many years in the same pot, but eventually, the soil was drying out much more quickly than it used to.

Which is GOOD and you want the soil to dry out quickly, but as a result of this fact, I figured that the plant was pretty root bound.

I took the plant out to take a look:

ponytail-repot

Look how pot bound! Nice healthy roots though!

HOW TO REPOT BEAUCARNEA RECURVATA, OR PONYTAIL PALM

1. LOOSEN THE ROOT BALL

When plants get extremely root bound, you’ll have to work to loosen the root ball a bit. If your soil is dry, go ahead and water it. It will make it easier to tease the roots apart.

The reason you have to do this is that otherwise, your plant will have a much harder time growing out of the densely packed ball of roots in order to grow into the soil in your new pot.

Many people are terrified to break up the root ball. You don’t have to worry!

I like to start by grabbing the root ball at the base and gently pulling things loose.

ponytail-repot
Loosening the root ball

Next, I like to work on the sides of the rootball and loosen up the sides.

Go all the way around the perimeter until you’ve loosened things up a bit.

Some people go overboard and remove all of the old soil, but I almost never do this when repotting plants, nor do I think it’s necessary.

You will inevitably break some roots, but don’t stress about it. Just don’t go crazy and break half the roots off and you will be ok.

Your goal is to loosen the roots so that they can easily grow into the new soil in its new home.

2. CHOOSE AN APPROPRIATELY SIZED POT

For your new pot, choose one that is only 1-2 inches in diameter larger than your old pot.

Don’t go overboard or be tempted to place it in a pot larger than that. Especially for succulents!

The danger in this is that if your pot is too huge, your soil will take a lot longer to dry out and this can encourage problems like root rot.

I went from a 7″ diameter pot to an 8″ diameter pot, but it was deeper than the old pot.

ponytail-palm
My Ponytail Palm in its old pot

3. USE AN EXTREMELY WELL DRAINED POTTING MIX

The last critical part in successfully repotting your ponytail palm is making sure to use a soil mix that is very well draining.

I never use any potting mix straight out of the bag. I don’t buy any fancy potting mixes, but I do blend my own to suit whatever plant I’m working with.

For succulent plants like Beaucarnea recurvata, I like to use two parts of a good succulent soil and 1 part of 1/4″ pumice.

You will get a VERY well drained mix this way and this is exactly what these plants like.

ponytail-palm-soil-mix
Top (left to right): succulent soil and pumice
Bottom (left to right): succulent soil and perlite

I actually ended up using both pumice and perlite because I didn’t have enough pumice. In the end I used 4 parts succulent soil mixed with 1 part pumice and 1 part of perlite.

Mix up everything until homogeneous, and you’re ready to go. I like to repot outdoors so I added everything in my wheelbarrow and mixed it up there.

ponytail-palm-soil

I chose a glazed ceramic pot as my plant’s new home. Terra cotta pots are also excellent, especially for succulents since they breathe and dry out more quickly than other pots.

I like to place a broken piece of terra cotta pot over the drainage hole (like an upsidedown U) so that it keeps the soil in but lets water out.

When you add the plant and start to add soil to the new pot, gently firm the soil down with your hands as you go along so that there are no air pockets and your plant is secure and is not wobbling. You don’t want a wobbly plant in your pot!

You’ll want to leave about one inch from the soil to the top of the pot so you have room to water and have a “reservoir.” Don’t forget to do this or it can get very messy when you water!

ponytail-repotting
All potted up!

Finally, give your plant a good watering and you’re all done!

For tips on how to grow Ponytail Palm, be sure to check out my Ponytail Palm Care post which includes everything from light, watering, common problems, etc.

If you want to actually see me physically repot this plant, check out my repotting video on YouTube!

Have you repotted your ponytail palm yet?

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:

OHIO TROPICS PLANT CARE STOREFRONT

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Sherie Cochran

Thursday 14th of January 2021

My friend just gave me a ponytail palm and she repotted it before she gave it to me because she wanted to keep the nice pot it was in. But the bulb’s neck is even with the top of the soil. My past ponytail palms the bulb was almost sitting on top of the soil. What should I do? My friend has only been interested in plants for a pandemic year.... haha.... but I tried questioning her if the bulb was above or below soil level when she acquired it. And I didn’t get a true idea of if it was either one. What should I do? I don’t want to lose the plant, because I really - really like them. And some of the blade leaves have 3-4 inches of brown tips....but not that many. She used cactus/ succulent soil. One more question. I have a really pretty bonsai pot, but it’s like a 10 inch width. Can I repot it in there and exactly how would I do that? Because it’s currently in a 6 inch pot. Bulb is about 4 inches wide I think! Hard to tell below the soil....oh it might be 3 inches wide.

Raffaele

Friday 15th of January 2021

Hi Sherie! The swollen base (called a caudex) should definitely not be under the soil line. I would just go ahead and repot it now if you can. You don't want to leave too much room though. If the caudex is only 3 inches in diameter, a 10 inch is much too large, although since you're using a bonsai pot, I'd imagine that it's not too deep so it'll offset it a bit. However, I would try and find a pot that would leave maybe two inches at the most, from the edge of the caudex (once you unearth it!) to the rim of the pot. I hope this helps and good luck!

Brenda Balch

Friday 13th of November 2020

I want to report my ponytail palm that has three bulbs, and have a pot that is 14" wide by 9 " deep. The current pot is 9" wide and also 9" deep. Since I am not adding depth, would the width be too much? Thanks!

Raffaele

Saturday 14th of November 2020

My Brenda, that's a great question! I would say you're probably just fine, as long as your plant is getting plenty of light! Do you have it in a nice, sunny spot?

janice gelband

Wednesday 4th of November 2020

My neighbor tossed her 30 year ponytail plant out in the trash.. it was out of pot and the fonds are still very green.. the bulb is about 29'in circumference.. Roots are long and pale yellow AND DRY.. nY QUESTION FOR YOU IS WHAT SIZE POT SHOULD I USE AND SHOULD I SOAK THE ROOTS BEFORE POTTING.. IT HAS BEEN AN INDOOR PLANT BEFORE SHE THREW IT OUT.. tRYING TO SAVE IT THANKS

Raffaele

Wednesday 4th of November 2020

Hi Janice! I would place it in a pot that is just slightly bigger than the root ball. Maybe 2 inches or so bigger than the current diameter of the root ball now. You can soak the roots before repotting if they're terribly dry. Good luck!!!

Enit O'Donnell

Friday 4th of September 2020

My Ponytail Palm "seems" to be thriving. I bought it about 4 years ago. And it looks beautiful. Seems happy on my kitchen window with afternoon sunlight. I did repot it about 2 years ago. Because it seemed to be to tight in its old container. I went a bit bigger. But it servived and is doing just great. But the containter does not have a hole. Is that a problem???? Please advise. What should I do since we are going into Fall. Todays date 8/3/2020

Raffaele

Friday 4th of September 2020

I always recommend a drainage hole. If you've had it that long and it looks good, keep doing what you're doing for now. The danger is that if you slip and add a lot of extra water, it has nowhere to go. I would recommend perhaps drilling a drainage hole at the bottom of your pot, or transferring it into a pot that has one. It's getting a little late in the season, but you could try it now, or wait until the Spring. Hope this helps!