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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!

Looking to purchase a Ponytail Palm? One of my favorite and most convenient one-stop-shops to buy practically any plant is Etsy. Check out the Ponytail Palm selection (link to Etsy) today!

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

Wilber Amberson

Monday 2nd of January 2023

Thanks for the great guide and pictures! I received two gorgeous Ponytail Palms for Christmas and they came in grow pots as well as an outer glazed pot. Unfortunately the glazed outer pot does not have a drainage hole. I'm worried about leaving it in its growing pot for too long, but am also worried about repotting in the glazed pot without a drainage hole. Is it normal to keep these palms in their growing pots for extended periods of time? I actually lifted one out of the growing pot and it looks nearly identical to your first picture, with the roots quite tightly packed around the perimeter. It's definitely potted in a well drained soil though, as even watering a very small amount quickly drains through the bottom of the grow pot. I'm thinking of either buying glazed pots with an actual drainage hole and tray or lining the included ones with a gravel of some sort and then repotting.

Raffaele

Tuesday 3rd of January 2023

I would definitely repot into a pot with a drainage hole, and there is nothing wrong with leaving the plant in a nursery pot. I do this all the time. You can repot it into a larger nursery pot and then slip it into the current decorative pot if it still fits. Bottom line, having a drainage hole is the top consideration regardless of pot material. Good luck! :-)

MJ

Tuesday 15th of November 2022

I repotted my palm, using your instructions. The roots were impacted and in standing water which seems it wasn't draining properly. I repotted into a pot with drainage rocks, using your soil formula. There are 21/2 inches around the main stalk. In addition, I placed the pot onto a saucer with small stones for added drainage. Since repotting, the leaves have gradually turned yellow. Could the repotting transition create this effect? Is there a recovery period?

MJ

Saturday 19th of November 2022

@Raffaele,

Yes, the pot (plastic) has drainage holes. The leaves turning yellow do seem to be on the lower level. New leaves are sprouting from each of the four bulbs. I had been watering every week with 2 cups of water. Should I spread out to every two weeks?

Raffaele

Wednesday 16th of November 2022

Does your pot not have a drainage hole? Is it just the lower leaves turning yellow?

Jim Heraty

Sunday 13th of November 2022

Hello! I bought a ponytail palm this year, and was curious of your opinion. It has three plants in a pot 9"dia. by 8" deep, it's doing very well, but I wonder if it is good for the plant to be growing together as it is. I'm just asking so that when I repot in a few years, I'll know the best course to take.

Raffaele

Monday 14th of November 2022

Hi Jim, it's really all personal preference. If you want a single trunk specimen, you can divide them. Mine actually has multiple in the same pot. It came that way so I just kept it, and it's too late to divide it now. I would say that if it seems fairly easy to separate, and you want single trunk specimens, go ahead and do so. Otherwise, there is no harm in leaving them in the same pot. Hope this helps.

Roxanne

Friday 4th of November 2022

I bought a 4’ ponytail palm at an estate sale. It’s potted in a 24’ diameter pot that’s 3” deep. It has roots growing on top of the soil. Should I trip the roots off or cover with soil.

Raffaele

Friday 4th of November 2022

I wouldn't take any of the roots out. Cover the surface with a little soil.

Karee

Tuesday 4th of October 2022

I have two ponytail plants in one pot. I’ve had them for about 15 years or so and they have outgrown the pot they are in now. I would like to separate them but I’m afraid their roots are so intertwined that I may lose them both. Should I attempt to separate them or find a bigger pot? The current pot is 24” wide and 16” deep. Anything bigger would make it more difficult to move them from indoors to outdoors. Help please!

Karee

Friday 7th of October 2022

@Raffaele, thank you. They are quite large so I think I will try to find a pot big enough to hold both of them.

Raffaele

Wednesday 5th of October 2022

If I were in your shoes and that was my plant, I honestly would leave the plant alone. You may risk damage if you try and separate them at this point.