Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ponytail Palm Blooms!

Driving down West Harrison in Harlingen, I was amazed to see this sight at an old bakery! Did you know that ponytail palms bloom? Beaucarnea recurvata, a native of Mexico, is a water-wise, easy care, specimen plant. I have grown one in a pot since around 1982 when my mother decided it was too large to move to her new home. This plant is a great focal point for any low water garden.

The blooms look an awful lot like palm inflorescence - but ponytail palms are not actually in the palm family, but in the agave family.

29 comments:

Jane Marie said...

Pony tail palms are house plants for us. I've never seen one bloom. Thank you. I learned something new today.

mr_subjunctive said...

Hi Mary Beth. I actually used to live in the RGV for a while ('85 to '90), in San Juan. I don't miss it (especially since I seem to be getting less and less heat-tolerant as I get older, and I was never great with heat in the first place), but I miss seeing tropicals all over, all the time. And the orange groves, I suppose, though that's more for the smell. I don't remember seeing ponytail palms like this, but I do remember the McAllen Public Library had some crazy huge Philodendrons.

Mary Beth said...

Mr. Subjunctive - You DO have to be "heat tolerant" to live in the Valley - but the wonderful flora & fauna make it worth all the sweat for me! This group of ponytails are planted at the entrance of the old Holsom or Rainbow Bakery and I suspect they were there in the 60s when I took school field trips to the bakery. I have seen four ponytails blooming around town this week - one in my father's yard! I'll have to see if those philodendrons are still going wild at McAllen's library.

Jane Marie - We get to grow lots of "houseplants" outside around here!

Meems said...

Mary Beth: Now that's a huge clump of ponytail Palms and the blooms are outrageous.

I adore all the blooms of palms. My palmettos are blooming right now and while they are not your typical showy flower - they have me mezmerized anyway.
Meems@Hoe&Shovel

No Rain said...

This is indeed a rare sight! Ponytail Palms have to be very old to produce inflorescence.Even the huge plant at Desert Botanical Garden has not yet flowered. Usually, it takes a more tropical climate for it to happen. It must be humid in Harlingen!
Potted Ponytail Palms hardly ever flower because they aren't old enough.
Aiyana

Mary Beth said...

Meems - I do wonder how may ponytail palms were originally planted in this area! I read something in our local newspaper that I didn't think was quite true - it stated that the only native palm trees in the United States are Sabal texanas in Brownsville, Texas. Aren't cabbage palms native to Florida and the Carolinas?

Aiyana - It is very humid here in Harlingen! We're only about 10-15 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Having never seen a ponytail palm bloom before, I'm shocked to have seen FOUR this year!

bnordlund said...

I have a ponytail palm in my backyard in a pot that just bloomed! We purchased the palm about 2 years ago and it has adjusted amazingly well. The bloom isn't very pretty and would like to know if there is a good way to prune the plant without hurting it. Any suggestions?

bnordlund said...

We purchased a ponytail palm two years ago and planted it in a large terracotta pot. It loves our backyard. Last week it bloomed! And from the post here it sounds like a rarity. The bloom isn't very pretty and the plant look too big for the pot. Can anyone tell me if it is safe prune the top off?

Anonymous said...

HI,

Do we know WHEN these plants bloom? Is it in the spring or summer? Do bees particularly like their nectar? I'm doing a brief report on this for school.
Thanks.

Mary Beth said...

Dear ANONYMOUS - They bloomed the beginning of May. The bloom period was a good month! The ponytail at my home did not bloom so I didn't get to observe it up close and do not know if there was a sweet aroma that attracted bees. Good luck on your school report!
Mary Beth

Anela said...

Peggy - i live in Honolulu, Hawaii and have a ponytail on my lanai (balcony). I've had this plant for years!I grew it from a small little pot just a few inches tall to the over 5 feet it is now.
AND... I have a bloom!!! Right now it looks more like a seed pod that looks like like on a coconut palm pod. I wasn't sure what was happening when this strange growth started to appear. Now I'm expecting the flowers soon! I can't wait!!! :-)

Mary Beth said...

ANELA - All the pony tail palms I saw bloom last spring were very mature plants - but I wondered if there was an environmental condition that caused them to bloom that particular year and not the year before - or five years before - or ten years before. I'd love to hear anything that you learn about how and why pony tails bloom. I'm watching them around here for blossoms. Enjoy yours!

Michael said...

My potted ponytail at home is blooming !! I didn't know they did that ! I have had it about 10 years, and it is over 8 feet tall. Stays inside in the winter (in my sun room) and I put it out when it gets warm enough at night to not get below about 55 (Central Alabama).

Mary Beth said...

MICHAEL - First I must say how jealous I am that your potted pony tail palm is blooming! I have had one since 1982 that has never bloomed (and it was already quite large then when my mother gave it to me). As the bloom dries, check out the seed. It has three wings (if I remember correctly) to help it float through the air to a new home.

Michael said...

Mary Beth...I put some fertilizer I found at a local grocery store (of all places) called Sunniland Palm Fertilizer (8-6-6) and it has gone crazy ! It has grown about 2 feet in 10 days/maybe 14 days, and the bloom came out one of the 3 stalks. Can't wait 'til it opens !!!

Walking by faith said...

My PonyTail Palm bloomed this year for the first time after being root-bound in a pot for years. My new bride rustled up a picture of it when her first husband and her bought it in 1978 !!! ... all of 3-6" tail in a tiny plastic pot. When I married her last year, the Ponytail Palm had grown to about 6' in a larger pot. I transplanted it and BaWammo, it bloomed within 3 mos. Looks odd, but I will tolerate it for now. Really don't know what to do with it as the bloom matures... any suggestions ?

Mary Beth said...

Michael - How exciting to have your ponytail palm blooming! The only one I have has never bloomed (although it's old enough - 30 years or more)so I have only been able to admire the blooms from afar. It seems that the bloom just slowly dries. The winged seed will most likely be inside a small fruit or pod.

The last time I re-potted my ponytail, I swore it would be the last time - that big bulb of a base makes for a very heavy plant, doesn't it? but you're making me re-think that decision!

Barbara said...

I too had a pony tail palm bloom. Very cool at first and then the palm struggled to revive. I took a chance and it paid off big time. Once the bloom had dried up the palm fronds still sagged and left the plant looking pitiful. So I cut off the top of the plant and planted it in the dirt, and hoped the plant would grow a new top. With in just a few weeks new leaves started to sprout. Now a year later the pony tail is more beautiful than ever. I took a chance I might kill the plant and it was the best thing for it. I would suggest once the bloom dies you do the same thing. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

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thanks
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Helene said...

Hi to Mary Beth and Everyone and thanks for the valuable information / observations on the Ponytail Palm.
I have one of at least 12 years old in a terracotta pot. I think I have replaced the soil once but do use a slow realease fertiliser occasionally. It is defintiely too big for the pot but continues to grow nonetheless. Recently I thought it was having a huge growth spurt (for reasons unknown) but no it was a bloom - it's first - and it is only a single stemmed plant. Woo-hoo!!! It is magnificent, has a nice scent and attracts lots of bees. The flower was 52 inches tall, towering above the orginal plant of 38 inches. Quite a sight. I live in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia hence the different flowering time.
Helene

Anonymous said...

We live in Orange County, California. I have had our "Ponytail Palm" for over twenty years. I just noticed for the first time that there is a bloom. I am excited after reading all of the comments to see this bloom. The plant has always been outdoors on my patio in a flat terracotta pot. I have not fed or repotted it ever. I always called it elephant palm. Thanks for the update. Mary

Anonymous said...

Great site- I have two ~10 year old ponytail palms in my backyard (which I always thought were bottle palms...)and one has about a 2 foot growth coming out. I really like the palms but have kids and dont need the bees around. Can I let it bloom just to see and then cut the top off without harming the palm?

Anonymous said...

Our plant has bloomed several times and the latest it has two very full blooms emerging from it's frowns. It has lost more then half it's frowns. They have not fallen off, just been overtaken by the blooms. We are concerned they are destroying our 20 year old plant. Does anyone know if we are suppose to do something to preserve our plant or do we just leave it alone and run it's course. The first two times it bloomed, it attracted a ton of bees, none this time. Also, the other times, the frowns were not impacted.

Anonymous said...

How did you go with your 20 yo flowering plant? Did you cut the bloom off once it browned? Our Ponytail is in the garden bed and is only probably 7 years old and has bloomed for the first time. The bloom is starting to die off and I want to know if I should cut it or leave it. I don't want to encourage multiple stems, I would prefer it to have a single head. Can you give me some advice? Thank you! KvV

Dbltennis said...

We have an old ponytail palm tree in South Florida with massive blooms. They were beautiful to look at first and we could see that the bees are enjoying the nector in the blooms. Days later, we also notice the millions of small moths that have clustered below the palm tree. We are not sure but the moths may be feeding off the pollen. They have taken over the front lawn and we are afraid of the damage that may result from these flying insects. Anyone know anything about this?

I would like to post a picture but don't see how.

Auricle the Orator #42 said...

I have had my ponytail palm since christmas, and my mother only potted it from a "baby" that grew on the bulb about 6 months before. I have already propogated at least a half dozen babies with great success, and noticed last week that a stalk was growing with an odd looking pod on the end. - now I have come to realise that this is in fact a flower, which I find very exciting!

I live in the niagara region in southern ontario canada, and I keep the palm inside. My ac has been running all summer so it sits at about 74-76 degrees F, with low humidity. And the palm is only about a year old. Which seems to discount everything I've read here reguarding age, temperature and humidity.

Either way, thank you for all the information! And I'm glad I could contribute!

Mary Beth said...

Auricle, I'm so impressed that you got a bloom so quickly. I have one pony tail palm - I got it in '82 and thought that it was quite large at the time. It has never bloomed for me - so I just have to enjoy the blooms I see around town . .

LYNN said...

My pony tail is approx. 10 years old. It planted in the yard and is 8ft tall and has a bloom 3ft tall out of the top it looks like a small Christmas tree. when it dies do I dare cut it off? please come back, Thank you.
lac298@yahoo.com











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Mary Beth said...

Lynn, I realize my response is WAY too late - but feel free to cut off the bloom stem once it is no longer aesthetically pleasing to you. Ponytail palms bloom regularly and this should not have any effect on the plants health.