House Plants/Ponytail Palm


I've had my Ponytail Palm for 11 years. I bought it with my husband when we were first together, so I really don't want it to die. This week I noticed that some of the leaves at the top were bending down and when I looked closely the center looked brown.  I did some research and I think it may have rotted from excess watering this summer. Can I save it?  Should I take it out of the pot and cut off the rotten part of the root? Should I repot it in dry soil? What do you think would be best? I really want to save it. Thank you so much!

Hi May,

No one wants their plants to die, but a lot of them do.

When lower leaves on a Ponytail Palm yellow and die back, it is not a serious problem. However, when new growth comes in withered, discolored or distorted, that means the roots are damaged, usually from keeping the soil too moist and causing the roots to rot.

With root rot, there is not single root that can be removed as it affects all of the roots equally. Replacing the soil will not help either. All you can do is allow the Ponytail to dry out deep into the pot before adding even a small quantity of water. Keeping the plant on a warm, sunny windowsill will help the drying out process. Whether or not the plant can be saved depends on just how badly damaged the roots already are and there is not way to tell that. However, if the upper portion of the stem is shriveled, then the plant is probably beyond recovery. Otherwise, look for signs of healthy new growth as e roots gradually recover.

Be patient and good luck with it.

I have written an article on Ponytail Palm care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at

Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.

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Will Creed


I am the only expert in this category with professional hands-on experience and knowledge of all indoor plants. I can answer questions regarding light, water, fertilizer, repotting, pruning and humidity and temperature requirements. I can identify plant pests and provide information on safe, effective treatments. My answers are based on 35 years of professional experience and scientific research and are clear and easy to understand. I do NOT use search engines to find answers to your questions. If you read my previous posts here, you will get a good idea as to how thorough and professional my answers are.


I have over 35 years of professional indoor landscaping experience caring for plants in homes, offices, building lobbies, stores, restaurants, and other adverse environments. I have written extensively on the care of indoor plants, including a 260 page book. My specialties include Ficus trees, low light plants, repotting, pest control, and re-blooming holiday plants. Be sure to check my ratings and nominations to learn why I am the top-rated indoor plant expert. I am the only House Plant expert consistently ranked in the AllExperts Top 20.

BA, Amherst College

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