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My pony tail developed mealy bug - lots. I sprayed the hose on it then wiped the leaves with oil. But - after a week the leaves closest to the crown, turned white and began to fall out with the slightest touch. Top part of stem is shrivelling. Can I cut a section of stem off? The plant is about 1 1/2 metres tall.

Hi Kit,

Mealybugs attack plants that are under stress for other reasons. The dying back of new leaves and the shriveling of the trunk are not caused by the mealybugs. Those are symptomatic of root damage. Because Ponytails can withstand drought quite well, inadvertent over watering and root rot is the likely cause. Unfortunately, by the time the stem shrivels and new growth dies, it is usually too late to save the plant because the roots are already dead.

In general, Ponytail Palms must be very close to an uncovered sunny window. They must be kept very tightly potted and watered sparingly only when the top half of the soil is very dry.

If the upper stem was healthy, then cutting it back would be an option. However, your Ponytail is actually dying from the bottom up so cutting off the top will not lead to new growth.

As for treating the mealybugs, wiping is wasted effort. Use a spray solution of 5 parts water, 1 part alcohol and a squirt of liquid soap and spray deep into all the crevices where leaves attach to the stem. Be sure to cover all leaf and stem surfaces until they are dripping wet. Unfortunately, in your case eradicating all of the mealybugs is unlikely to save the plant.

Sorry I don't have better news for you, but this process has been going on for a long time and mostly out of sight amid the root system.

I have written detailed articles on treating pests and on Ponytail Palm care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at I have also written an indoor plant care book in a PDF format that I can sell you if you contact me at my email address.

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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