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Shoot on ponytail

Shoot on ponytailWE have two ponytail palms - one is doing well, the other is not. It had leaves on the top until a few weeks ago when they all fell off. It now has a small shoot coming from the bottom. Should we cut it back?


THE flaky bark you can see in the photo suggests damage to the root system or perhaps to the lower trunk. A problem like this with large ponytails can usually only occur through serious waterlogging or some physical damage to the roots. Unfortunately, I don't hold out much hope of the plant surviving, but there's still a chance.

Worth considering is the fact that large ponytails like these are generally imported from overseas and, as part of that process, the root system is largely cut off. It's possible your plant has not regrown a healthy root system following importation, so if you bought the plant in the last few months it might be worth taking it back to where you bought it to discuss the problem. The fact that you have two plants, one of which is healthy, indicates you probably have been giving them reasonable care and attention and the problem is not necessarily your fault. These plants don't come cheap and many garden centres offer pretty good money-back guarantees on live plants.

As a last resort, you could cut the trunk back to just above the new shoot, move it to a warm, dry spot and not water it at all. Allow the plant and the mix in the container to dry out as much as possible in the hope that the new shoot keeps growing

Weekend Gardener, Issue 198, 2006, Page 22

Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH.

Andrew Maloy Weekend Gardener

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Last updated: November 29, 2006