Ponytail "Palm"

Tree-sized ponytail plant outside a home in South Florida

Tree-sized ponytail plant (Beaucarnea recurvata) outside a home in South Florida. ©Stephen Brown, Lee County Extension, UF/IFAS.

The ponytail palm isn't really a palm—it's a member of the agave family. This tree-sized succulent is named for the long, delicate leaves that drape over the branches, giving it a "ponytail" effect.

The base of the trunk is very broad—up to 7 feet across—and narrowly tapers, eventually branching. The light green leaves are long and thin, cascading in tufts. While some of these plants have been known to grow as tall as 30 feet, they're also popular container plants, where they won't exceed 6-8 feet in height.

South Florida gardeners can plant ponytail palm in full or part sun in well-drained soil; it's hardy only in zones 10A-11. Its showy, creamy white flowers appear above the foliage for several weeks in spring or summer. Sometimes the tree will flower two or even three times a year.

The ponytail palm makes a great specimen plant and can be placed in a rock garden or, for the cooler parts of the state, grown as a houseplant.

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