Help for my pony tail palm

Discussion in 'Indoor and Greenhouse Plants' started by LKendziera, Jun 1, 2009.

  1. LKendziera

    LKendziera Member

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    Location:
    Fayetteville, NC USA
    I recently inherited a pony tail palm from my grandparents who passed away four years ago. The palm is 33 years old and was purchased on a trip to Disney World when I was a kid. When I received it the palm was approximately 8 ft tall with a bulb about 18 inches in diameter. My grandfather had it planted in a whisky barrel and I kept it in the garage in the winter then out on the patio in the summer. It took three people to carry it to my garage using a flat dolly. Last year we decided to replant it because roots were coming out the bottom of the planter. I had a large planter constructed and then we had to bust the plant out of the whisky barrel with an axe to move it. I live in Fayetteville, NC and we decided to cover it in the winter on cold days and at night. As luck would have it, we had a prolonged cold spell but we were vigilent to keep it covered. At the end of the winter, we noticed the follage falling out and all that was left were the finger like shoots that the follage comes off of. They were soft so in the spring, around March, we decided to cut the palm back. My grandfather cut the palm with a saw years and years ago and had new shoots that came out and the plant did well. I read in the forum here that it can be done. It has been at least 8 weeks since I cut the top off. The remaining top is about 7 inches in diameter where I cut it and the trunk is slightly soft in places about 1/3 the way down the trunk. The trunk has places where sap seems to be coming out.... I pray someone knows what, if anything I can do to save this tree. I am desperate to save it. Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated. The bulb seems to be okay and I am questioning if I should cut places in it as suggested in the forum. Thanks for ANY help ANYONE can offer!!!!!!
     
  2. markinwestmich

    markinwestmich Active Member

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    Location:
    Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States
    There may be a few ways to approach this. Can you post a few photos? Either way, do not water and we need to stop the rot. If the soil is wet, remove it from it's container and let the roots dry out for a day or two.

    Sometimes cutting and removing the rot will suffice. Sometimes you can use dry cement and coat the effected area (a trick mentioned in one of my textbooks).

    After you take care of the rot, the next step is to sort out why it happened in the first place. Older Ponytail Palms, Beaucarnea sp., will need a loose, granular mix with generous amounts of drainage material (avoid potting soils, fine sand, etc as they will compact, hold too much water). As you know, they have a strong root system and need plenty of space for root transpiration. They are an arid-climate plant and need to be treated as such. Make sure the container has at least one large drainage hole, preferably more (you can drill more holes).
     
  3. LKendziera

    LKendziera Member

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    Thanks so much for the advice. If only 911 was available for our beloved plants. I will take a few photos tomorrow to send and you can see what you think. I went out tonight to purchase a whiskey barrel made of fiberglass. Currently, the plant is in rich potting soil with peet and manure.....I thought I was doing the right thing. I am planning to pull the bulb/roots and take a closer look tomorrow. I'll forward photos of what I find. Also, I have an additional question for you...if you don't mind.

    As I said in the previous post, the tree was tall, 8 feet with follage. I cut the top out after the loss of follage. Now it is soft all the way down to about 8inches above the bulb. After reading the posts here, I plan to put wax or parafin on the cut if I cut down further. Do you recommend doing so? I am afraid the rot will spread. There is also sap coming out down the trunk. At first I thought it might indicate new follage or shoots but now I am less optomistic. I am just concerned I might shock the plant too much but others have posted that they are hardy plants, difficult to kill.

    Thanks again for your help.....I just hate to lose this tree.
     
  4. markinwestmich

    markinwestmich Active Member

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    Location:
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    Your concerns regarding the spread of rot are valid. Once the process starts, most of the time you have to remove the rotted tissue, and just into the healthy tissue. After that, it needs to dry. Whether or not you choose to use a sealant is up to you, but you must be fairly confident that you are not sealing in potential pathogens or disease.

    Any soft, mushy tissue should be removed. If it has travelled into the core of the caudex, it is unlikely it will survive, though.

    The risk of shock is less than the risk of death at this point.
     

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