How to tidy up 40-year-old Ponytail palm?

Discussion in 'Caudiciforms and Pachycaul Trees' started by rd.rnnr, Mar 23, 2020.

  1. rd.rnnr

    rd.rnnr New Member

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    East Bay, California
    Hello Everyone- I am blessed to have received a ponytail palm in 2000 from a dear friend. She said she had it for over 20 years and could not take it with her as she moved across the country. I lived in Chicago at this time and I struggled to keep the palm full and lush green with the lighting I had available in my home. Fast forward to 2012, I moved to Fresno, CA and repotted it as the pot it was in broke in-flight. I literally picked it up out of the broken pieces and plunked it down into a new pot, put it under a faucet with a very slow drip, in east/west sun. Wow, for 4 years, it did fantastic in that desert heat. Three years ago we moved to the East Bay and the wet and rainy winters have not been kind as I continued to keep it outdoors year-round. The leaves would yellow and brown.

    Last fall, I watched Nigel Saunders, Bonsai Zone, on how to re-pot the ponytail palm. I followed his instructions on his videos and really examined the underside trunk and root system. To my shock, the roots were entangled in a mesh burlap netting with this porous white particulate. This was pushed all the way up into the bottom of the trunk and when I removed it, there was a sort of "void" on one side of the trunk. I gently "raked" through and cleared away dead stuff, aligned the spiral roots to the outer perimeters, lovingly placed it into a larger pot and said a prayer. This definitely cleared up the yellow-brown leaves. I have read on the previous posts about cutting the shoots. I have all of these dead-end shoots. Can I cut them, how many at once, and what will be the hopeful structure of new growth? The plant is over 40 years old, I have never cut it and I am unsure what and how much I can do with these dead spots. I have attached photos and welcome any advice.
     

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    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 23, 2020
  2. Andrew Matheson

    Andrew Matheson Member UBC Botanical Garden

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    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    Hi there!

    It looks like you've done a good thing by repotting this plant. It's pretty good looking to me, albeit they can be slow growers (especially if exposed to winters that can reach below freezing). From the photos, I am unsure as to what it is you would like to cut off of this plant? If you have dead end shoots that are truly dead ends, then feel free to cut them off whenever. It looks like shoots have been removed in the past. It was probably purchased this way, many plants are sold who's tips have been cut to promote branching, which keeps the plant shorter (they can get pretty tall for a houseplant if not cut back).

    It's almost always ok to remove truly dead pieces from a plant. The plant may branch under the cuts you make, but it's also possible they wont. Just be sure to leave the living stuff- you can't get it back that way if you remove it! But I wouldn't think twice about the removal of dead material.
     

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