Outdoor Ponytail problem

Discussion in 'Caudiciforms and Pachycaul Trees' started by cnsjones, May 6, 2009.

  1. cnsjones

    cnsjones Member

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    I am a newbie here. We planted a one-foot dia base ponytail inour front entry. Partrial shade, morning sun. Our "Pony" Plant looks healthy except for primary branch which developed what appeared to be a "cut-off" end. This seemingly recovered, but now the new shoots are also dying at this same "cut-off" location. I have not overwatered , but it does get some moisture from a sprinkler system but not directly on the plant. Other two heads on this plant, smaller, but seemingly healthy. I am concerned and want to help this plant without moving it if possible. Any suggestions, fungicide, spray, etc, appreciated.

    Thanks
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2009
  2. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    posting some pics of it would be helpful. especially close-ups of the spot that is having the issue.
     
  3. cnsjones

    cnsjones Member

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    It was as if somone had cut the end of the branch, and most of the leaves were dead and dyoimg - turning white and brown, but no one had cut it. Then this am I took a good close liik and decided to cut the dying end off. As I did this an inch at a time, the insides of the new growth were brown and mostly appeared dead. I continued to carefull cut until I reached a point about three inches from the first cut, to where the area looked healthy with no brown showing.

    If this does grow and then if I have the same problem, I will try to post a pic.

    Thanks
     
  4. markinwestmich

    markinwestmich Active Member

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    What kind of soil? Sandy? Clay? Without actually seeing the plant, it is difficult to discern the problem, but I suspect stem rot. This usually is a result of excessive watering and/or poorly-draining soil.
     
  5. cnsjones

    cnsjones Member

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    There probably was excessive watering when the plant was first put in the ground. Now there is not. Is there anything that I can do to help the plant? the soil is florida sandy soil. but planting mix was added to the soil when it went in the ground. Should I dig out around it and replace with sand or cactus mix? Can you describe stem rot?

    Thanks
     
  6. markinwestmich

    markinwestmich Active Member

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    Beaucarnea as landscape plants need some consideration with regards to location and soil. In the ground, they can get huge. The caudex can get several feet across. They are an arid-climate plant, which for them, means extensive root systems, fast growth when given water during the growth season (summer), however, they will rot quickly in a cool, wet environment.

    In Florida, you have the cool, dry season and then a hot, wet season. This makes Beaucarnea a potential good choice for landscaping in Florida. Potential, because during the wet season, fast drainage of the soil will be imperative. Given their potential size and their need for fast draining soil, they will likely do best in a raised bed or berm at several feet away from the home, pool, sidewalk, driveway, etc.

    Beaucarnea will rot given cool, wet conditions. Advantageous soil bacteria will attack the roots, caudex, and stems of these plants, as well as, other succulent plants. Stem rot will typically start at the point of tender, new growth. The new growth will soften, brown, and eventually drop. Cutting into the stem, will show a soft, sometimes mushy, brown center that will move itself to the outer part of the stem. Root and caudex rot will present in similar fashion, starting centrally and moving outward. Rot can start in one area and be self-limiting, or it can continue to move throughout the plant.

    Treating stem and root rot is usually easier than treating caudex rot. Cut off the effected tissue and keep the plant dry for at least a week to let the injury callus over. Beaucarnea are extremely tough plants and it is highly likely the plant will recover if the environmental conditions that triggered the rot are addressed. The soil should not hold a lot of water and should be very loose and drain well. Fine sand, surprisingly, will hold quite a bit of water and not drain well at all, and should be avoided. A mix of 25-30% organic matter/70-75% drainage material in a raised bed or berm will significantly reduce your chances of rot, especially during your wet season. Avoid regular sprinkling during the winter.

    Mark
     
  7. cnsjones

    cnsjones Member

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    Dear Mark,

    Thank you for that reply. My aching back is the result of a major effort yesterday; I dug completely around my large "Pony" and pulled him up out of the ground. I added gravel and rocks after digging deeper to increase the drainage capability. Then I raised the level of the plant by about 8 or nine inches, and built a "retainer" ring around it using preformed landscape stones. Filed the area in the ring with primarily organic material from underneath a large oak tree mixed with the soil from the hole. During the operation of course some of the outside feeder roots were hurt, but I hope that will not cause major distress. Time I guess will tell.

    I will make an effort to post a pic here as soon as I can.

    Question, how often should I feed Pony, and what should I use? Since we are currently in a major drought period, I have not watered, and hope that will help the chances of getting rid of the stem rot on the one branch. But the rainy season approaches, and that has me worried.

    Thanks again for your help.

    Fuller
     
  8. markinwestmich

    markinwestmich Active Member

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    Like most arid-climate plants, Beaucarnea are well-suited to poor soils and generally do not need much in the way of fertilizer. When my plants were small, I would do 1/4 strength liquid fertilizer every few weeks. Now that they are larger, I will give them 1 or 2 doses of full strength fertilizer over the course of the summer, usually in June and again in September. Otherwise, I have found slow-release, granular fertilizers work well.

    Beaucarnea are not sensitive to root disturbance like some other plants. They have a large reserve of energy and water to draw from in their caudex. Every few years, I will have to do some serious root trimming with mine, as they are in large containers now. As long as the roots are dry, they will callus and seal the wounds. I generally avoid any water for about a week after this operation. In fact, I will have to do it this year. I'll try to post some step-by-step photos when I do, as this topic comes up every now and then.
     

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