The ponytail palm tree (Nolina recurvata) is native to the Mexican desert. In the United States, it grows outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. It is a popular potted plant grown indoors or outdoors where it can be protected from freezing temperatures. Planted in the ground, a ponytail palm tree can reach 18 feet, but container-grown plants grow to half that size. The ponytail palm has a straight trunk with a bulbous base that stores moisture. The long leaves grow from a central area at the top of the plant resembling a ponytail.
Purchase a container that is two inches in diameter larger than the container in which the ponytail palm tree is currently planted. A larger pot holds more soil, but the excess soil retains unused moisture and rots the roots of the ponytail palm tree. The container must be well-draining, so look for drainage holes. Drainage holes located on the bottom edge are better than a single hole in the bottom that can get clogged with soil.
Spread a 1-inch layer of pea gravel or small stones over the bottom of the planting container to ensure good drainage. Fill the container one-quarter full with a well-drained potting medium such as cacti and succulent mix or a mixture one-half good quality potting soil and one-half horticultural sand.
Remove the ponytail palm tree from its current container. Be careful not to pull the roots away from the trunk base. If the plant is root-bound, tap the side of the container to loosen the ponytail palm so it slides from the container.
Plant the ponytail palm tree in the new container. Add new potting soil between the roots of the plant and side of the container. The ponytail palm tree must be planted at exactly the same level as it was planted in the previous container.
Soak the potting soil around the newly potted ponytail palm tree to remove air pockets around the roots of the plant. Add extra potting soil, if needed, to compensate for settled soil. Water the plant when the top 1 1/2 inches of soil is dry. When a ponytail palm tree does not receive sufficient moisture, the bottom leaves begin to turn yellow. Overwatering the plant results in the rotting of the lower trunk as well as yellow leaves. Water sparingly during the winter when growth slows.
Locate the ponytail palm in a brightly lit location indoors or outside where it can be protected from freezing temperatures.