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I recently acquired a ponytail palm, which is alive, though it wasn't taken care of well prior to my acquisition. One thing I noticed is that the pot was covered in rocks, that appear to be fused together to make some sort of covering over the soil.

I'd imagine that the covering was intended to help lock moisture into the soil, but ponytail palms, like all succulents, have their own ways of holding moisture and prefer drier soil. Could this rock covering be harmful to its roots and promote mold and root rot? Or should I remove it to allow the soil to dry and air normally?

Edit: I'm growing this plant inside (upstate NY), and I have it on a shelf so it can get direct light most of the day. It's in a typical ceramic pot with one hole at the bottom - seems to drain well. And the dirt inside feels dry to the touch (though I'm not sure of the last time it was watered). full Palm the rocks next to the plant the rocks and base

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    a picture is needed as I have trouble visualizing what you describe – kevinsky May 18 '16 at 19:30
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I've only seen this practice a few times in plants sold through the big-box stores. I believe they glue the gravel together so it doesn't fall out of the pot during shipping. The gravel is meant to keep the leaves off of the soil, and also to be decorative. Glued as it is, it offers no benefit to the plant at all and should be removed if you can. Sometimes removing the plant from the pot and soaking it for an hour or so will help loosen the glue. If you are unable to get the gravel close to the stem loose without damaging the plant, I'd remove as much as you can and hope the rocks close to the stem loosen up over time.

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