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We live in SW Florida, Zone 9B. Our old neighbor told us this is a ponytail palm. Seems that there are now more brown leaves on the tree and the ground as opposed to the tree itself. He told me to cut off the top of the tree about 18" below where the branches have grown.

If I cut the top off, will more branches, or something, grow back? And any idea how long it will take to start seeing some growth, as opposed to just having the trunk being ever so naked...

Ponytail Palm Tree

Top of the Ponytail Palm Tree

  • What's the cause of the blackened area on the main trunk from about halfway down, worsening towards the base, that I can see in the top photo? Is it just some kind of deposit on the trunk, or is that area soft or soggy? And I'm not seeing a bulbous base at the bottom of the trunk - is there one, and I'm just not seeing it in the pic? – Bamboo Sep 24 '16 at 10:50
  • @Bamboo, I don't know what the black area is, maybe a mold or something like that? The black on the trunk is only on the north side of the the trunk, while the base is pretty much shaded all day (except for a few hours during the peak of summer). As for the 'bulb', there's an area about 2' in diameter at the base (it is also covered in black). Is this what you are referring? – unkfrank Sep 25 '16 at 14:23
  • Yea, should be a swollen area towards the base of the trunk, so it sounds like there is. Is the area that's black soft or soggy if you press it? Does it smell unpleasant? – Bamboo Sep 25 '16 at 16:33
  • I can scrape the black off. That area doesn't have a vastly different feel that then the normal bark color. And there's not really a noticeable smell. – unkfrank Sep 26 '16 at 17:51
  • Ok; I just wondered whether that area had some kind of rot or canker... – Bamboo Sep 26 '16 at 17:52
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I have to agree with Kevin, there will more likely be new growth as it appears from the green leafed branches that there is no root rot. Also, looking at your images, I want to make two comments. The tree is definitely stressed. It could use some slow release fertilizer, maybe a fresh layer of garden soil and some mulching. I wouldn't do any heavy fertilizing.

If you look at your second image, the branch on the extreme right, towards the front, is looking okay. To help the plant heal gently, I would go ahead and leave that branch and any that look okay intact. I have generally found this to be a better way to try and save many plants. This winter, though I could have cut it off, I left one undamanged branch of a wind damaged Santa Cruz Hibiscus Tree stay on, and that helped that plant heal quicker than I thought it would.

  • We If I cut the top of the tree off on a bias, to just save the right-most branch, will that negatively affect how now growth might occur? As for feeding, I don't have the ratios (currently out of fertilizer), but it gets fed 2 - 3 times a year – unkfrank Sep 25 '16 at 14:30
  • I don't think it will have a negative effect. That branch should help keep photosynthesis going. If your preference is to cut off that branch too, go ahead. Your likelihood of uniform budding in multiple directions would increase I suppose. – Srihari Yamanoor Sep 25 '16 at 16:53
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That's good advice as it will bud out from relatively new growth. I have seen them cut back to no leaves and sprout out. How long you ask? That's the question...I cannot estimate growth rates for these plants outside as I dealt with them indoors. So, more than three months and less than six months.

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