Overwatered Ponytail Palm - Signs & How to Save It

Written by Ivy

Feb 01 2023

Overwatered Ponytail Palm - Signs & How to Save It

Ponytail palms are a set-it-and-forget-it houseplant whose main issue is overwatering. It necessitates meticulous water management due to its bulbous, water-storing stem.

But how can you revive a ponytail palm that has gotten too much water?

Overwatering symptoms include leaf edema, browning at the tips, wilting, and leaf yellowing in the ponytail palm. Look out for rotting roots that are brown, odorous, and swollen.

If you notice any indications of root rot, remove them and then, before repotting, treat the remaining roots with fungicide or hydrogen peroxide and sprinkle them with cinnamon or garden lime powder.

Underwatered Vs. Overwatered Ponytail Palm – What's the Difference?


The two most typical ponytail issues, overwatering and underwatering, can be difficult to distinguish from one another.

Knowing the difference between underwatering and overwatering your ponytail palm is necessary to keep it alive.

An overwatered ponytail palm will only become worse if you keep watering it, after all. Eventually, it might spiral out of control.

Read More: 

Check Soil Moisture

To determine what is wrong with your ponytail palm plant, try tracing your fingers through the soil. If you've overwatered your plant, it will be soggy, for instance.

The issue with drainage, not the plant, arises when the soil is dry, dusty, and possibly compact from underwatering.

It happens as a result of the soil's total dehydration. Your plant needs water; once you give it, it will quickly get over its droopiness.

Inspect the Leaves

An overwatered ponytail palm's leaves will initially show signs of edema. They include bumps or blisters that have been exposed to water, especially on the undersides of leaves.

They are a sign that the tissues in the leaves are overloaded with water.

The lower foliage turning yellow is another early indicator of overwatering. It's possible for new leaves to develop watery brown tips.

Even if you give your plants regular waterings, you might still see some leaf wilting.

On the other hand, when dehydrated, ponytail palm leaves turn dry, crunchy, or even dusty.

They may initially appear yellow as a result, but they soon turn brown.

First, the entire plant's leaves typically develop brown and crispy edges and tips from being submerged.

A leaf looks papery and crinkly upon closer inspection. The leaves of a plant usually look better after watering if you didn't give it enough moisture.

Monitor Growth

Reduced leaf size and sluggish development are indicators of waterlogging.

If your ponytail palm suddenly stops growing, overwatering is most likely to be to blame.

Check Roots and Soil Smell

Root rot is typically a result of overwatering plants. If you discover brown, rotting, pungent, spongy, or mushy roots below the soil, overwatering is the cause. (Read More: Why Does My Ponytail Palm Have Brown Tips)

Extreme underwatering can kill roots by compacting the soil. Despite being dry and thin, roots are likely to be strong. The soil will naturally give off a dusty or earthy smell.

Signs of Over-Watering a Ponytail Palm

Yellowing Leaves

The ponytail palm's leaves will turn yellow at the tips as the first symptom of overwatering. If this occurs, stop watering the plant until the soil is completely dry and then cut back on the amount of water you give it.

It's also easy to understand why: when a plant's roots are unhealthy and damaged from suffocation and rot, its leaves begin to turn yellow because they aren't receiving the nutrients they require.

Yellowing leaves signify a lack of nitrogen and other nutrients.

You should keep in mind that excessive watering stifles photosynthesis, which is the main method by which plants fix nitrogen.

A deficiency in iron, zinc, or magnesium can also result in chlorosis.

In addition, excessive watering causes the leaves that turn bright yellow at the edges but remain green in the middle to lack potassium.

Ponytail Palm Trunk Rot

Ponytail palms, also referred to as bottle palms, give off important signals above and below ground when they require drier conditions. The absence of leaves on your ponytail palm is one of the first warning signs of overwatering. These succulents frequently display their glossy green foliage as shocks of wild hair, with several bursts of thin, long leaves. Greenery Unlimited, on the other hand, claims that excessive watering results in these decorations turning yellow as they eventually fall from the tree.

Excessive water also damages the sturdy stem. Rot develops and might prevent nutrients and water from reaching the top leaves. When you see that your leaves are starting to turn yellow, stop all irrigation to give the ponytail palm time to recover. Dry conditions encourage internal healing and possible recovery without the need for heavy fertilizers or chemicals.

Ponytail Palm Root Problems

Wilting foliage is frequently a sign that your ponytail palm needs more water. When exposed to soggy conditions, roots cannot absorb moisture; as a result, there are few oxygen pockets and rot starts to appear. When rot and wet conditions are present, your roots appear brown when you carefully probe the soil rather than white.

According to the Mullumbimby Palm Nursery in Australia, root rot is extremely hard to detect and recovery is unlikely. To stop this from happening is the best course of action. Overwatering is the second most frequent cause of palm death. They are not sufficiently watered, which is the first most frequent explanation.

Brown Spots on Leaves

Leaf damage from excessive watering is severe. There are frequently new entry points for bacterial and fungal pathogens created when lead edema blisters are captured.

Worse, the affected leaves are frequently soft and wet, creating ideal conditions for infection from:

  • Powdery mildew.
  • Botrytis Blight.
  • Alternaria leaf spot.
  • Bacterial leaf spot.
  • leaf aphid anthracnose.

Additionally, root rot may move up the stems to the foliage. Rhizoctonia leaf spots and other fungi may be the source of the brown spots.


Ponytail Palm Flowering Failure

Clustered flower blossoms that decorate the foliage bursts are typical for mature ponytail palms. However, excessive watering results in significant leaf fading. The energy required for blossom development cannot be produced by leaves without the glaringly green chlorophyll pigment. Because of the decreased photosynthesis energy, flowers either do not emerge or quickly wither away. Your ponytail palm might not start to bloom again until the following growing season, even if you fix the watering issue. This is because the tree needs time to replenish its lost photosynthesis energy.

How to Fix Overwatered Ponytail Palm

Step #1: Reduce Watering Frequency

Stop all watering at the first sign of overwatering (yellowing leaves) to give your ponytail palm enough time to recover.

Dry conditions will promote internal healing and possibly full recovery without repotting if overwatering has not led to root rot.

Step #2: Dial Down Humidity Levels

High humidity will make overwatering's negative effects worse. The soil will also take longer to dry out, giving the rot disease more time to wreck havoc on the roots.

Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce humidity levels in your ponytail plant:

  • Distribute your plants widely so they don't grow too close to one another and produce a dry microclimate.
  • Boost the airflow around your plant.
  • Employ a dehumidifier.
  • A room with air conditioning or an open office won't naturally be humid, so move your plant there.
  • Remove your ponytail plant from the humidity tray if it is there.

Step #3: Unpot Your Ponytail Palm and Dry Out the Roots

Turn the pot on its side, then take your hand and ponytail out of the opening.

Now, please take a close look at the roots to see how they are doing. Weak, dark (brown or black), and soft roots are signs of root rot.

Rotten roots might smell bad as well. Strong, healthy roots will be creamy white or pale in color and firm to the touch.

Ponytail palms are prone to slight overwatering; in this case, lay the root ball on a bed of newspapers or magazines to dry out.

You can be sure that your ponytail palm will endure the issue if root rot hasn't already set in.

Avoid placing your plant near a heater or in direct sunlight. The plant can then be placed back in its original pot once the soil and roots have dried. (Read More: How Much Light Does Ponytail Palm Need)

Step #4:Repot Your Ponytail Plant

Repotting is your best chance to save your ponytail palm if there are any indications of root rot. Here's the procedure:

  • Your ponytail palm's root system should be completely free of all soil, so brush it off or remove it. The remaining dirt can then be washed away.
  • Remove any rotten or damaged roots using clean, sharp pruning shears. To prevent the spread of pathogens to healthy parts of the plant and other plants, be sure to sterilize the pruners. (Read More: How To Prune A Ponytail Palm Plant)
  • Spray the remaining root system with hydrogen peroxide and allow it to dry. In addition to being effective at killing pathogens, hydrogen peroxide is non-toxic to your plant.
  • As an alternative, soak healthy roots in fungicide and allow them to air dry.
  • To stop bacterial or fungal growth, dust the cut areas with cinnamon powder or garden lime powder once they are completely dry.
  • Repot your ponytail palm in a brand-new, sterile container with new, rich potting soil that has been well-drained. In order to increase the richness, I typically start with a cactus mix (Amazon link).
  • Incorporate some cinnamon powder into the potting mixture to act as a gentle anti-fungal.
  • Thoroughly irrigate and drain.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight – After lightly moistening the soil, place the plant in an area with indirect light that is bright.

Why is Overwatering a Problem for a Ponytail Palm?

When your ponytail palm grows in soil with inadequate aeration, overwatering happens.

When roots don't get enough oxygen to survive, grow, and function properly, overwatering symptoms appear. You might be surprised to learn that roots need air to breathe.

The oxygen in soil air pockets is sadly removed by too much moisture. The roots will suffocate and stop working properly if they cannot access a steady supply of oxygen.

The roots can't also absorb and carry nutrients and water to the rest of the plant because of their weakened condition and susceptibility to bacterial and fungal infections.

A disease known as root rot may then develop as a result. Consequently, overwatering leads to the following effects:

  • fungus infections, including root rot.
  • Dehydration because the roots are unable to properly absorb water.
  • nutritional deficits
  • growth that is halted and a decline in plant vitality.
  • Your ponytail plant will die.

How to Water Ponytail Palm

Succulents like ponytail palms are very tolerant of dry environments. If you don't water panytail palms, they will be more understanding than if you overwater them.

  • Watering instructions: You can water your ponytail from the top or the bottom. In either case, let the extra water drain completely, and don't forget to empty the saucer.
  • Irrigate potted indoor ponytail palms once every two weeks or so during the growing season. In the fall and winter, reduce irrigation frequency to once a month.
  • The frequency of watering is influenced by a number of variables, including ambient temperature, light conditions, humidity levels, and the season. A ponytail palm, for instance, in a bright, sunny southern window will need more watering than one in a shadier corner.
  • Water quality: Ponytail palms, like all houseplants, detest tap water that is salty with chemicals and minerals. To replace it, use filtered, distilled, or rainwater.
  • When and how much to water: Soak it in water until it overflows the bottom drains. Make sure your ponytail palm gets a thorough soak in water in the morning.

Final Thoughts

Catching any issues early is the best way to stop your Ponytail Palm from overwatering and dying.

The most dangerous and challenging issue to solve is root rot. It is therefore better to err on the side of underwatering than overwatering.

One of the most beautiful houseplants to have in your home is a healthy ponytail palm. Ponytail palms can live for many years if you keep an eye on their health and watering needs.