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Can I Grow A New Elephant Foot Plant From It’s Offshoot?

Ask The Plant Expert:

I have an elephant foot plant and I was wondering, can you snip off the leaves growing out the sides of the trunk to grow new plants? Mine is about 4ft. tall. I did slice one off, put it in water, the leaves grew well, but no roots or signs of a trunk developing. Should I just plant it? Thank you for speaking with me, Diane

Elephant Foot Plant

Flower Shop Network Plant Expert Reply:

The Elephant foot plant (Beaucarnea recurvata, also know as ponytail plant) can be started from an offshoot of the plant. However, a leaf by itself will not form roots. What you need is a true sucker from the plant. These will have a thicker base attached to the trunk of the plant. You can snap these off at the trunk and stick the sucker in soil to root. A rooting hormone, found at any garden center or nursery, can be used to help start your sucker roots. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. If the soil is too wet the sucker will rot and not form roots.

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  1. don bergeron says:

    I have shoots growing off the side of my elephant foot plant can these also be cliped off and planted?

  2. If it is a true sucker, as pictures above, yes. Simply snap these off at the trunk and stick the sucker in soil to root. A rooting hormone, found at any garden center or nursery, can be used to help get this process started. If the soil is too wet the sucker will rot and not form roots. Hope this helps!

  3. If you cut of the top of the palm so new growth starts, will the old one still live?

  4. Trish Bogenrief says:

    As new owners we were please to find a beautiful ponytail palm in our yard. It has 5 stems coming from the main trunk and each had a large clump that flowered this year plus multiple “pups” from each stem. The flowers were dry and I asked our yard man if they should be removed. We came home to find that he had actlually cut all 5 stems off 6 feet off the ground (4 feet of growth). This decapitation removed the clump from each tree stem and of course the dead flowers. He cut these at an angle (4″ diameter) and my husband thought we should seal the cuts to protect the tree. I was hoping the tree would grow from the cuts. Our yard man obviously does not know what he is doing. Will we lose this tree or will it grow from the pups, of which some are almost 1 foot long new stems?

  5. Trish,

    Wow. I am not sure what would be the best course of action. I would find a local independent garden center in your area that sells Ponytail palms and ask their advise. They will have a better idea of what needs to be done in this case. Good Luck.

  6. Kathy Elberg says:

    I have a ponytail plant quite large at base at least 12″ . during a move all but one of the top knots were knocked off . The trunk up close to the top is feeling soft in some spots. I am worried I am going to lose it. When we bought it, it had been sawed off at the top and the cut part was sealed with a black, substance, there were several off shoots along the edges of that part. Can this top be cut back again and sealed, will other off shoots grow or is it a goner. I have had it for 9 years but it isn’t to attractive right now.

  7. karen reid says:

    My ponytail palm is 40yrs old. The top is bent because our ceiling is too low! Can I cut the top?
    I also have a shoot growing from trunk. Can I cut off and start a new plant?

  8. Karen,

    Yes, since your plant is mature it will grow sprouts from the base of the plant. Use a sharp, clean knife and cut away from the adult plant. The best transitions are when the shoot is around 4 inches tall and has started to form a root base. Place the stalk in a moistened, well-draining container. Since your plant is so old, cutting the top will probably make it branch at that point. Very small plants might die if you cut their heads off. Hope this helps.

  9. Leslie Scammon says:

    My ponytail tree died at the top but it’s starting to sprout a shoot off the bottom. Its about 1/2 tall now. How do I safely remove it to reply? The rest is dead.

  10. Leslie,

    Spring is the best time to divide ponytail palm shoots. Carefully excavate around the base of the parent plant to expose the base of the pups. Use a clean, sharp knife and cut the pup away from the adult plant. Pups that are 4 inches tall are usually forming a root base and make the best starts. Use a nearly soilless medium, such as a cactus mix or sand-based potting soil. Place the rooted end of the pup in moistened medium in a well-draining container. Cover the container with a plastic bag lightly secured around the edges of the pot. Place the container in a warm room in moderate light. Every few days, uncover the pot and mist the surface of the soil. I found this information from Gardening Know How and I think it is really helpful. Hopefully it goes well!

    Read more at Gardening Know How: Ponytail Palm Propagation: Propagating Ponytail Palm Pups http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/ponytail-palm/propagating-ponytail-palm-pups.htm

  11. I have two large ponytail plant bulbs I want to get rid of . Can you cut them up and burn them?

  12. Jamie Woods says:

    If you are just wanting to get rid of your ponytails, you might consider giving them away before killing them off. If you have not already dug up the bulbs, you can choose to just dig them up and dispose of them like you would leaves or grass you’ve raked in the yard. I don’t feel that cutting them up will kill them, and might actually spread them.

  13. These things are like boulders! They must way about 150 lbs a piece. I had them in pots, but they out grew them several times. Now they are just sitting there in yard. I found someone that will and try to cut them up with a chainsaw. He’s not sure if he can do it because he said the inside was like straw and gets all tangled up. Thank you for your quick response.

  14. Jamie Woods says:

    Wow! I was not anticipating them being that large! I would love to see some pictures if you have any. Could you email them to me at jamie.woods@flowershopnetwork.com?

  15. Beth Gentry says:

    I have a small ponytail palm that is in a pot outside….this winter I covered it but we had a few days that got below 20s The top greenery is dead but I noticed this morning I have a small shoot growing at the bottom of the trunk. D o I cut off the top and just let this grown on the side of the trunk or should I cut the shoot off and replant? Thanks for any info!

  16. Jamie Woods says:

    I would prune back the dead growth and allow the plant to continue growing. As for the shoot growing at the bottom, you can cut it off and replant it to make a new plant, but I would allow it to grow to at least a foot or so before doing this.

  17. I have two ponytails in pots that have since outgrown the pots after approx 25 years.Both have one big bulb with pups growing from the top of bulb next to the main stem (no separate root system) If I cut these pups off will they shoot if I plant them in pots to replace the parent ponytails.Thank you for your help.Lyn

  18. I cut my elephant foot palm off just above the bulb now i have 6 little plants growing fromj the stalk can i leave them on the bulb or should they be removed and repotted

  19. Aynsley Broom says:

    Hi Lyn,
    It should as long as you snap these off at the trunk and stick the sucker in the soil to root. Then go to your local garden center or nursery to get rooting hormone to help your sucker roots.

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