Pony Tail Palms in a grow box

whip1 Zone 5 NE OhioApril 14, 2012

I plan on putting my three Pony Tail Palms into a grow box. I've read a lot here and I want to let these guys grow, and put on some size.

Here are the three plants.

I'm going to put them into a 24 inch long box. I drilled 6 holes at the low points and added some small pieces of screen to keep the mix from falling out of the holes.

I have about 3 gallons of mix made.

Does anyone have experience with using a grow box? What time would be best to transplant them? Anything else I should know? Once they are in the box, I plan to leave them in for a few years to gain some size.

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cactusmcharris

Rob,

I'd also drill some holes in the centerline (long ways). Yes, the plants should do well there. Now would be good - typical of the plants, wait a few days after repotting before you water, but it should be anchors away after that.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 11:17AM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

Jeff,
The box is 24 inches long. How many more holes would you recommend?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 3:53PM
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cactusmcharris

Rob,

Being a naval man, I've always tried to keep a trim centerline, so I'd guess 3 or 4. It will be exciting to see how much they've grown by the end of the summer. Even where we are, these plants never stop growing - if they're given heat and light, they'll continue going through the winter, though at a reduced pace.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 4:43PM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

I've had these about 5-6 years, and they have probably quadrupled in size. They grow so slow, I'm not sure I could say when their growing season is. I plan on leaving them in the box for a few years to let them grow. I can't wait to see how big they get too! I'll add a few more holes, and replant them in a few days. Thanks Jeff.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 7:07AM
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cactusmcharris

Rob,

Although I just gave a talk at a horticultural seminar on growing non-cold-hardy succulents in a cold environment, such as you and I have, I'm still learning. Still, the empirical evidence points to many plants growing in the winter, once one gives them a steady 14-18C / 60-68F environment and as much light as one can. Since I live in the lee of a hill, my plants don't see much morning sun, but they see enough. Along with the usual suspects (Old and New World Crassulaceae) growing, the Agaves and others, including our beloved Beaucarnea recurvatas, don't seem to stop till they get enough, and they don't - they just keep chugging along, not with the explosion of growth they'll see outside in July, but with some movement of size expansion and pupping. I wouldn't suggest you water/feed it like you do in summer (in fact I've been terrible and not fed my plants at all), but give them some decent cultural atmosphere and they'll continue growing.

And if you like B. r., you'll love B. stricta. Starr Nursery is where I got my nolinic nugget. I now need B. guatamalensis.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 10:48AM
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cactusmcharris

A variegated B. guatamalensis- Geoff (Dr. Lizard) has one and it's glorious.

Here is a link that might be useful: A slender umbrella-type cup of lovely

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 11:10AM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

Jeff,
This might sound stupid, but how do you measure the growth for slow growing plants in the winter? With some plants, you can see them getting bigger in the summer heat and sunshine. With the Beaucarnea being so slow, how do you tell if it's growing or just sitting? My house is usually kept in the high 60's during the day, and the low 60's at night during the winter. Most of my plants sit in a south or west facing window.

That's a nice plant Geoff has. I might have to look into getting one of them.......

Rob

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 1:52PM
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cactusmcharris

Rob,

As you know, with some plants, the new growth is in-your-face self-evident:

With my Beaucarneas, not so much. I just look for new leaf growth - this is especially easy after Yoko the Yowler has chewed on the tips of leaves, as the new growth will be unfrayed.

As for the Agaves, when I bring them in, some don't have pups, but in February, they do - that's got to be growth too, I reckon.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 2:35PM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

Jeff,
I'm hoping to put this guys into the grow box in the next few days. Would you recommend a root pruning or not?

As far as the growth, I can see new leaves on the pony tail come summer time. What I want, and maybe I'm asking for too much, is to see the caudex increase in size. I know it does, but the growth is so slow, it's hard to notice a difference.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 9:27AM
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cactusmcharris

Rob,

No, not necessarily (unless it's needed for the plant to fit), but since you have multiples, you could do actual field tests, except in a trough. I usually don't prune the roots, but Keith and others do, to great effect. I was repotting my three Adenium last night and considered doing so, but decided against it, the whole sharp objects / too much wine thing coming into play.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 12:33PM
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caudex1

I did something similar about 10 years ago with plants about the same size. They were place in a 24" round x 24" deep container. No root pruning, I did break up the root ball as I wanted them to knit or fuse together into a trio of sorts. Today they are about the size of large cantaloupes.

Now remember I'm in California so your practices are going to be different but this will give you an idea what the plants can tolerate as far as water and cold go.

They are outside year round unprotected. During the growing season they get watered maybe once every 3-4 weeks. During the winter they get whatever rainfall there is, this year not so much but previous years they have been sitting in water. The coldest they have been exposed to is 25deg and 28 for an extended period (7days), foliage received no damage.....and they have never been fed.

I would make the drain holes larger 3/4-1", a shallow container does not drain as well as a deep one. No need to root prune just break up the root ball some before potting.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 12:08PM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

Keith,
Thank you for the feedback. I wish I could keep them outside year round, but Ohio's winters kill that idea. I put them in front of a south facing window in the winter, and I'll do the same with the box.
I added more holes down the middle as Jeff suggested. I guess larger wouldn't be a bad idea too. I'll post pictures when I get them in the box.
In regards to the cold exposure, many have suggested leaving my jades outside longer in the fall, but I'm not brave enough. Does the cold help any with the pony tail palms, or can they just tolerate it?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 1:50PM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

I finally got around to putting them in the trough. After seeing the finished project, I should have used a bigger container. Oh well.

I forgot to take pictures until afterwards. The rootballs were really large. The one that was in the terra cotta pot, was so big that I ended up trimming some of it back.

Rob

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 8:29AM
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cactusmcharris

Rob,

You are the Wild Man of Planet Beaucarnea. They look good there and I'd expect to see them nearly double in size in the next year or so. Grow them plushly and I'll bet they will.

They can tolerate the cold, and even freezing, but I suspect they'd thank you for not exposing them to those temps. Remember, many plants' tolerances depend on whether the soil they're in is wet or dry.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 8:56AM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

LOL. Thanks Jeff. They'll be outside full time in about 2 weeks. It's till dropping into the 40's at night. I'm not real comfortable leaving them out in those temps.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 9:04AM
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lzrddr(91360)

They can easily handle temps down into the high twenties F... .shouldn't be in any danger this time of year

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 9:54AM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

A question on growth. I was wondering if there are things I could do to get these guys to grow to their fullest. Would more or less water increase the caudex size? what about fertilizer? Are there other things I might be doing to limit growth?

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 5:43PM
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lzrddr(91360)

more water generally = larger caudex but don't overdo it (in the ground these are pretty darn hard to over water, and frankly I have never managed to overwater one in a pot, either.. .but I am supposed to warn you not to rot your plant... ). Shouldn't be any rush, though... one thing that does seem to limit caudex size is multiple plants per pot, so if you want larger caudeces, you might want to do something about that. I have several plants in various sun exposures and caudex size also seems to relate to amount of sun (more sun, larger caudex). Those growing in some shade end up growing tall and skinny and take a lot longer to get a larger caudex

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 8:02PM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

I think this year was a success! I'm real happy with the new growth.


It's not real evident in the pic, but they have grown really well.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 2:10PM
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cactusmcharris

Rob,

They and you have done well, and in the trough they have room for another year or two of growth. Win and win.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 2:16PM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

Jeff,
For sure, I was thinking 2 more summers in the trough. Something else I noticed, the one on the left I trimmed the roots. Looking at the leaf growth, it seems to have grown a little more than the one on the right. Is root pruning, that much of a factor? Should I root prune the other?

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 5:06PM
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mi_co(MA - zone 6)

Hi Rob, Your pony tails look great in the trough. Looking at your picture the growth does look fuller on the plant to the left and even the base of the plant looks a bit bigger. I for one do think that root pruning does make a big difference. This is one of my pony tails that's about 8 years old. The bulb of the plant was only the size of a shooter marble when I bought it. Someone had told me that if I wanted to grow it big and fast to periodically prune the roots. I did so on this one every couple of years. The base at the soil line now is 5" wide.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 7:49PM
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cactusmcharris

Rob,

I'd say on empirical evidence that's true, but I'd wait until they're in super-active growth (when there's more sun and the temps are warmer overall, otherwise known as spring) to trim them myself, but maybe it's no problem to do so now.

Mike,

Looks like someone's got some repotting to do soon - nice plant.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 10:42AM
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RockyRoad1973(6)

I have to say MI CO your ptp is gorgeous. Mine is about 15+ years old and did not grow up straight. It has a ton of babies on it that I don't find attractive at all. How did you keep yours looking so nice?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 10:19PM
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tride26(6)

I notice mine fattens up the more rootbound it becomes.
These like being underpotted.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 6:12PM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

Tride,
I have to disagree. My PTP put on more growth in one season in the trough than the 2 or 3 previous years in the individual pots. I have them in a well draining gritty mix, so rot isn't an issue. Your plant does look really good. I hope to see mine grow tall like yours.

Rob

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 10:11PM
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