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Transplanting a ponytail palm


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#1 Walt

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 09:55 AM

About 10 years ago I planted a 3 gallon sized ponytail palm relatively close to my house foundation, not knowing at the time just how big these plants can get.

Next to my ponytail palm is an ixora shrub. My wife wants me to get rid of the ixora as it grows too big and the flowers are not the same color as are super king ixoras (see bottomost photo).

This ixora shrub got defoliated from the freezes last month. Today I cut it back hard, as I plan to dig it out and relocate it.

This brings me to the Topic question: My wife also wants me to remove the ponytail palm, and now is the time to do it.

About a year or so ago I posted here at this forum a solicitation for advice in removing my ponytail palm. I recall some said it would move easily in terms of not having to get lots of roots. Somebody from California even posted some boxed ponytail palms that had recently been field dug.

As you can see in my below photos, while I don't have lots of room around my ponytail, I think I have adequate enough room to dig it out.

What I want to know is how deep will I need to go to get underneath of it. I plan on digging it loose and then using a rope (properly tied more towards the base of the trunk) and pull it out of the hole (if need be) with either my lawn tractor or pick up truck. Then I will figure a way to transport it to another place on my property where I want to replant it.

I'm looking for any suggestions and caveats anyone can give me who might have experience in transplanting a ponytail. I really hate to dig this plant out, but I really have little choice, as the base will eventually grow into the foundation and front entryway slab.



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Above is my out of control ixora shrub that is blocking the guest bedroom window. I can cut this shrub back hard each spring and it grows back fast
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#2 tropicalb

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 11:35 AM

wal....

i can tell you that these plants are very easy to transplant. I have taken many of them that were rootbound in 5 gal pots, dumped them out on the ground and literally chopped off half of the rootball with a shovel, stuck them in 15 gal pots and they never skipped a beat. That being said, I would still take as many of the roots with the base of the plant as you can get (and from the look of your plant, a lot of the base seems to be underground...you need to get the whole base of the plant dug intact).

i don't think the transplanting is going to be a problem for you.

also, overwatering is a major issue with beaucarneas...much like a cycad, the only way to kill them is by overwatering them.
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#3 Peter Pacific

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 11:44 AM

About 10 years ago I planted a 3 gallon sized ponytail palm relatively close to my house foundation, not knowing at the time just how big these plants can get.

Next to my ponytail palm is an ixora shrub. My wife wants me to get rid of the ixora as it grows too big and the flowers are not the same color as are super king ixoras (see bottomost photo).

This ixora shrub got defoliated from the freezes last month. Today I cut it back hard, as I plan to dig it out and relocate it.

This brings me to the Topic question: My wife also wants me to remove the ponytail palm, and now is the time to do it.

About a year or so ago I posted here at this forum a solicitation for advice in removing my ponytail palm. I recall some said it would move easily in terms of not having to get lots of roots. Somebody from California even posted some boxed ponytail palms that had recently been field dug.

As you can see in my below photos, while I don't have lots of room around my ponytail, I think I have adequate enough room to dig it out.

What I want to know is how deep will I need to go to get underneath of it. I plan on digging it loose and then using a rope (properly tied more towards the base of the trunk) and pull it out of the hole (if need be) with either my lawn tractor or pick up truck. Then I will figure a way to transport it to another place on my property where I want to replant it.

I'm looking for any suggestions and caveats anyone can give me who might have experience in transplanting a ponytail. I really hate to dig this plant out, but I really have little choice, as the base will eventually grow into the foundation and front entryway slab.



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Above is my out of control ixora shrub that is blocking the guest bedroom window. I can cut this shrub back hard each spring and it grows back fast


Hi Walt, I grow both on my property and the ponies are fairly hardy. I have moved several and they sometimes they look a little sad but they're strong, I don't think you should have any problems. If you really want to have fun, chop the head off and you should get several heads in it's place! If you plant them in the shade they turn deep green and the leaves fall almost to the ground! They're beautiful...good luck. Peter
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#4 Ken Johnson

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 11:48 AM

NoOOOOOOO. Do not take any roots. These suckers will move with no roots at all, no problem!!!! Thing to watch out for is the rope aroung the trunk. DO NOOOOOOT DO THAT!!!!!!
You will scar the trunk and leave it open to infection which can kill the plant.

I am going to bet that if you dig it out with no roots it will not be too heavt to lift by hand or with a small dolly. Make sure to PAD the trunk where it touches the dolly! It is VERY easy to make nicks in the trunk.

When you get it out take it to a friends house you don't realy see too often and give it to them. I hate those things!LOL :lol:
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#5 Walt

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 01:27 PM

wal....

i can tell you that these plants are very easy to transplant. I have taken many of them that were rootbound in 5 gal pots, dumped them out on the ground and literally chopped off half of the rootball with a shovel, stuck them in 15 gal pots and they never skipped a beat. That being said, I would still take as many of the roots with the base of the plant as you can get (and from the look of your plant, a lot of the base seems to be underground...you need to get the whole base of the plant dug intact).

i don't think the transplanting is going to be a problem for you.

also, overwatering is a major issue with beaucarneas...much like a cycad, the only way to kill them is by overwatering them.


I've heard overwatering will kill ponytails. You will note that my ponytail is directly under the roof drip edge, and it sometimes get's lots, and lots of rain water. However, my soil is pure sand and very, very well drained, with a low water table. I guess that's why it has survied.
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#6 Walt

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 01:32 PM




Hi Walt, I grow both on my property and the ponies are fairly hardy. I have moved several and they sometimes they look a little sad but they're strong, I don't think you should have any problems. If you really want to have fun, chop the head off and you should get several heads in it's place! If you plant them in the shade they turn deep green and the leaves fall almost to the ground! They're beautiful...good luck. Peter


Peter: I know all about multiple heads developing on ponytail palms. Another one of mine was frozen down to the base and regrew five trunks, plus one more trunk that eventually died. Here's a photo of it:

Posted Image
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#7 Walt

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 01:39 PM

NoOOOOOOO. Do not take any roots. These suckers will move with no roots at all, no problem!!!! Thing to watch out for is the rope aroung the trunk. DO NOOOOOOT DO THAT!!!!!!
You will scar the trunk and leave it open to infection which can kill the plant.

I am going to bet that if you dig it out with no roots it will not be too heavt to lift by hand or with a small dolly. Make sure to PAD the trunk where it touches the dolly! It is VERY easy to make nicks in the trunk.

When you get it out take it to a friends house you don't realy see too often and give it to them. I hate those things!LOL :lol:


Ken: Thanks for the advice, as I don't want to scar/nick the trunk. I had planned on wrapping the trunk with terry cloth towels, etc., before applying the rope. Also, I would multi-wrap the rope so that it will spread the gripping strain over a large area, so as to help mitigate any damage to the trunk.

I'm not a weak person, but I have my doubts if I will be able to dead lift the pony tail out of it's hole. However, my palm/tree trimming and land clearing contractor I use every year has a tractor that can pull it out of the hole and take it to where ever I want to replant it. No way do I want to lose this plant, not after 10 years of growing it.
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#8 Ken Johnson

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 02:33 PM

Yes Walt wraping cloth around will help keep the lifting point from being damaged. When we put these on trucks we use bags of mulch to lay them on.

You do not need a "root ball". These plants do love water just the way you are giving it to them, lots of it with sandy soil. They will store as much as they can. The stored water (and nutrients) are what allows the plant to survive transplant so well. I have never seen one with tranplsnt shock other than loosing leaves which are quickly replaced. That is with NO root ball!

To get it out of the ground just use a sharp shovel to dig under the base (yes, leave the roots but cut very short, don't knick the "trunk"). When the thing is loose enough to push it by hand you can get a lifting strap UNDER the trunk after padding the sides. Tie the lifting strap to the heck of the plant about 6' up so it is loose but will hold the plant from tipping over. Jeez Do I have to tell you every thing? I thought you had this down. Seriously....good luck!
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#9 tropicalb

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Posted 07 February 2010 - 02:46 PM


wal....

i can tell you that these plants are very easy to transplant. I have taken many of them that were rootbound in 5 gal pots, dumped them out on the ground and literally chopped off half of the rootball with a shovel, stuck them in 15 gal pots and they never skipped a beat. That being said, I would still take as many of the roots with the base of the plant as you can get (and from the look of your plant, a lot of the base seems to be underground...you need to get the whole base of the plant dug intact).

i don't think the transplanting is going to be a problem for you.

also, overwatering is a major issue with beaucarneas...much like a cycad, the only way to kill them is by overwatering them.


I've heard overwatering will kill ponytails. You will note that my ponytail is directly under the roof drip edge, and it sometimes get's lots, and lots of rain water. However, my soil is pure sand and very, very well drained, with a low water table. I guess that's why it has survied.


The well-draining soil is the key Wal....one thing that i tend to forget when i post my thoughts on plant care is that i am coming from the point of view of a person who grows in containers, not a person who grows plants in the ground. Lots of water with poor drainage will kill a potted beaucarnea faster than anything else.

You can't get any better advice than Ken's on this forum when it comes to moving palms and other plants.....he does it for a living!
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#10 palmmermaid

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Posted 08 February 2010 - 05:35 AM

I dug one of these up because I didn't want it - it was here when we bought the house. It was much smaller than yours and I bet it weighed almost 100 pounds. I hauled it over the vacant lot across the street and dumped it out. It is still growing and thriving in the vacant lot! And none of the ball was ever put in the ground!

Walt, good luck moving that monster! We haul that size aorund at the nursery with the bobcat.

Someone donated one to the botanic garden here. It was going under the bulldozer. Thankfully someone also donated the $10,000 dollars it cost to move it! The root ball is 8 feet across and it is about 25 feet tall. What a monster! It took a crane and a very large flatbed truck to move it.
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#11 Kris

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Posted 08 February 2010 - 07:30 AM

When you get it out take it to a friends house you don't realy see too often and give it to them. I hate those things!LOL :lol:

:lol:
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#12 Walt

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Posted 08 February 2010 - 03:58 PM

I dug one of these up because I didn't want it - it was here when we bought the house. It was much smaller than yours and I bet it weighed almost 100 pounds. I hauled it over the vacant lot across the street and dumped it out. It is still growing and thriving in the vacant lot! And none of the ball was ever put in the ground!

Walt, good luck moving that monster! We haul that size aorund at the nursery with the bobcat.

Someone donated one to the botanic garden here. It was going under the bulldozer. Thankfully someone also donated the $10,000 dollars it cost to move it! The root ball is 8 feet across and it is about 25 feet tall. What a monster! It took a crane and a very large flatbed truck to move it.


Well, Kitty, your experience with the ponytail you dug up and dumped on the vacant lot is testimony to what others here have said, about how easy they transplant, that they are tuff, etc. I'm glad to hear it as I plan to transplant my ponytail in March sometime.

My wife wanted me to transplant the ponytail last year, but I procrastinated, hoping she would forget about it. No such luck. She want the ponytail out now and said I shouldn't have planted it there in the first place. She's right, of course.

In March I will have my local tree trimming contractor come in to trim all my palms too tall to do myself. I will get him to move my ponytail palm with his tractor, as I can guarantee you mine will weigh more than 100 pounds. Even if it weighs 200 pounds I could handle it, so if it doesn't exceed that weight I will try to move it myself. But if it's more than 200 pounds it will take equipment.

I plan on taking photos of the entire transplanting, so I will post them here when it happens.


I once saw a huge ponytail palm up in Avon Park somewhere. It had a base like the one you described, but I can't recall where I first saw it, as I want to take a photo of it.

The ponytail in the below photo, growing in Sebring, pales in size compared to the one I'm talking about, and the biggest reason why I must move mine now.

Posted Image
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#13 palm student

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Posted 08 February 2010 - 04:39 PM

Walt,
I will just add a little to what has been said by palmermaid, etc. I planted one between a brick wall and a fence.
It was difficult to get out. More of the base was showing than on yours but ours was barely 4 feet tall but very wide. It took four of us to lift it into a wheelbarrow to move, and it bent the front of the wheelbarrow. I took it to Palm Desert to donate it to The Living Desert Zoo and garden. It did get scratched easly. I hope it didn't die of an infection.

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#14 aussiearoids

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Posted 08 February 2010 - 04:54 PM

Saw a great pic of a grove of these , think it was at 'Lotusland' ?
When potting up seedlings of these I used a nailclipper to trim off roots and raise up the caudex .
These suckers grow like the clappers .
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#15 aussiearoids

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Posted 13 February 2010 - 05:51 PM

I must apologise for my use of idiomatic expressions , though our English forum members and most Aussies would understand exactly what I mean .. for all others here is a meaning ..
Go like the clappers

Meaning

Go very fast; in a vigorous manner.

Origin

This term isn't common outside of the United Kingdom, and is now considered rather archaic even there. It originated around the time of WWII as RAF slang. The earliest citation I can find is from a 1942 newspaper piece by Associated News staff Writer Alfred Wall, in which he listed various RAF slang terms:

"A pilot chased by the enemy 'goes like the clappers', or full out".

go like the clappers. What 'the clappers' refers to isn't entirely clear, although by far the most likely derivation is as a reference to the clappers of bells. An early form of the phrase was 'go like the clappers of hell' and, given that bells have clappers, it may be that it may that the rhyme of hell and bell is significant. RAF pilots were often from English public schools where the ringing of handbells to mark the time was common. Bells were rung more vigorously as the time remaining to get to class/chapel etc. was about to run out. The image of schoolboys dashing to class while handbells were being energetically rung matches the meaning of the phrase very well.
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Michael in palm paradise,
Tully, wet tropics in Australia, over 4 meters of rain every year.
Home of the Golden Gumboot, its over 8m high , our record annual rainfall.

#16 Alicehunter2000

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 02:29 AM

:hmm: :huh: :lol:
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30 ft. elevation and sandy soil


#17 Walt

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 05:13 AM

Walt,
I will just add a little to what has been said by palmermaid, etc. I planted one between a brick wall and a fence.
It was difficult to get out. More of the base was showing than on yours but ours was barely 4 feet tall but very wide. It took four of us to lift it into a wheelbarrow to move, and it bent the front of the wheelbarrow. I took it to Palm Desert to donate it to The Living Desert Zoo and garden. It did get scratched easly. I hope it didn't die of an infection.

Palm Student


Suzanne: Thanks for your input. I will try to be extra careful not to scratch or otherwise surface damage my ponytail when I remove it. But that might be easier said than done!
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#18 Walt

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 05:19 AM

I must apologise for my use of idiomatic expressions , though our English forum members and most Aussies would understand exactly what I mean .. for all others here is a meaning ..
Go like the clappers

Meaning

Go very fast; in a vigorous manner.

Origin

This term isn't common outside of the United Kingdom, and is now considered rather archaic even there. It originated around the time of WWII as RAF slang. The earliest citation I can find is from a 1942 newspaper piece by Associated News staff Writer Alfred Wall, in which he listed various RAF slang terms:

"A pilot chased by the enemy 'goes like the clappers', or full out".

go like the clappers. What 'the clappers' refers to isn't entirely clear, although by far the most likely derivation is as a reference to the clappers of bells. An early form of the phrase was 'go like the clappers of hell' and, given that bells have clappers, it may be that it may that the rhyme of hell and bell is significant. RAF pilots were often from English public schools where the ringing of handbells to mark the time was common. Bells were rung more vigorously as the time remaining to get to class/chapel etc. was about to run out. The image of schoolboys dashing to class while handbells were being energetically rung matches the meaning of the phrase very well.


Michael: No, I wasn't familar with the phrase/cliche, but from the context of how you used the phrase, I assumed it meant fast, or something to that effect. In any event, I learned a new phrase!
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