Mom's 'Ponytail Palm'

plantomaniac08(8)February 17, 2014

Hubby and I were visiting my folks yesterday and she asked if I wanted her 'Ponytail Palm' (she's downsized her houseplants drastically, too much work for her to keep up with I think). This is one of the two she has left. She's owned it for almost two years now and it's managed to survive her care.

I was a bit sad to see she didn't want it anymore and honestly, I don't really like 'Ponytail Palms,' but I didn't want to see anything bad happen to it (giving it away to someone else... at least I know I'll keep it alive). Not to mention, I guess at this point, it has some sentimental value to it.

It has been leaning for the longest time now. It's not rotting whatsoever, so there's no concern there. I plan to trim it back the roots a little bit (they're circling the inside of the snap on base... I hate those snap on bases) and give it some fresh soil.

I think at that point, I'll figure a way to straighten it out. Maybe make the rootball crooked or something, haha. I'm hoping that if I straighten the trunk out, that the growth will eventually straighten out too. As of right now, the growth is straight, but the trunk is not, so I know when the trunk is straight, the growth will not be straight.

It's kind of hard to show just bow big this thing is, but it's a little over two feet from the bottom of the pot to the "center" leaves."

Thanks for looking.


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Wow! That is very pretty! Nice and full! It's funny I laughed when I read your title! My mom has ALWAYS grew a ponytail palm also. I laughed that maybe all moms own one! TFS!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 6:50AM
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Thanks for looking. Haha! That's funny that your Mom owns one too! I can't say my MIL owns one, but I don't think this would survive her care (is that bad to say? lol). I think she's an overwaterer. Combined with how cold it is in her house, I'm surprised her plants to do so well. If I had them as wet and cold as she does, mine would have died a long time ago. Go figure.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 7:51AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

That's a vigorous, happy looking plant. I think you'll become as attached to this plant as you are to your others. I think I would repot so the trunk is straight too. Please post an update when/if you do. I'm curious if it will adjust to be more upright too.
Very cool to see how fat the trunk is already.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 8:29AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Planto - it looks like the plant has 2 or more heads, right? There is a way to fix the two heads thing and straighten up the crooked growth if you have a little faith. Essentially, what I would suggest is repotting the plant into an appropriate soil after you bare-root and root prune. After the plant starts pushing new growth again, you'd cut through the trunk somewhere below where the trunk bifurcates into 2 heads or trifurcates into 3 ....... Several new branches will start growing from the back-budding that occurs after you truncate the main stem. Select one that's closest to where you want it and rub the others off. There is virtually NO risk in this procedure if you repot into a fast draining soil and water very sparingly until the new growth appears and takes off. By the end of summer you'll have a plant that's well on its way to becoming a beautiful specimen with a single stem that's vertical in relation to the caudex.


This post was edited by tapla on Tue, Feb 18, 14 at 10:24

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 10:22AM
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I'm a mom and I don't have a ponytail palm, but reading this has inspired me to get one (a plant addict finds any reason to get another, right?) I've actually been admiring them for years.

Your plant is a non-conformist! I think it's interesting in its off-center stature. It gives it character and makes it unique. I have a huge aloe vera that is spilling out of the small pot it is in and is the most misshapen plant I have, and so many people comment on it.

Your plant appears to be doing well and it has character. I'd personally leave it alone as it appears to be doing really well. I like it a lot!


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 11:54AM
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I second Rodden-Blessed opinion.

Ponytail is doing fine, as is..Perfect specimen.

In fact, both plants in the photo look healthy. Toni

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 12:11PM
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I'm sure you're right about becoming attached eventually. :) I will post another picture once I "clean" it up. I suspect I'll be messing with it couple weeks from now (at least that's my plan). I leaned the pot over until the trunk was straight just to get a look at it and the "mini branches" don't look all that crooked, it's just the foliage emerging from the branches that is leaning (I don't know what to call the growth points where the foliage emerges from the trunk, I just call them "mini branches"). I know these don't keep their foliage indefinitely, so at least it wouldn't look crooked forever.

I counted five "heads." Thanks so much for your input. I know you're a bonsai expert so I do trust your judgement, I just don't trust myself lol. I don't mind the bushy look of this one, in fact I'm glad it has more than one "head" (I looked up pictures last night and didn't care much for the one "head" look). I know I can cut it back like you mentioned, I just think I'll see what it does when I straighten the trunk out first and go from there. I don't believe the foliage will indefinitely stay crooked, so even if it takes a couple years to produce foliage that's "straight," I'm in no hurry. Thanks again though, I really appreciate the advice. I think I'm just going to play it by ear and if need be, I'll cut it back.

Oh no, GW has that affect on people doesn't it? I was looking at someone's 'Chinese Evergreen' the other day and had a hard time not looking around town for a new one. The leaning does add character to the plant and I'd consider keeping it the way it is if I wasn't afraid of what might happen long-term. I think these can get up to 8 feet (?) tall in containers and I'd be sad if it broke off at some point from the weight (I think the plant would be better able to handle the weight down the road if it were straight, I could be wrong though).

Thanks. :) The other plant in the picture is that 'Peace Lily' from my other post, the clearanced one.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 12:42PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi Planto!!

What a beautiful tree you have!!

Makes me think of the large Rootbound tree I repotted last year.. Yikes!!

It will be easy to straighten it when you repot. If you need anything, just email me!!

Have a great day!!


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 12:57PM
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Haha, I was just pointing out a picture of your 'Ponytail Palm' to my Mom the other day (I asked you how old it was when you posted the pictures, I remember you saying between 18-20 years old). Thanks, that's good to know it will be easy to straighten. I ought to print out a picture of your "palm" to give mine something to look up to (literally!). Thanks again, if I need anything I will be sure to send you an e-mail!


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 1:10PM
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Excuse me for hijacking my own post (hehe), but this is the Aglaonema I purchased earlier. I found five plants total in the pot (it was $10). I used to have a 'Maria' (I had two in a pot) that I gave to my Mom, but it didn't make it through last winter (not the winter we just had, 2012's winter).

Thanks for looking. Talk about enabling. :P


This post was edited by plantomaniac08 on Tue, Feb 18, 14 at 14:39

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 1:39PM
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Here's a picture of my non-conformist aloe vera. It's 2' 4'' wide and about 22" tall. It's actually been twisting and growing out of the pot for years, to the point I can't even transplant it, but it's doing so well, I leave it alone. It's hard to see the twisted length of the plant hiding on the backside. It was a small, normal plant in shape when a student brought it to me about eight years ago in an African violet pot, and now it's almost pulling the pot over, so I just put some books underneath the heavy part to support it. It's doing well and seems happy.

I didn't think about your ponytail palm getting really big when I suggested leaving it alone. It will likely eventually need to be straightened, but it sounds as if you've gotten some good advice. Until then, enjoy it being unique!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 1:47PM
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Wow those are some pretty Aloes! One almost looks more spotted than the other (maybe it's just the lighting). And is that a Christmas cactus I see in your picture (or maybe an Easter cactus)? ;)

It's okay, I was already a little aware of just how big 'Ponytail Palms' can get remembering a post I saw last year (the one Laura was referring to earlier) but had I not seen her post, I would of probably considered leaving it as is. I will be sure to enjoy its uniqueness in the meantime though for sure.

I noticed you just registered last month, do you have more pictures of your houseplants? I'd love to see them if you have any.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 2:10PM
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The cactus you asked about is a Christmas cactus, from my great grandmother's plant. I never knew her, but my grandma had her plant, and I started mine from hers. My daughter now has one as well, so it's at least a five-generation plant. I have a huge one at home along with other smaller ones as I can't have too many of this plant. I have a number of backups in case my biggest one at home should die.
I'd love to find an Easter cactus. I'm now on the lookout for sure. I have a couple Thanksgiving cacti, but they aren't connected to my family. I live in a small town, so my options for finding plants are limited, but I do hope to add an Easter cactus to my collection.
Yes, I'm new to GW and am enjoying it. I'll try to get some pictures posted soon. I'm a teacher and swamped with grading right now, and I'm also not good with technology, but I'll give it a shot. I have about 30 plants in my office and probably 20 plus at home. Thanks for asking and know that some pictures will eventually show up! How many do you have?


    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 1:33PM
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Oh you're so lucky to have a Christmas cactus (not to mention one that has such sentimental value)! I've seen Easter cacti at Wal-Mart before if you have one near you (that's actually about the only place I've seen them, Lowes doesn't seem to carry them here).

I can't seem to get any holiday cacti (I've had a couple Thanksgiving cactus) to grow like I see online. They grow one or two sets of leaves and just sit there for a year. I'm just not that patient lol.

May I ask if it's not too personal, what do you teach?

Don't have to be "good" with technology btw, just get yourself a free Photobucket or Flickr account and you can copy and paste the links to your pictures from there. I have Photobucket so I can't speak for Flickr, but when I'm viewing one of my pictures, it has a little box off to the right that says something along the lines of "copy link to picture." I just click on the link and it copies. I in turn come to my message on here and paste and wallah! there's a link to my picture (you won't see the picture show up until after you hit "preview" though. When you're typing a message you can post only one picture at a time, but with Photobucket or Flickr, it allows you to post multiple pictures in the same message.

Wow, about fifty plants! Sadly, I don't have as many as I used to. In the last year or so I've given a number to my Mother-in-law and a few to my Mom (which in turn were given to my Mother-in-law... I think as much as my MIL likes plants, she's going to start giving me dirty looks if I bring over anymore lol).

I sort of jinxed myself in another post regarding a 'Prayer Plant' (Maranta) I had that was doing well for the month that I had it and I don't have it anymore.

Currently, I have eight indoor plants and two strictly outdoor plants. We live in an apartment with only one good window, so space is limited. I tried the whole container gardening outside thing and it gets so hot on our patio in the Summer, most things just can't handle the heat.

I have two 'Peace Lilies,' an African Violet, 'Zebra Grass' (it's a form of Spider plant, Chlorophytum laxum), a 'Chinese Evergreen,' my 'Ponytail Palm,' and two cacti... if you want to consider cacti indoor plants.

I had quite a number of cacti outside the last few years. One year, the apartment people hired someone to pressure wash our apartments and I didn't get the notice. I came home to everything outside having been "pressure washed" and all my plants died (it was made with some sort of bleach derivative). Last year, it rained so much here, all but three rotted out. -_- That's another reason to give up on growing things outside, either someone kills them off or Mother Nature takes it out on my plants LOL.

I'm trying my hand at growing 'lily' bulbs this year (Asiatic lilies) and so far, two of six have emerged. I dug something up in my folks' yard the other day that has a bulb to it too. I have no idea what it is though.

I'm in the process of growing a second African violet from a 'sucker,' we'll see if it takes. As much of a plant fanatic as I sound, you'd think I'd have more, but I don't. :\ One day lol.

Sorry for the really long post. I look forward to your pictures!


This post was edited by plantomaniac08 on Wed, Feb 19, 14 at 15:09

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 2:56PM
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I know you won't be able to post your pictures soon, but I hope you don't mind me showing you what little I do have to show.

Spider plant and African violets.

Two of the three cacti that survived last years downpour.

This one is named 'Polly' I got it last week (?) on clearance.

I just bought this yesterday.

This one's name is 'Peewee' (I name my plants, yes I am crazy).

I just went to water these a minute ago and noticed five coming out of the soil. I planted six.

I have no idea what this is. Some folks on another forum believe it may be Garlic or even a Leek of some kind. We'll see in time I guess. I dug it up out of curiosity.

Thanks for looking. I know I don't have much to look at and I have all the "easy" plants, but I do love to show them off. Hubby has learned a lot about plants every since I got into them. He'll walk around with me and go, hey is that a "___?" Hehe.


    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 3:24PM
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I love looking at plants, and yours were no different. I'm glad you took the time to send them. Although your collection is small, they look healthy and you have some really nice pictures. Thank you. I also like to look at pictures of plants to see what kind of pots people have. You have some nice pots. I don't have much of a budget for my "addiction," so I'm usually making do, but most of the time I enjoy that challenge as well.
Please know you are not alone in naming plants. I have a few that are named as well, and I have one friend who doesn't name her plants but always refers to them with male and female pronouns. I'm not sure how she distinguishes between a male and female, but she does. I always find it uplifting to hear her use "she" and "him" when talking about her plants. Do all of yours have names or just Peewee and Polly?
Not only do some of my plants have names, but most of them have stories as well. When people ask me about my plants, I usually spin a bit of a yarn for them. Between names and stories, I'm sure they think I'm crazy, but such is life. Truth is, most of my plants do have great stories as I tend to be a "plant rescuer," and when you don't have much of a budget, getting inventive and rescuing combine for some good tales.
It was nice to read that your husband is showing an interest. Do you think he will go so far as to acquire a plant for you or for himself?
Thanks for mentioning the zebra grass. I need to look that up as I water the plants (not mine) in one of the computer labs in my building, and one seems like a spider plant but is different as well. I'll check into that. And we do have a Lowe's here in town, so hopefully I'll be able to find an Easter cactus soon. I will buy plants from stores when I can, but usually I opt to buy them at the farmers' market during the summer or simply acquire them in other non-retail ways. Again, plants with stories call to me--hehe.
I too am propagating a violet from a leaf and stem, and I am now getting some babies coming up. I'll try to take a picture. I "acquired" the leaf from Lowe's where it had fallen off a violet and was just lying there begging me to take it home. If it makes it and eventually blooms, the flowers will be a surprise as I don't know what kind of violet it came from. Plants are fun, aren't they?
Thanks again for writing and for sending your pictures. Please keep them coming.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 4:51PM
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I have a pony tail that is 40yrs old!!!!
The head started to get soft & brittle on one side, I was beside myself!!
It must have known I was sad, so it perked up & is great looking as ever!
I will NEVER give up my ponytail. Did u know they can grow to be 100yrs old!
That's what I'm talking about!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 4:57PM
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Thanks. :) The most I've spent on the pots I currently have is $5 (the striped pot 'Polly' is in). The African violet is actually in a coffee mug I got for $0.65 the other day, and the other two ceramic pots I got for $3. It's not easy finding a bargain for sure, but when you do, it's nice!

I can understand not having much of a budget, I can't say I really do either. I found the African violet on clearance for $.50, but purchased the 'Chinese Evergreen' for $10. I guess splurging once in a while is okay lol.

I've named the African violet and 'Spider plant' as well, they're named 'Viola' and 'Sam' respectively. That's it for names though. And all of my plants except for the African violet have genders too (the AV is female, rest are male). I have no idea why no one hasn't locked me up in the looney bin yet. I guess to each their own, what I find odd the next person may not, and vice versa.

I imagine your stories are interesting to hear. I'm usually just boring folks with facts about plants lol.

Odd thing about this particular 'Spider Plant' is that it doesn't produce "babies." I don't mind that though. I've had a couple "normal" spider plants and they've almost taken over, hehe.

Hubby has purchased me a few plants before, this V-day and last I got some plants as gifts. The best kind. :D

He has an interest in bonsai, and has a Japanese maple growing outside at the moment.

I hope you see baby AVs soon and before you know it, flowers. That's always interesting purchasing an AV with an unknown flower color, adds to the excitement.

Hi, I haven't met you before, nice to meet you. :) Do you have a picture of your 'ponytail palm'? I'd love to see it! I didn't know they could live to be so old, sounds like this plant may just out live me then!


    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 7:12PM
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Just posting a couple follow-up pictures for those that are interested. I know, maybe not the best time of year to do a full repot (removing the soil, trimming roots, placing back in pot). I honestly didn't have a clue what I was looking at root-wise and I feel embarrassed to say that, so we'll see what it looks like this time next year! I'll post another update this Summer to show it's progress. Again, thanks for looking.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 7:15PM
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Great to read your detailed response. You are only the second person I know who uses pronouns with plants, so I was happy to read that. I think that reveals how you perceive plants, showing a connection with them.
I was also happy to read that you are a bargain plant person. You've gotten some really nice pots for very little. What kind of soil do you use? I wish I had a few more things for this "aaddiction" of mine, but I still have a daughter at home, so my priorities lie there. Fortunately, she has a bit of a spark for plants, and she's a good bargain hunter, at least compared to the typical teenage girl!
I've included a picture of my one AV that I have successfully propagated via a leaf. The one part I'm not sure about is I know that it's not good to get water on AV leaves, but when I water this plant, it's almost impossible to avoid getting water on the babies. Any suggestions? So far they don't have water spots on the leaves, but I figure they will soon.
It's nice to read about your husband giving you a plant gift. Yes, how nice it is to get plants as gifts.
It's going to be warm enough in the NE corner of Oklahoma tomorrow to set some of my houseplants outside for a day of gentle sunshine. I like doing that, and I hope they do too!

Rodden Blessed

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 2:01PM
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I'm using something new this time around. I've been mixing Miracle Gro Cacti & Succulent soil with perlite. Seems to dry out fast enough and so far my plants don't seem to mind it. I was looking for something with good drainage (I've tried numerous soils in the past, I'm thinking this may be the best "mix" for me).

That's nice that you and your daughter have a common interest, that's not something you hear of every day (especially with teenagers lol).

As far as getting water on the leaves, I think that's one of those myths with regards to African Violets. The only reason you'd want to avoid getting water on the leaves is if placed back in a spot where the sun is allowed to "shine" on the leaves, it will create a magnifying effect and burn the leaves.

You can use water to clean the leaves, allow them to dry completely (if worried about water spots, I think you can take pieces of paper towel and "suck" up any excess water), and place them back where you had them with no worries.

The other only thing I can think of being an issue with getting water on the leaves is you don't want water in the "crown" of the AV (it's growth point located in the center of the plant). That will introduce crown rot and you could lose the entire plant. But, other than that, I don't think you have anything to worry about.

If you find your babies are getting water on them, just grab a Q-tip and "suck" the water up with the Q-tip. Fast and harmless way of absorbing excess water.

I don't water my AV from the bottom, so it does get potting mix on the "stems" where they connect to the plant. I don't worry about it so much, so long as the crown itself isn't getting wet.

I hope this helps. :)

Yes, the weather is nice right about now in the South. Looks like it's going to be cold again next week though.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 2:13PM
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I too would leave the ponytail palm alone. It is beautiful just as it wants to be.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 2:57PM
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I've attached a picture of Ellen, my split-leaf philodendron. A good friend gave her to me as she was much larger, sprawling all over the place and she didn't have room for her. I cut her back and potted two others large pots with her. One is now in the campus library, and the other in the building I teach in. The one in the picture is in my office. Her pot is also very cool because the friend who gave Ellen to me does mosaic work, and this was her first mosaic pot. I'm honored. Ellen came from a funeral. I thought you'd enjoy meeting another named plant.
Thank you sooooooooooo much for all the AV information. I truly don't know much, so your advice is very helpful. I actually have cotton swabs in my office, so I'll put them to use, and I'll try to keep my plants out of direct sunlight if they do get some water on the leaves. I know some people water AV's strictly from the bottom, but mine seem to dry out if I do, so I actually water from both top and bottom.
Pat, I see you are from Michigan--a fellow Northerner. I used to travel to the Warren Dunes and camp there when I was college age. I miss the North as I now live in Oklahoma.
I've been blessed to have lots of rain water to water with the past couple months. My house has been full of buckets of it this winter as it is has been record cold here. I'm about out, however, and our forecast is for a dry spell. I'll have to resort to tap water that I've let sit out for chlorine evaporation. What kind of water do all of you use, and does anyone know of any plants that are particularly sensitive to fluoride as it will not evaporate from the tap water? I read once that the Gold Dust Dracena was very sensitive to it, but that's about all I know. I wish I had time to research, but I'm swamped with motherhood and grading.

Thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 2:46PM
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I like "Ellen," thanks for sharing a picture. :) She looks like rather happy in your office. She looks like she's starting to form that "swiss cheese" look. I wish I knew people like you do, I'd love to have a pot like that! I like how she put what looks like coffee mug handles around the pot.

You're welcome about the information. A lot of people's plant knowledge just comes from trial and error and finding "cheap" ways to do things lol. I'm forever getting soil or water somewhere where I didn't intend to. I've broken or damaged enough plants trying to "clean" them, so I just learned the Q-tip trick with AVs after a few failed attempts to remove excess water lol.

We have a PUR water filter (the one you stick in your fridge). I use it for my plants mostly (they actually "drink" better water than we do, we don't drink enough water lol). I figure that's gotta be a good way to get a number of contaminants out of the tap water. I let it sit out overnight so it's not cold. I used to let my water sit out overnight, but I started thinking it'd probably be even better to give them the filtered water from our water filter. We buy a 3-pack of refill filters and they're $15 for 3. I think I go 3 months without changing them (they say you shouldn't go more than 2, but it's not like I'm using it every single day, I don't water my plants that often lol).

The only plants I can think of that are sensitive to fluoride are 'Spider Plant' and Dracaenas. There may be more, I just can't think of any. I put a lot of perlite in my soil "mix," so I'm sure to clean the perlite real well before I mix it in with the Miracle Gro Cactus & Succulent soil. I've read somewhere that it contains a lot of fluoride (the perlite), so you want to rinse it real well before use to remove most of that excess fluoride before using it.

I read something on the AV forum on GW about chloramine (not chlorine) that is harmful to AVs. It isn't a gas so it doesn't evaporate. I don't know if our filtration filters chloramine out, I'm hoping it does. I've seen pictures of AVs on that forum that gradually begin to yellow until it kills off the plant. I figure, better to be safe than sorry.


This post was edited by plantomaniac08 on Mon, Feb 24, 14 at 17:34

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 5:31PM
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I'll pass on your complimentary words about the mosaic pot my friend made. She's a very creative and resourceful person and can repurpose almost anything. And thank you for your information about the water you use. I'm going to try to squeeze in time to research fluoride-sensitive plants in just a bit as I'm at the bottom of the barrel on rainwater, and Oklahoma is having a really dry spell right now, lots of fires breaking out around here.
I've attached a picture of my largest Christmas cactus that I started from my grandmother's, which came from her mother's plant. Hopefully I captured a bit of the pot in the picture as well. My mom gave me the pot and helped me transplant my cactus into it years ago. She is no longer living, so I have memories of both my mom and my paternal grandmother in the plant and pot. They both mean a lot to me. In fact, during tornado season when storms are raging here, there isn't room for my plants in our neighbor's shelter we use, but this cactus goes into the safest spot in the house along with the other smaller ones I have started from her. If you were here, I'd share a start with you as I love to share this wonderful plant. The cactus in this picture is over 30 years old, and the very original plant it was started from (at least as far back as I can trace it) was alive and part of my heritage in the 1940's--if not sooner.
Oh, I'd never heard of washing perlite first, so thanks for the tip on that. I'll check it out.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 4:37PM
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That is nice that you not only have a plant that you can trace back to your Great Grandmother. I cannot imagine having lost your Mom, I am sorry for your loss. That is something to cherish as well, being able to look at your CC and see your Mom and have those memories.

My Grandmother loved plants, but I'm not sure if she had any houseplants. She loved Peonies, so I hope I'll be able to grow one for her memory one day (they don't seem to do well in containers for me, so maybe once we have a house with some land lol). I hope we (Hubby and I) have a long time before we have to worry about any of our parents passing on.

Thanks for sharing a picture of your CC. I am a bit envious to be honest. ;) I can't seem to go Holiday cacti. They never seem to take off. I must not be doing something right.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 4:51PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I don't think I would cut it! It looks just fine to me. I love ponytails. They are so easy to grow and each one is unique. I would recommend knocking it out of the pot and pruning any roots that are wrapping around the soil. I would put it in a slightly bigger pot.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 4:58PM
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