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Dr. Hort discusses the finer points of ponytail palms

And so begin the blooms

Q: I saw your article regarding the ponytail palm that bloomed ("Ask Dr. Hort," June 19). We too were surprised by blooms this year. The palm is more than 30 years old and was moved from a pot to the ground about 17 years ago. My questions to you are a) will the tree bloom annually now?, b) what will happen to the blooms that are there now? and c) how do you create a baby ponytail palm?

Debi Wohlers, Odessa

A: You are among the multitude of gardeners in the Tampa Bay area that had bloomin' ponytails for the first time in decades. I believe the past winter triggered many plants to bloom like they've never bloomed before. Now that your ponytail has bloomed, it will to do so every summer. As for seed, your plant is either male or female. If you have a female and there is a male nearby, you just might get some fruit (red and about 1/2 inch long), which will have seeds. If you have a male, you can feel comforted that it has pollinated some females nearby — and perhaps a neighbor would be willing to share seeds.

Same plant, new name

Q: For 20 years we've had ponytails planted as part of our landscaping. The ponytails have flowered for the first time and are covered with clouds of insects, including bees — it's a beautiful sight. . . . Can you tell us the difference between Nolina recurvata and Beaucarnea recurvata (we thought we had the latter, but your June 19 article identifies it as Nolina recurvata)?

Lili Garrett, Largo

A: Every five years or so the Royal Horticultural Society (the body that governs scientific naming) works on groups of plants that were named before permanent rules were adopted in the 1930s (quite an undertaking). As a result, some scientific names will change from time to time, as is the case for ponytail. The old name Beaucarnea recurvata and the new name Nolina recurvata will be interchanged for years to come.

Color offers a clue

Q: My ponytail palm bloomed last year and is again blooming this year (two stalks this time). I'll be looking forward to seeing the plant set fruit as you have given me hope for additional plants for myself and for sharing.

Margaret Hewett, St. Petersburg

A: Congratulations on your blooming ponytail! The fruiting cycle is tenuous at best. Ponytails are dioecious, meaning that the male and female flowers occur on different plants. If your spray of flowers is cream colored, you have a male; if the spray is pink, you have a female. After pollination, female ponytails will produce fruit after flowering.


Helping Dr. Hort

Friends and colleagues of Greg "Dr. Hort" Charles are hosting a benefit in his honor today.

Charles, the former director of the horticulture program at the Pinellas Technical Education Centers, was injured in a fall in 2009 and has limited mobility as a result. Money raised will go to help with medical expenses.

The "Group Hug for Greg Reunion" will feature a cornhole tournament, silent auction and raffles beginning at 4 p.m. today at Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill, 1320 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. To get more information or to make a donation, call Victoria Bay at (727) 643-9748.

Have questions?

Enter Greg "Dr. Hort" Charles, who for more than 30 years educated gardeners through the Pinellas Technical Education Centers. E-mail your garden questions to or to (put Dr. Hort in the subject line). Mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe your problem in full, and include your name, city and contact information. If possible, include a photo. We will print his advice on Saturdays in HomeLink.

Dr. Hort discusses the finer points of ponytail palms 07/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 15, 2010 11:58pm]
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