My Oldest Houseplant: A Ponytail Palm That’s Seen It All

By Laura Miller | January 10, 2021
Image by Renata Tyburczy
by Laura Miller
January 10, 2021

As we age, time seems to speed by at a faster pace with each passing year. I find that when I’m watering my houseplants, I tend to think back to when and where each plant came from. My yucca and banana plants were Mother’s Day gifts from my husband. I’ve had them, or more correctly, their parent plants for years.

I’ve also had my oxalis for a long time. This one I bought for myself. A couple cacti and a dracaena round out the list of plants I’ve owned for more than a decade. The one old-timer though, the plant I’ve owned the longest, is a ponytail palm.

These tough little plants are members of the agave family and not actually palms, but a type of succulent. Ponytail palm houseplants are one plant that can really thrive on neglect. They require infrequent watering and don’t mind low-light conditions. 

Ponytail Palm Houseplant History

My ponytail palm was a housewarming gift given to me by my brother-in-law’s girlfriend. Several things stand out in my mind as I look at this plant. First of all, this plant has survived much longer than the relationship between my brother-in-law and his girlfriend. 

Which makes me think that sometimes the relationship we have with our plants is much more stable than those we have with people. Maybe it’s because plants don’t have feet and can’t walk away. Or maybe it’s because plants can’t argue back. Perhaps it’s because plants have much simpler needs than the people in our lives. 

An Oldest Houseplant’s Long Life

Or maybe it’s because plants leave us in a different way. If we fail to meet their needs, we’re left with an empty pot. Which brings me to the second thing which stands out when I look at this ponytail plant, it’s still alive!

Eventually, most of my houseplants succumb to neglect. Life has a way of throwing curves and for me, this usually means forgetting to water my plants. Yet this hardy little ponytail palm has survived all the ups and downs of the last 34 years. Yes, I said 34 years. That’s how long we’ve lived in our home.

This plant adorned my windows when we brought our second son home from the hospital and it was still here when he packed his bags for college. My ponytail palm survived the excitement of my oldest son’s out-of-state wedding. Years later it was still here when, sadly, he came back home after his divorce. My ponytail palm has been here through all the joys and hardships of raising a family.

As I look at my ponytail plant and think back through the years and the flood of memories it brings, one last thing stands out in my mind. This housewarming gift has been living in the same pot for most of those 34 years. Now that’s a plant that can survive on neglect! 

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  • Kim
    Comment added January 14, 2021Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful, inspiring story. I have had plants since I was in my teens, finding the joy through my grandmother. The Pony Tail Palm was one of the first plants I fell in love with, but sadly I think I over watered mine and it left me. I have always thought of it as a more difficult plant to own so I never bought one again. I am now in my 60's. Your story has attracted me once more to get this beautiful plant.

  • Jamie
    Comment added January 13, 2021Reply

    Omgosh. I stumbled across this post and laughed out loud, to the surprise of my puppy, when I counted up the years I've had my ponytail 'palm'. 39 years! No joke. I randomly bought it my second year of college. I've bookmarked your site because I really enjoyed reading. I made my way here after searching for info on a heart fern. My daughter has gifted me several babies that need tlc. I'm so happy she loves plants too! She could fall down the the crazy plant lady hole one of these days!

  • Andrew
    Comment added January 11, 2021Reply

    Thanks for sharing! I'm glad to know someone else's ponytail palm has survived (thrived) through hardships. I had forgotten my palm at my apartment for three weeks before, no water or light. I came back, thinking for sure it'd be brown and shriveled, but nope it was almost as good as I left it. What a champ! Looking forward to many more years with it!

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