Are Ponytail Palm Roots Invasive?

Ponytail palm roots are not invasive, but it might interest you to know that ponytail palms are neither palms nor trees. Instead, they are succulents and are therefore used frequently as an indoor plant.

Other names for ponytail palms include the elephant foot tree and the bottle palm tree. Regarding the roots, they are like most other palm trees in that the roots are simply too small to do much damage.

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Three Ways to Stop Ponytail Palm Roots From Becoming Invasive

The odds of ponytail palm roots becoming invasive are slim to none, especially since they are so small. Nevertheless, they can occasionally cause some damage if not cared for properly.

Here are some tips to remember when you want your ponytail palm roots to remain non-invasive.

1. Always Water the Plant Properly

Ponytail plants, while succulents, still need the right amount of water. Plants that are not watered enough will send out large and wide root systems.

The roots grow bigger and spread out further in an effort to get the water and nutrients they need for the tree to grow and thrive. While the chances of the roots growing big enough to cause problems and becoming invasive are very slim.

This is why making sure your ponytail palm tree gets enough water is so important.

2. Plant the Tree Away From Structures

Different species of palm plants grow differently, and while all palms have small roots, some can still spread out quite a bit. This means there is always the chance that the roots could become invasive if they are too close to your patio, home, pavers, or even the sidewalk.

Before you plant your ponytail palm tree, make sure you take these things into consideration so you end up planting it at the right spot.

If you repot a potted palm, choose a new pot that is only slightly bigger than the current one. Otherwise, the roots may actually get too much water instead of not enough.

3. Choose a Root Barrier

Root barriers are an easy way to contain the roots of your ponytail palm. They work like a pot in the ground stopping the roots from spreading out wider.

These are physical barriers that separate the roots from the rest of the soil, so the roots simply cannot grow out too far.

Check out root barriers here on Amazon:

How Big and Deep Are Ponytail Palm Roots?

Ponytail palm roots are plentiful but they are all very small, which is why they’re non-invasive. Typically, the roots are only 12-18 inches deep, but they can spread out by as much as 20 feet in width and sometimes longer.

Most of the time, however, they only get as big as the plant is wide, which means 1-2 feet on average.

If planted outside and deprived of water, ponytail palms have been known to spread out as much as 45 feet looking for water and nutrients. Even then, the size of the roots remains the same.

Are Ponytail Palms Easy to Remove?

The bigger the ponytail palm tree, the easier it is to remove. If you grow this plant inside, you can simply take a butter knife and run it along the inside edge to loosen the plant, then remove it by hand.

You’ll want to clean and inspect the roots next, clipping back any that look unhealthy. With larger ponytail palms that are planted outdoors, you’ll need to first dig a moat about 20 inches away from the tree itself, then use a shovel to remove the plant.

Depending on how big the tree is, you might need to use a crane instead, but most outdoor ponytail palms can be removed using a shovel.

Can You Plant Ponytail Palms Close to a House?

You can plant a ponytail palm close to a home or other structure, but ideally you should plant it a minimum of 10 feet away.

This is because ponytail palms can get up to 30 feet high and 10 feet in diameter, and they may encroach on your roof or any other structure that is close to them.

The roots won’t hurt the ground around your home, but the palm can still interfere with the structures in your yard.

Can Ponytail Palm Tree Roots Damage Pipes?

In most cases, ponytail palm tree roots do not damage pipes. This is due to two main reasons. First, the roots are very small and thin; and second, the roots never get bigger as the tree grows.

They get longer in order to spread out further and absorb more water and nutrients, but they will not get bigger. Because of their manageable size, they rarely, if ever, damage any pipes buried underground.

What Palms Have Non-Invasive Roots?

All palm trees have non-invasive roots, but keep in mind that they still typically grow one to three feet deep and at least as wide, depending on the species.

Because of this, they can still upset things such as pavers and even foundations if planted too closely, which is why it is recommended that they be planted ten feet or more away from your home, patio, or other structures.

If planted and cared for properly, palm tree roots are never a problem.


While it is extremely unlikely that the thin, small roots of a ponytail palm will ever be invasive and wreak havoc on your yard, it is not impossible. Keep in mind that the roots do not get bigger as the tree ages.

They will spread out further, of course, but they typically will remain the same diameter size, which is extremely small. This is the opposite of most other trees, which have roots that get larger and bigger the older the tree gets.

If you’re careful with your ponytail palm tree, you’ll realize that overall it is a very low-maintenance plant. The few rules you need to follow are very simple, but they are very important nonetheless.