Stretched Out?

If you are new to growing succulents, you might notice changes happening to your plants, but not really know *why* they are happening. Your plant might not look exactly how it looked when you bought it, and this can be worrisome, especially if you’re just getting into succulent parenthood.

One of the things that friends ask me about is why their succulent has grown so tall, or “leggy,” and lost some of that beautiful color that caught their eye in the first place. Most likely, your succulent isn’t getting enough sun. Don’t fret! I believe there is a fix for almost any ailment in the succulent world, especially this one.

One of the first signs that your plant baby isn’t getting enough light is by paying attention to “the lean.” Your succulent will not be straight up, but rather have a tilt, usually facing the closest source of light. Another sign of distress is the leaves that your plant puts out toward the bottom of the stem are further spaced apart. Here is an example of one of my Echeveria Carnicolor that is not getting enough sun.

See how far the main rosette of the plant is from the soil? This is a classic example of a succulent that is not getting enough sunlight. The leaves are spread out and, although plump, are not the same color as they were when I first transplanted to this pot.

You may be wondering if the diagnosis is terminal for your plant. Absolutely not! While your plant won’t “grow back” to its original compact figure, it can be saved. Bonus! I am going to show you how to start the propagation process with my plant so that you can hopefully come away with a whole new baby plant!

You will want to grab a sharp pair of scissors or clippers, as a clean cut is best for the health of your plant. Cut off the top rosette wherever seems most natural for your plant. (This is called “Decapitation Propagation.” It sounds like something from a horror movie, but your plant will be so much happier!)

There really wasn't much stem to work with for replanting with where I cut. It will be a judgment call on your part to decide which leaves to take off your stem to leave enough stem to stick into the soil. Remember that bonus I talked about? The leaves you pull off from your stem will hopefully make new babies! Below is the result of my cut. As you can see, a couple leaves need to be pulled so that I can have enough stem to stick into the soil.

When taking off leaves of succulents for propagation, you want to twist gently, so that the joint of the leaf is the only open wound on the plant. You should feel a soft snap. Do not pull aggressively, as this can cause you to pull off more skin of the mother plant, leaving it susceptible to further damage.

After you have stopped holding your breath and recovered from the mini panic attack like I had the first time I decapitated a plant, you should be left with something resembling this.

The next step is very important, and requires a little patience on your part. One of the most important things you can do in the care and life of your succulent is to allow the plant to callous and dry at the wound each time you propagate. You do not want to put the plant into soil until this has happened. If you do not wait, the chance of your plant dying of root rot will increase. I know it's hard, especially if you have a cute new planter, but it is crucial.

I like to leave my plants to dry close to a window. You don't want the wound of the plant to get direct sunlight, as this can scorch the plant. Leave your clippings to dry, either on a propagation tray or in a similar safe space. Do not place your new babes into soil until you feel and see a callous, like below.

If you have any questions about propagation, you can ask here in a comment or leave a post on my facebook wall.

Ashton Sorrels