Having your short-stemmed succulent unexpectedly grow a long stem can be inconvenient arrangement-wise. If you have a carefully crafted succulent garden, a random long-stemmed succulent can completely throw off the balanced beauty of your design. So how do you prevent long stems and fix long stems?
What Causes Long-Stemmed Succulents?
First off, sometimes there is nothing inherently wrong with a succulent’s growing conditions when a succulent grows a long stem. Certain species of succulents will tend to grow long stems naturally. So if you know you prefer short-stemmed succulents, make sure to perform some quick Internet searches before settling on a variety. For example, Burro or Donkey’s Tail, String of Pearls, and Agave are all succulents that will naturally grow long stems.
If your short-stemmed succulent variety grows a long stem, it is most likely because of its current light conditions. Succulents are naturally sun-loving plants and require considerable light exposure (about a minimum of 6-8 hours a day) to grow and thrive. If a succulent is in a low-light location, it can cause the plant to stretch in an attempt to “look” for more light. This natural phenomenon is called etiolation, and it’s simply a succulent’s way to find another light source. Visible signs of etiolation are succulents becoming “leggy” with abnormally long, thin, and pale stems.
Plants, regardless of the species or variety, will always grow in the direction of the light source. Succulents are no different. If succulents are only receiving light from one direction, the succulent will begin to stretch and lean in the direction of the light in an attempt to evenly disperse the light on all sides.
Detecting a Long Stem
Usually before a long-stemmed succulent becomes glaringly obvious, there are a few small signs that your succulent may be about to grow a long stem. If you pay close attention to your succulents’ growth and development, these small signs may clue you in and help you prevent your succulents growing long stems before it’s too late.
One sign is the stem of your succulent will develop way faster than new leaves. As a result, you may notice wider spaces than normal between the leaves. Another sign is your leaves will become droopy and point downward.
Be sure not to blast your succulent with full, direct sun to remedy and prevent a long stem. This may severely burn your succulent. Instead, slowly and gradually introduce the succulents to more sunlight so they have adequate time to adapt.
Fixing a Long Stem
Unfortunately, if your succulent is a short-stemmed variety and it develops a long stem, it cannot be reversed with the above light therapy. However, all is not lost! With some sharp scissors or shears, you can begin propagating from the long-stemmed succulent to start over and create new succulents!
- First, use some sharp, clean scissors or shears to cut the long stem. Be sure to leave a few leaves at the base—this will allow the stem to absorb more sunlight and recover more quickly.
- Cut the stem up some more if you find the cuttings are still too long.
- Allow the cuttings to dry and heal. Essentially, the succulent cuttings need about a week’s time to form a “scab” and seal the wound shut.
- Next, plant the cuttings in a well-draining succulent soil.
- Water the cuttings in appropriate intervals. Allow the soil to properly dry out between waterings. The cuttings will rot if they are constantly in soggy soil.
Once you have followed the above steps, your new succulents should start rooting in less than a month!
Preventing a Long Stem
Propagation is a long process and not something you want to be doing on a regular basis.
First, make sure your succulents are receiving the minimum 6-8 hours of daily light exposure, especially for indoor succulents. If you find your succulent needs longer light exposure, make sure you increase the exposure in gradual intervals to give the succulent time to adapt. A grow light is a good way to supplement light exposure for indoor succulent.
Secondly, rotate your succulent pots regularly if they are receiving light only from one direction. This is a common problem for indoor succulents that only receive light on one side. Turning the pot every so often ensures the succulent receives evenly dispersed light. This allows for even growth with no stretching or leaning in sight!
Finally, consider changing your succulent’s location if it isn’t receiving enough light. For indoor succulents, try another well-lit room or a sunny window.
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