How to Guides

Published on November 14th, 2018 | by ozlem

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[SOLVED] Succulents Growing too Tall (Etiolation)

Are you standing there and thinking, why your once best looking little succulent is now in a weird shape? I have been in the same place before. Then I found out that the reason was ridiculously simple! And more common then you think…

Succulents are one of the best types for a plant addict whose house does not involve an outdoor space. Because they are cared at homes so easily with a basic knowledge and a minimal effort, even that they are not originally houseplants. What I find the most critical about these desert plants, that moved from their habitat to our house blocks, is the sunlight

Succulents suffer in a lot of ways when they are cared indoors where there is a lack of sunlight. One sign is that the stem grows too tall and stretches out through the sun. Stretched succulents actually do not turn back to their good shape. But they can be saved by propagation and grown in a better form with improved lighting.

Why the Succulents Strech?

Understanding what derives a problem is the first step going to the way of solution. There is a simple cause of the stretching succulents in the most cases: sunlight. Adequate direct light for a few hours everyday is one of the basic requirements for succulent care. 

Even the answer is simple, a few more questions pop up in the heads related to this issue. I tried to clear your minds by giving details about each of them one by one. Here they are!

Is it normal for succulents to grow a tall stem?

It is quite common that the indoor succulents tend to grow horizontally. Some of you may not be clear at first, stretched succulents are sometimes mistaken with healthy, fast-growing succulents.

Succulents are rather slow growing plants. But if they are not having enough amount of sunshine, they start to grow longitudinal fastly and stretch out to reach the light source. It is a really unhealthy situation for any plant suffering the inadequate light. And it may even lead to a withered plant in the end. Thinking the bright side, the plant is behaving this way as a survival instinct…

You can also tell that your succulent is starving for sunlight, by the discoloration of its leaves. If the leaves lose their vivid green and become pale, that shows anything else but a healthy growth.

Many succulent plants spread vertically by giving a lot of offsets. They grow large and dense leaves in intense colors and a thick stem. If this was the case, congrats! That is one healthy succulent.

Wide Echeverias Grown Healthy

Nevertheless, some species actually grow longer than the others. Check out if yours is one of them. You may refer to detailed guide post of your succulent.

What is etiolation and what happens to an etiolated succulent?

Indoor succulents will never get exposed to as much sunshine as the outdoor succulents. That is a fact. If the pot of your plant is not placed where they meet the ideal lighting conditions, they grow weak and pale in the lack of sun. That is what we call etiolation.

Etiolated succulents are not able to produce enough chlorophyll to show a bright green hue. The leaves and the stem turn pale and lose pigmentation.

As an early sign of stretching, the light-craving succulent will lean towards the Sun. Later that, the stem starts to elongate very fast, but stay thin. The spacing between the leaves gets distance because the leaves do not grow with the stem.

Unfortunately, all these leads the succulent take an odd shape, distorted and disoriented. Its body can not preserve proportions. In an extreme scenario, the stem might be broken if it can not load-bear itself.

How much light do the succulents need?

Now you may be wondering, how much light do succulents need a day? Well, actually that changes with every plant, but I can say that not all day long.

Most succulents prefer partial to full sunlight. That means they will require at least a few hours of direct light everyday. On the contrary, some other species like lower lighting better, so these ones suit the indoors better.

As for many other needs, your plant will tell you how they would like the lighting, but in a silent way. Within a short time, you will be able to recognize a couple of signals they show if succulents lack sunlight.

Before they wildly grow tall and stretch, succulents try to increase the light-exposed surface of their leaves by slightly bending them downwards. Leaves that are pointing down is a sign of poor lighting.

Another thing that indicates insufficient sunlight is the leaned leaves. Plants sense the source of lighting and they lean to that side if they can not reach an adequate amount of light.

How to Prevent Succulents Growing too Tall & Stretching?

As I mentioned, etiolation is one of the biggest challenges when you care succulents indoors. But anyways, there are ways to avoid a succulent to stretch out by improving its environmental conditions.

So that we know what is causing succulents to grow a tall stem. It is in our hands to realize the early stages of stretching succulents with the help of a little observation. Let’s go ahead and take action against an etiolated succulent plant.

Reposition the Plant

Maybe it is not genius. Yet already, repositioning the plant is an obvious move that actually works. Try to move the planter of your succulent near the window, or maybe outdoor places for a couple of hours everyday. 

Make changes gradually. For example, let the plant have half an hour more direct light every three days. Over 1 or 2 weeks see if the leaves tipped upside. Pale color of the plant should also recover quickly with the plenty of Sun. Keep controlling the reaction against the improved illumination. 

Do not expose the poorly lightened plant to a bright sunlight in a sudden before it can adapt to. Sudden transitions stress your plant and effect it negatively.

It is crucial to keep in mind that too much direct sunshine cause succulents to get sunburnt. Maintain a balance between the sun and shade considering the needs of the succulent. 

Acquire a Growth Lamp

I recently found out that these gadgets are really doing a good job. Growth lamps are artificial light resources made especially for the plants that are grown indoors. They provide only the necessary lightwave; so the plants continue photosynthesis. 

Perhaps you live around a zone where you have long winters, short daytime and a lot of cloudy days. Or maybe replacing the plant is not an option. Wouldn’t you consider to get one of these rather than just giving up?

Prefer Other Species

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you can not provide the ideal conditions to a specific type. Certain species are really sensitive to any change of light. There is no point to insist on such a situation.

Why don’t we accept that it was not the right type for us? After that, you can reuse the pot for more suitable species. This time take the interior environment of your house into consideration, when choosing a succulent.

How to Fix a Stretched Succulent?

If the succulents take insufficient sunlight, the stem elongates quickly before the leaves get to reach that development pace. It is unfortunate that once a succulent grow a slender and stem, there is no turning back to its compact form.

While you can not shrink the plant back to its healthy and pretty shape, You have an option like propagating the disproportional body to a new succulent.

Before you propagate the stretched plant, I advise you to be sure that you will be able to improve its illumination. Otherwise, the new cuttings and offshoots will eventually get stretched as well.

Propagating the Succulent Grown a Tall Stem

Start with a sharp and clean knife (scissors are also fine) and take a cutting from the top of the stretched body. Pay attention to leave at least 3-4 centimeters long stem for the cutting to grow new roots.

As for the base plant, you should leave a few of the leaves in order to help it to continue photosynthesis. The base plant will keep on living if it is placed in a good spot takes a lot of sunshine and with a proper watering.

Leave the cutting on a dry surface for a couple of days, let it loose the exceeding moisture and develop tiny pink roots from the stem. You will be able to see the root development within a short time. After that, it is ready to be planted into a succulent soil.

There you have two new succulents instead of the old stretched out one. Take this second chance for a better care of the plant, so that they do not lack the Sun again.

When the succulents are placed indoors where they are generally illuminated not as sufficient as the outdoor succulents, their stem grows too long but the gap between the leaves increase. This long and thin body stretches towards to sun.

While you can not reshape stretched succulents, I wanted to explain how to avoid it happening and how to save a stretched plant. Good luck!

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