Succulents are one of the most popular plants. They’re especially popular as indoor plants and they’re present in thousands of homes and offices across the country.
They’re some of the easiest plants to care for and their small size makes them ideal for the home.
However, what happens when your succulents begin to grow long stems? This is a common problem with succulents and it can make these small and compact plants look strange.
If this has happened to your succulents, you may be wondering what caused it and how it can be fixed.
In this article, we will take a closer look at succulents with long stems.
Why Does My Succulent Have A Long Stem?
Although most succulents are small and have short stems, many may grow longer stems. There are several reasons why this may happen. Let’s look at these and how they can be fixed if necessary.
Not Enough Light
Succulents are some of the easiest and least demanding plants to grow and that’s what makes them so popular. However, one of the few demands they have is that they get enough sunlight.
Most succulents need full sunlight but a few varieties can thrive in either shaded or indirect sunlight.
If your succulent isn’t getting enough sunlight, however, it may stretch to try and find some more. This is called etiolation and can result in longer stems or leaves as the plant strives to find the sunlight it is lacking.
One of the earliest tells that your succulent isn’t getting enough sunlight is if a usually compact succulent begins to spread out.
For example, Echeveria succulents usually have tight, rosette-style leaves but if you notice these begin to have spaces in them, it’s a sign that etiolation is beginning to occur.
The Light Source Isn’t Even
Plants may be alive and they can slowly grow, but they can’t move.
They can’t turn around or change the angle that they’re placed in, so you can sometimes have a situation where a succulent is getting enough sunlight in some places, but not in others.
This can occur when part of the succulent is shaded but part isn’t. If your succulents are outside and near a wall, for example, sunlight might only be able to clear part of the wall.
This can cause the part of the succulent that is in the shade to stretch for the sunlight that is just out of its reach. If your succulent starts to look lopsided and stretched in parts but fine in others, it may be uneven sunlight.
It Is Naturally Long-Stemmed
Although most succulents are small and have short stems, some succulents are naturally long-stemmed.
There’s nothing you can do to prevent a Strings of Tears succulent from having a long stem because it’s simply in the nature of the plant to have one!
Before you start looking at what you can do with your long-stemmed succulent, you should first make sure that you need to do anything at all.
Identify the type of succulent you have if you don’t already know and see if it should have a long stem. Long-stemmed succulents have their own needs so you will then need to find out the best way to care for them.
Will Stem Stretching Damage The Succulent?
The actual act of stem stretching is not harmful to your succulents at all. It may make the succulents look worse and might not be aesthetically pleasing, but it will not kill or damage the plant.
A succulent that has a longer stem than it should will still live a long and healthy life!
However, the underlying cause that resulted in the stretched stem will need to be addressed.
If it isn’t addressed, this could hurt your succulents. Consider a stretched stem to be your succulent asking you for help and for a problem to be fixed.
You will still need to address the sunlight issue and make sure that your succulent gets the light it needs. If you don’t give the succulent sufficient light, this will eventually result in your succulent dying.
How To Stop Your Succulent From Stretching
Once your succulent has begun etiolation, you can prevent it from stretching any further by making a few adjustments.
Even if your succulent isn’t showing signs of etiolation, it is worth checking this list of fixes and making sure that your succulent has all it needs.
You can’t undo etiolation, after all! That stem won’t shrink back down to its original size but you can prevent it from getting worse and ensure that none of your other succulents will suffer the same fate.
Fix The Lighting
This is the biggest factor that causes etiolation and is the first fix that you should attempt. Succulents need sufficient sunlight if they are to remain healthy and not begin stretching.
Different succulents need different amounts of light so if you’re not sure what sunlight your succulent needs, you should research this first.
However, succulents that are exposed to too much sunlight too quickly after a period of not having enough can become damaged.
You may start to notice brown leaves on the leaves of the plant and these are a sure sign that the plant has received too much sun too quickly.
To avoid these brown spots, you need to introduce the succulent to sunlight as part of a gradual process. Allow your succulent to get a little extra sun in a controlled manner.
Begin by giving the plant an extra 30 to 60 minutes of sunlight and every two to three days, increase this by another 30 to 60 minutes.
Take it slow and steady and your succulent will remain healthy and stop stretching.
Adjust The Pot Direction
If your succulent is stretching in a lopsided manner, this is due to sunlight not hitting the plant evenly. It may be coming from an angle or some shade may be interfering.
You have two choices in this case. The first is that you can simply move your succulent to an area where it will receive sunlight more evenly.
If you take this course of action, keep an eye on the plant for any brown spots on the leaves and if they begin to occur, follow the instructions in the section above to introduce the sunlight gradually.
The second option is to simply rotate your pot. You don’t need to do this too frequently as an adjustment every two to three days should be enough.
All you need to do is turn your pot so a different part of the plant is facing the sun.
Dormancy And Growth
Succulents have a life cycle that moves from growth to dormancy and back again and it’s important that you understand these terms if you are to care for your succulents effectively.
Dormancy is just as important to a plant as growth as it is the period when plants take a break from consuming nutrients and growing. It usually occurs during a drop in temperature, such as in winter.
Succulents are not plants that were designed for the cold.
They thrive best in sunny and arid environments and this means that they go to sleep when the temperatures become too cold. This is their dormant period.
When plants are dormant, their rate of growth slows down greatly as they conserve nutrients and energy. It’s almost a stasis period for the plant.
Dormant periods can help with succulents that are suffering from etiolation. As dormant plants don’t grow much, it means that their stems won’t stretch either.
If you’ve caught etiolation in its early stages, you can put the brakes on this by essentially tricking your plants to become dormant.
Plants recognize that it is time to become dormant by noticing changes in their environment.
Cooler temperatures and less sunshine will make the plant conserve its energy and stop growing. You can trick your succulent into becoming dormant by moving it to a cooler and darker area of your home.
This method doesn’t work with succulents that have already been suffering from etiolation for a long period of time. However, it can work with those that have only just begun to stretch.
What Can Be Done With Succulents With Long Stems?
So far, we’ve explained what causes succulents to develop long stems and how to prevent them from growing any longer. But what can you do with a succulent that already has a severe case of etiolation?
Unfortunately, you can’t reverse the etiolation process. You can prevent it from getting worse and the stems from stretching even longer, but you can’t unstretch a stem.
There is no way of shrinking it back to its original length so that leaves you with two main options.
As long as you ensure that your succulents get enough sunlight in the future, your succulents will remain healthy and can have happy lives.
If they’re naturally long-stemmed succulents such as Rosary Vines you may want to transfer them to a more suitable container.
These look great in hanging baskets and it will give them the space they need to stretch their stems.
You can also keep succulents that shouldn’t have long stems. You can transfer these if you want or simply leave them as they are, soaking up the sun and continuing to thrive.
The other option is to start again and get it right the second time. You can easily grow a new succulent from cuttings and leaves taken from an old succulent, even one that has suffered through etiolation.
This process of taking cuttings and growing new plants is called propagation and it is a great way to get healthy succulents once more.
It may sound daunting to propagate a plant if you’ve never done it before.
Thankfully, succulents are some of the easiest plants to propagate and grow so even if you’re a beginner to propagation, you have a high chance of successfully propagating a succulent.
How To Propagate A Succulent Plant
In the previous section, we introduced the concept of propagating a succulent that suffers from etiolation. Let’s now look at how this can be done.
Don’t worry if you’ve never propagated a plant before, we‘ll explain it in several easy steps.
Step One – Assess Your Plant
Before you make any cuts to your succulent, you need to assess your plant closely. First, find out exactly what species of plant you have.
This is important because some succulents can be propagated from both their leaves and cuttings, but other plants can only be propagated from cuttings.
If you’re not sure, then opt for the cuttings. For this guide, we will describe how to propagate from a stem cutting.
Your plant should also be as healthy as it can possibly be. Don’t worry about the stretched stem when propagating a succulent.
Instead, ensure that the plant is properly hydrated and has been well-watered in the period leading up to when you make the cutting. You want the leaves of the succulent to be healthy and plump.
If you try to propagate a plant that isn’t healthy, there is more chance of the propagation failing.
Dehydrated leaves, or those that have been overwatered, will not propagate as easily. This is also the case if the leaves have brown spots or any other noticeable issues.
Check out your succulent so that you can try and identify the best places to cut as well.
Look for the healthiest leaves and see if you can find the part of the stem that has the leaf node. New leaves sprout from leaf nodes so this is important to find.
Step Two – Remove Some Of The Leaves
To help with assessing the plant and finding the best place to cut, you can remove some of the leaves. You may not be able to find the leaf node or the best places to cut if the succulent is covered in leaves and obscuring your view.
This will depend on the type of succulent, however. Some succulents will naturally give you a clear view of the stem as they have leaves that naturally grow apart.
However, other succulents have tight leaves that clump together and give you next to no view of the stem.
If your succulent is the latter and you can’t see the stem properly, you will need to remove some of the leaves. You should start by picking off any dead leaves that are on your succulent.
Hopefully, you won’t have too many (or any!) of these at all.
Next, look at some of the leaves at the bottom of the succulent. Take hold of some of the leaves at the bottom of the plant and give them a little wriggle.
Some of them should come loose and be able to be plucked from the stem but if not, you can clip them with some pruners.
Any leaves that you’re able to remove cleanly and without tears can be used for propagation if your species of succulent allows for this.
Step Three – Cut The Stem At Soil Level
After removing the leaves at the bottom of the plant in the last step, you should now have a clear view of the stem. You will now need to cut the stem at the soil level.
To do this, you’ll need a sharp pair of shears or scissors.
It may seem a little scary to cut your succulents at this position, but don’t worry!
You’re not killing your succulents. Instead, you’ll hopefully have two healthy and lively succulents.
By cutting the top of the succulent off at the level of the soil, you will force new growth on the roots and the part of the stem that is left.
Take your cutting and put it on one side to be planted. Leave the portion of the succulent you haven’t removed in the soil.
The cut of the stem is an open wound and this should be allowed to naturally dry for around a week before you tend to it.
After a week has passed, water the remaining portion of the succulent. Don’t do this earlier as it can make the plant rot. You can then water the remaining plant whenever the soil becomes dry.
This should be every few days.
In a few weeks, you should begin to notice that the succulent will begin growing again. Eventually, the top of the succulent will be replaced with a new and fresh succulent.
Step Four – Pot The Top Stem
Now, we can deal with the part of the succulent that you cut away. You don’t need to throw this away, even if it has suffered from etiolation, as you can get a second plant from it if you wish.
As with the bottom portion that was left in the soil, the site of the cut is an open wound. This means that you need to give the top stem time to dry out before you plant it as well.
If you plant it too early, the additional moisture can make the cutting rot.
In this case, you only need to wait a few days. Remove the leaves that are connected to the side of the stem, but leave the top rosette of the succulent in place.
You can then plant the succulent in your soil. You should plant it deep enough that it is covered in soil to the bottom leaf. Don’t cover any of the leaves that have been left on the plant.
Water the plant and then continue to water it whenever the soil becomes dry.
Eventually, the succulent cutting will bed in and grow new roots. You’ll need to be gentle with the plant until it has taken root as it can be knocked loose from the soil.
How To Propagate Only From Succulent Leaves
If your succulent is the type that can be propagated from its leaves, then you can get even more succulents from your original plant!
In the previous section, we detailed how to propagate a succulent and in Step Two, we gave instructions on how to remove leaves. These are the leaves we can use to grow more succulents.
You can only do this with leaves that have a clean break from the stem. Any leaves that have tears or broke as they were removed will probably not be able to propagate new plants.
These breaks and tears will make it very difficult for the leaf to sprout its own roots.
Once you’ve removed your leaves, you will need to dry them out to avoid them rotting. Lay the leaves flat on some paper towels for a couple of days so that the ends can dry out.
Once they’re dry, you can plant them. We suggest using a container that is lined with soil suitable for either succulents or cacti. This will give your leaves the best chance of sprouting roots and becoming plants.
Tips For Successful Succulent Propagation
Although succulents are some of the easiest plants to propagate, you’re not guaranteed to have success.
Whether it is your first time propagating succulents or you’ve been doing it for years, there is always a chance of failure.
However, there are a few steps you can take to increase your chances of successfully propagating fresh and healthy succulents.
Water Them Correctly
You shouldn’t overwater succulents and this is especially the case with recently propagated succulents. You should also ensure that you water the soil and not the leaves.
Cover The Roots
The roots should always remain under the soil. If you notice that they’re starting to poke through, add some soil to keep them covered and prevent them from drying out.
Avoid Direct Light
Propagated succulents need sunlight, but direct sunlight is too harsh. It can burn their leaves so instead, place your succulents in a bright room but out of any direct sunlight.
Consider The Time Of The Year
Remember, cold weather will slow down growth so don’t expect your propagated succulent to grow rapidly during this time. You can propagate plants during cooler weather, but make sure they’re in a warm spot.
In this article, we looked at what causes succulents to have long stems.
We explained the reasons behind etiolation, how to reduce it, and what you can do with succulents that have long stems.
We hope that this article has answered all of your questions!