It can be quite a shock when the succulent you bought from the nursery suddenly looks like it’s growing too tall. It can also be quite a mystery, as you’ve probably been told that succulents are very easy to care for, and will remain small and compact.
When a succulent isn’t getting enough light, it stretches itself out in an effort to get closer to the light source, resulting in an elongated look. To remedy this, all you need to do is prune back the succulent to the right size, and then re-plant it.
While it may sound simple, it’s important to understand more deeply about succulents needs, how to successfully prune and re-plant, and how to prevent any problems in the future. Read on for all you need to know about what to do if your succulent grows too tall.
How To Fix Stretched Succulents
If your succulent arrangement is looking off due to some of them having grown too tall, don’t worry, there is an easy fix.
You can’t reverse the stretching of a succulent, but you can remedy the problem. It may be scary at first, but all you need to do is some pruning. First, simply cut back the succulent that’s grown too tall, right down to the base. Note that sharp, clean scissors will work best for this. If you continue to water the base that is left in the soil after the cut, it will often send up new shoots and re-grow. It’s also an option to pull the entire succulent out, cutting off the bulk of the root system.
Either way, what you are left with is the stretched succulent without its roots. Cut back the succulent a bit more, depending on how elongated its gotten. Cut it back to the size you’d like it to be. Just make sure there are several leaves still on the stem. The succulent needs its leaves to capture sun to keep growing.
There may be several healthy leaves that you need to remove, and i’ll tell you how to utilize those in this article. You can remove any dead or wilting leaves. Also, make sure there is enough stem left to be placed back into the soil, at least an inch or two. The next step is waiting for the end and sides of the cutting to dry up or “scab over” before re-planting it. Every spot where a leaf was removed, is a spot where new roots will grow from. But these spots are fragile and if watered before being allowed to dry out, can develop fungal and rotting issues.
You can re-pot it right away, but you’ll need to allow that drying process to happen still, so don’t water it at all for 3-5 days while it dries out. Now that it has been cut back to the right size and has dried out, you’re going to re-plant the succulent in well draining soil. Either in its original pot, or a new one. After you have your freshly pruned succulents back in their pot, you’ll actually want to keep them out of intense direct sunlight for a couple of weeks. Since they are fragile and haven’t developed their root system yet, they need to be transitioned to direct sunlight slowly. They may need a bit more water than established succulents, since they need more resources to grow new roots. Feel the soil every few days and make sure you are keeping it moist. For an in-depth look at the water needs of succulents, check out our complete guide here.
Once they have taken root, typically after about 2 weeks, make sure you move them to a sunnier location than they were in when they grew too tall. If you don’t make sure the succulents gets more sun, they will just stretch out again.
Now you should be good to go! Keep an eye on your succulent to make sure it is indeed getting enough sun.
They Need More Sunlight
Succulents are considered to be easy, low maintenance plants that anyone can have success with. Yet it is still common to find your succulents looking too tall or discolored. How much sunlight do they need afterall?
Specific light requirements do vary amongst different succulents, but in general they need 4-6 hours of light a day to look healthy and bright and continue their small, compact growth habit.
If you have just re-potted your stretched succulents after pruning them down, you’ll want to ease them in to direct sun. Otherwise they can scorch, get sunburned and actually die off completely. Start with exposing them to the morning sunlight, which is less intense. Gradually work them up to being in direct sun for 4-6 hours.
Do keep in mind that in some climates where the heat gets extreme, you will likely need to protect your succulents during the hottest part of the day. You can either move them to the shade, place them in a spot that naturally gets afternoon shade, or use a shade cloth over them.
Just keep an eye on your succulents. You may have to try several locations before finding the right one. If you notice signs of over-exposure, like brown spots or wilting leaves, move them to a more shaded area. If you notice signs of under-exposure, like elongated growth, try moving them to an area where they will get some more sun.
Getting The Most Out of Your Cutting
When a succulents grows too tall due to not getting enough light, the leaves will also become very spaced out.
When you cut your elongated succulent back to make it the right size again, there will be several healthy leaves that will need to be removed. The good news is, these can be used to make more succulents! This is the most common way to propagate succulents.
Get well-draining succulent soil and fill a shallow dish with it. Gather your healthy succulent leaves and place them directly on top of the soil. Tamp them down lightly to make sure they make contact with the soil. Place the dish with the leaves on it indoors, in indirect sun. Do not water the leaves for 2-3 days. During this time the base of the leaf, where it broke off from its original stem, will start to harden and form a callous. Only after the callous has formed do you want to start watering them. If you water before the base has dried and hardened, the leaf can rot and die.
After the drying period of a few days, you’ll want to start watering them, but not too much. Misting them with a spray bottle every day will provide enough water for them while they develop roots. After 2-3 weeks you will notice growth at the base of the leaves. This growth will turn into small baby succulents. The leaf you started with will eventually die off.
After 45-60 days you will have small, developing succulents in your dish and they will be big enough to transplant into a bigger pot. Transplant them carefully and introduce them to more sun gradually.
Solution for Indoor Succulents
Keeping succulents indoors adds a lovely look to any room, but it’s much easier to run into sun exposure related issues.
Often, a room in our house will get much less sun than a spot outdoors. So, make sure you place your succulents near a window that gets the most sun exposure. Also, placed on a window sill, they will be getting sun mostly on one side so you will want to turn your plants every few days to prevent them from bending or curving. If you find you don’t have a spot in your house that is sunny enough to keep your succulents thriving, consider using a grow light.
Grow lights mimic the UV rays from the sun and can be a great supplement if needed. Simply use the grow light during the day when the succulent would naturally be getting light.
Succulents are beautiful and unique plants to have around the house or in your yard. They are low-maintenance plants once you get the hang of it.
Just remember to keep an eye on them and watch out for signs that they may not be in the right spot. Not enough sun will cause them to stretch and elongate, in an effort to get closer to the light source. Too much sun can be damaging as well.
Even if they get stretched out, you can always prune them back down to size, and re-pot them. After a little practice, your succulent garden will be looking great.