For years I have observed this phenomenon “of a long stem” with my succulents. And while I generally like it, it can impact the overall shape & beauty of the plant. Sometimes the long stem may even intertwine with other plants, especially if you grow your succulents close together. It is a messy picture indeed.
Eventually I pruned them when they stretched. The good thing about succulents, however, is that they are easy to propagate and replant–and this actually related to the long stem. So, let’s have a look at two main reasons why a stem of your succulent may grow long, and what you can do to address both of them.
Some succulents simply like to grow a long stem
One of the reasons why succulents become leggy or stretchy is the nature of the plant. There are succulents that naturally grow longer than their counterparts. Among popular succulents, we can pick Burro’s Tail, String of Pearls, and Agave.
All these beauties naturally grow longer stems, and if you do not like to see it, you can always prune them to get them to the preferred size.
Searching for light source
Another reason is lack of light. This happens mostly with succulents you keep indoors. Succulents need sunlight. They are accustomed to having an abundant source of sunlight. However, in an indoor environment, light is minimal, unless you use some great grow light. If you don’t use the light, they are forced to find the light source with their own powers. This is the reason why they tend to lean and grow towards the area with light, such as a window. The best solution to this is to rotate the plants every month or two. In this way you evenly expose them to light source, all their stems and parts.
When is the perfect time to prune succulents?
You can literally cut the leggy succulent anytime you want. But if you want to give extra care for your succulent with a long stem, it is better to do the pruning during spring or summer. These seasons are perfect to give the plants enough time to recuperate before the freezing season.
However, if you living in places where there are no winters and falls, you can prune your plants at anytime of the year. Just take into consideration needs such as water and good soil mix.
Best pruning tool for succulent growing long stem
If you are pruning your succulents, you should make sure that your cutting tool is sharp and clean. Of course, you can use any tool such as a knife, scissors, or pruning shears. My favorite is the Felco Hand Pruners (click here to check this product on Amazon). I have been using this tool for years now. It is comfortable and sharp, and most importantly, it stays so, and doesn’t break even when you use it for cutting thicker stems and branches (of plants other than succulents),
How to propagate and replant the cuttings?
Before propagating the succulents, make sure to clean up the stems you’ve just cut. In my case, I cut and eliminate all the curved parts of the stems. I only retain the good and healthy ones. The reason why I do this is that straight stems are easier to plant. If it is okay with you to plant the curved stems, then it will be totally fine, and they can survive and grow into a new plant.
One more thing is to allow the stems to heal. Depending on the temperature of the place, it may take the stems days or even couple of weeks to heal. For hot locations, cuttings tend to heal within a couple of days. In colder locations it can sometimes take up to two weeks. It is important that the cuttings are healed before replanting them. Check the following post for more information: How to Propagate Succulents with Honey?
Process of planting the cuttings from long stems
- Clean the soil before planting – This is very important especially if you are planting the cutting in the same pot. What I mean here is to remove the top layer of the soil. The reason for this is that, if the soil is in the pot for a considerable amount of time, it may have lost its breathability. If it does, it harms the succulents. This happens when the soil becomes compact. It will retain more water and therefore jeopardizes the growth of a new plant. Remove the top portion of the soil. Then add it with a new succulent or cacti mix to provide a breathable soil for the newly planted succulents.
- Use succulents and cacti soil only – Sometimes it is tempting to use alternative soil for succulents. What I learned from my experience is that using soil not formulated for the succulents may cause problems. Ordinary soil for garden plants, as an example, is often compacted which will later cause rotting to the plants.
- Mix the soil with coconut coir – One good way of improving soil aeration is adding coconut coir (check my favorite on Amazon). The best thing about this material is that it is organic. It will not cause any harm to the succulents in the long run. Aside from the coconut coir, you can also add pumice or perlite.
- Add compost – Compost is a good additional organic material that your newly planted succulents will surely love. It further enriches the soil which in turn promotes healthy growth. Older succulents do not typically need extra nutrients–they get everything they need from sun and rain water. Younger succulents, however, the ones you are just growing from a long stem, will benefit from the compost in the soil.
How to take care of the newly planted succulents?
After planting the succulents, just wait for a couple of days before watering them. This is to allow the roots to settle in the new growing environment. Constant monitoring may be necessary for the succulents at this point. Over-watering can easily jeopardize your efforts at this stage.
Watering moderately once a week is what I found a good watering schedule. But of course, this depends on the weather conditions. For colder seasons, once in two weeks or even three weeks may be sufficient. Another thing to avoid is direct sunlight exposure. Although succulents need more sunlight than other ornamental plants, the cuttings cannot stand direct sunlight. They get sunburned easily, and if it happens you’ll have to start from scratch again…
Once the roots are established, you can apply fertilizer if you want to supplement the nutrients for the plant. My trusted fertilizer brand is the EarthPods Cactus and Succulent Plant Food (click here to check this fertilizer on Amazon–this is an affiliate link and I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase–such commissions help me run this blog, so thank you :)).
For more information on this topic, please feel free to read more articles on this blog. If you need complete details, you can read the step by step guide on how to grow succulents successfully. Happy succulent planting, and growing!