Do you have any succulents that seem like they are stretching towards the light? Were they compact like a rose but now have grown tall and leggy? When succulents (and most other plants) lack sufficient light, they will start to stretch. The technical term for this is etiolation.
- BOTANYv. e·ti·o·lat·ed, e·ti·o·lat·ing,e·ti·o·lates
v.tr.1. To cause (a plant) to develop without chlorophyll by preventing exposure to sunlight2.a. To cause to appear pale and sicklyb. To make weak by stunting the growth or development of
This type of disfiguration is irreversible. If it’s not too late, you can revert it or slow it down, but the only way to fix a stretched-out succulent is to propagate it. No need to worry – it’s easy, and I will show you how!
Let’s take a look at this Echeveria ‘Black Prince’ rosette-type succulent:
This is how it should look. Compact, short, and full rosette form. Flawless.
This one is incredibly stretched out, past the point of no return. It’s an alien.
Fortunately, there is hope. Even before you deconstruct the whole plant, you may find new growth at the base. The key is to cut it off right there, or wherever it started to stretch.
You’ll also want to de-head it, leaving a couple of inches on the stem. Pull off all the leaves in between as well. Now, lay the leaves on top of a pot with soil, but don’t plant them. Planting them with no roots established could rot them, especially if watered too much. You could also air propagate them, by just laying them out on a plate or tray. For tips, check out my post Mad Props for Propagation.
The base and the leaves will end up looking like this after a month or so:
New buds will form on the leaves, and the roots will need to be planted if not laying on a pot filled with soil. The parent leaves will eventually shrivel up. Small rosettes will start reforming on the base.
You have a few options with the head. Either you can try planting it directly in soil, letting it air propagate, or you can root it in water. I’ve found that all of these techniques work to various degrees. For this one, I opted to plant it directly in soil, along with the newly formed buds from leaves I had already propagated from it. If you do this, be sure not to water it too much. A light weekly misting is sufficient. The goal is to allow the cutting to root, while not rotting it.
After a few months, you should have roots like this:
Happy propagating, and again, please contact me if you have any questions!