Succulents are attractive and easy to care for. But, sometimes they suffer from a “scald burn”—caused by the drying effects of the sun.
While succulents can generally grow back, they can become deformed if prolonged exposure to sun or heat damages the roots or leaves.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to fix etiolated succulents so that you don’t have to toss them.
Succulents are everyone’s favorite plants. They’re hassle-free to maintain, tolerant of those of us who don’t have a gardening gene, and extremely gorgeous in any room.
They’re adaptable, surviving both outdoor and indoor conditions, regardless of how dry or hot the weather gets.
They look excellent alone or in a small garden. You’ll be unlikely to find someone who doesn’t rave about how wonderful and simple these small succulents are to care for and grow.
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Why Are My Succulents Growing Weirdly?
It’s a wonderful Sunday morning, and you’re taking a walk through your miniature succulent paradise or admiring your home’s succulent assortment.
You suddenly notice your succulents growing uncannily.
They don’t appear to be anything like the succulents you’ve been seeing all over your Instagram feed.
Your Mexican rose plant, which should produce little, dense, tight rosettes, has grown stretchy and sickly, with large gaps between its leaves.
The Sedeveria Letizia you used to brag about now stands lanky, bending over one way, and pale.
You’re urged to pose the age-old question at this moment.
“How did this happen…?”
If this sounds familiar, your beloved succulents lack sufficient sunlight. It’s the absolute last thing any succulent fanatic wishes to come across because it discredits the aesthetic appeal of otherwise gorgeous succulents.
A particular succulent that exhibits these morphological traits is suffering from etiolation.
What is Etiolation?
In simple words, etiolation is a pathological state marked by pale coloration and stretched or bending form commonly associated with succulents that are grown under extremely limited light.
Etiolation can be observed in succulents as well as other major plant families.
It’s the plant’s natural response to being deprived of sunshine. These difficult circumstances compel the succulent to react by stretching rapidly in the direction of maximum sunlight.
Etiolated plants have an elongated and bending shape as a result of this sudden rapid growth.
These succulents look fragile and weak because they exert more energy than usual growing towards the source of light.
Indoor plants are the most susceptible to etiolation. This is because most indoor locations are too dark for those succulents to thrive.
It can also happen in nurseries and garden plants if they have been kept in the shadows or are exposed to the sun for a prolonged period.
Though etiolation is often caused by a lack of light, this can be used to develop different plant varieties.
Farmers, for example, cultivate white asparagus and celery without any light, yielding white shoots and spears. These are more pricey and are even thought to be more flavorful compared to their greener counterparts.
However, there are no benefits to etiolated succulents — they are simply malformed, odd-looking plants that are the polar opposite of how they’re supposed to be.
Why do My Succulents have Etiolated Leaves?
Insufficient light causes etiolation. Succulents using this growth mechanism modulate their growth to get maximum light. Nonetheless, sunlight is critical for photosynthesis in plants.
Photosynthesis is the mechanism through which plants transform sunlight into energy and produce their nutrition.
This nourishment is utilized to help the plant’s new roots, blades, stalks, and buds grow and develop. This food is essential to the plant’s complete life cycle.
In reality, all living organisms on Earth are reliant on photosynthesis from a biological standpoint. Herbivores devour green plants that are then consumed by humans and carnivorous animals.
The overall food cycle is built on the foundation of sunshine.
In summary, plants grown in low-light environments will extend, bend, or do anything possible to get light in order to produce food and thrive.
Plants rely on light not just for development but also for survival.
How to Fix Etiolated Succulents?
Let’s start with some terrible news. An etiolated succulent is nearly impossible to repair. The succulent will never be recovered when it has become lanky, weak, and distorted.
Etiolation is irreversible.
Nevertheless, it can be saved if traces of etiolation are detected in time before the succulent begins to expand.
However, if you wish to restructure your elongated etiolated succulents into their previous exquisite statuary, then consider today one of your bad days because this cannot be done.
Tips to Repair Etiolated Succulents
But don’t despair; we have a few essential things you can do to help your succulents recover:
Gradually Increase Overall Sun Exposure
- The most essential thing you could do for your succulent is to increase their sunlight exposure.
- Leggy plants, brittle leaves, and tiny new emerging strong growth or blooming are all symptoms indicating your plants are in need of extra sunlight.
- The one crucial aspect of improving your succulent’s exposure to sunlight is to avoid overdoing it and risking sunburn or harm to your succulents.
- If your residence is in a hot area, consider bringing your houseplants outdoors for some time when it’s a bit cooler in order for your plants to gradually become accustomed to direct sunshine.
- Increase their exposure to sunlight every day until you think they are prepared to spend an entire day outside.
- If you reside in a location without extreme temperatures, your succulents should be able to handle complete sun exposure straight away.
- Just ensure to slowly move your succulents into the light over several days to avoid burning and scorching.
Cut Off the Spindly Bits
- Spindly growth should be pruned.
- Trim off the weaker stems if you sense your succulent turning spindly and curvy.
- Trimming encourages new growth to emerge from healthier regions of the succulent instead of longer shoots reaching for the sunlight.
- Pruning succulents could also assist plants to repair and renew.
- If the longer stalks extending in the direction of the sun are making your succulents leggy, consider cutting them from the lower regions with sharpened scissors or knives.
- This promotes new leaves to emerge from that point, minimizing the need for your succulent to reach toward the sun.
Is Etiolation a Sign to Propagate Your Succulent?
The good news is that you could still propagate your etiolated succulent to more plants! This is simply accomplished via beheading.
Echeverias, for example, can be reproduced by beheading them. Others may benefit from picking the healthier leaves and reproducing them.
Since the two cuts are planted again, beheading etiolated succulents produces extra plants. All you have to do is cut an inch or two off the crown with a sharpened, disinfected knife or shears.
Allow another day or so for the leaves to dry. In a separate container with well-draining soil, plant the decapitated crown.
To encourage roots to grow, keep the soil lightly damp. Remove any bent pieces of the stump, then plant it again in the fresh soil.
The stump should begin to produce tiny plants within several weeks, and the crown would be fully developed and entrenched.
What are the Signs that My Succulent is Etiolated?
When you deprive your succulent of sunshine, it will be pretty visible and you’ll know immediately.
Regardless of how widespread etiolation is, it is critical to distinguish leggy plants from healthy ones.
Several succulent species will grow very quickly. These healthy, strong succulents feature long stems and powerful roots, and they’re often confused with etiolated plants.
Look out for these four symptoms to see if your succulents are showing signs of etiolation.
The thick and straight leaves of succulents like Echeverias and Sempervivums bloom in bunches. These leaves tend to sag and finally turn downwards when they are robbed of light.
This is the first symptom of etiolation. The plants characteristically turn their leaves downwards when they need more light for photosynthesis.
However, the sagging is not constant, and it can be reversed by introducing the plant to plenty of sunlight. Most succulents require at least four hours of sunshine each day to thrive.
Whereas a healthy succulent grows vertically, light-deprived succulents will spread curving, expanding in the spot where there appears to be sufficient sunlight.
It is also a mechanism or process by which the plant obtains sufficient daylight for photosynthesis. This produces succulents with fragile stems and a gangly appearance.
The growth drooping on one side of the elongated etiolated plant may ultimately result in stem breakage if it is not relocated into sufficient light.
When the stem splits, new roots emerge, and the plant thrives healthily with enough light.
Wrap some rope with bamboo sticks for stability if you wish to exercise extreme caution to keep your succulent from breaking.
A pale and sickly appearance
Chlorophyll is the chemical that gives plants their bright green hue. The quantity of sunlight that plants get influences the production of chlorophyll.
Because etiolated plants are starved of light, insufficient chlorophyll is formed, resulting in a pale green tint.
Rapid growth and long internodes
Succulents are notorious for their sluggish growth. When they are deprived of light, however, they undergo rapid, continuous growth in order to quickly get sunlight.
They focus all energies on spreading in the source of light, resulting in faster growth than normal.
This rapid development results in an extended stalk with few widely spread leaves.
This is because the fresher leaves simply can not keep up with the new stem’s growth pace, resulting in only a few leaflets being formed.
It is also a survival strategy since a longer stem allows increased sunlight to permeate the leaves, which aids photosynthesis.
How to Prevent Succulent Etiolation?
When keeping succulents in your home, etiolation seems to be something nobody wants because it can easily turn into a nightmare.
There are several precautions one can exercise to avoid having to deal with the trouble of attempting to ‘repair’ an etiolated succulent.
First and foremost, place your plants in some kind of a south-facing, well-lit area. Succulents require a minimum of 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day to survive, or else your succulents will suffer.
Nevertheless, as previously stated, too much sunshine can cause burning, which is a separate concern! If this occurs, place the succulent in a lit environment away from direct sunlight.
If you don’t have access to enough sunshine to provide your succulent the everyday dose it requires, you could consider investing in a plant-growing lamp.
Such lamps emit photosynthetic frequencies, ensuring your plants continue to thrive on the darkest of days.
Lastly, take stock of your surroundings and consider switching to a succulent less susceptible to etiolation.
Since you now know how to identify etiolation and how to help your succulents survive, below are a few pointers on how to avoid it, to begin with:
Allow Plenty of Sunlight
- The most crucial solution is to give your plants ample sunlight. Use lighting lamps rather than natural light if you reside in a region with little direct sunshine.
- Make sure to gradually introduce your succulents to more extreme sunshine across a few days to avoid sunburn or stress.
Repot Your Succulents at the Best Time
- This one is particularly crucial if you reside in a cooler area where succulent growth decreases or stops altogether in the winter.
- Repotting succulents must be done when they have already started growing around springtime, once the temperature begins to heat up.
- If your plants aren’t flourishing the way they should in the summer and fall seasons, it indicates that you may need a larger pot for them.
Give Your Succulents a Larger Pot
- If your succulents are growing spindly and lanky, it may be best to relocate them to a larger pot.
- It will stimulate the plants to develop sturdier stems that will not spread as far in the direction of the sun.
Rotate the Pots Periodically
- Rotating your pots will ensure that your succulents mature in a consistent manner whenever they are introduced to sunshine.
- If your succulents seem to bend to one side, rotate their planters or relocate them periodically.
Trim Your Succulents to Foster Better Growth
- Remove the weaker stems from your plants if they are becoming spindly and droopy.
- Trimming encourages regeneration from stronger regions of the plant instead of merely increasingly long stems attempting to reach the sun.
Signs Your Succulent is Getting Enough Sunlight
Succulents that are not receiving sufficient light exhibit a number of distinct traits. To begin with, their color turns to pale yellow.
Secondly, they have a spindly appearance; their stems are longer, and their leaves are spaced more apart.
Due to this, you may be seeing more of the lanky stem rather than a lovely cluster of leaves.
Plants need light, which is why etiolated plants appear the way they do. If a plant doesn’t get sufficient sunlight, it will stretch out its stem, giving it that stretchy appearance.
Because it lacks sufficient chlorophyll, the plant gets pallid. You might recall chlorophyll from your high school science lessons.
It’s the chemical that plants utilize to turn daylight into energy, and it’s what provides them their distinctive darker green tinge.
If the rosettes of your succulents don’t get as much light, they will appear different. You’ll know if your succulent is etiolated since it loses its lovely rosette.
The Appropriate Amount of Light
Your succulents should be placed in indirect sunlight. You may not be getting sufficient sun for your succulents based on where you live.
Or you might be getting too much sunlight that it ends up burning them. Getting the right amount of sunlight for your plant is a delicate balancing act.
How Many Hours of Sunlight do Succulents Require?
Succulents require a minimum of 4-6 hours in the direct sun per day to thrive. They enjoy sitting in warm, sunny environments. Succulents that don’t get proper light get stretchy or etiolated.
Succulents that don’t get much light to lose their bright coloration and turn pale or dreary green.
Whereas succulents that absorb enough daylight will display their full spectrum of bright colors, demonstrating their natural beauty.
Can Succulents Live Without Sunlight?
Because of their durability, succulents may live perpetually with or without sunlight.
However, they can not flourish in such settings and will quickly show signs of distress, such as elongation or reaching for the light, as well as poor growth.
Succulents may fall prey to root rot if they are provided excessive water and not enough sun. The plant will deteriorate from the roots up and finally, die if not fixed soon. It is extremely difficult to preserve a plant once
Its roots start to rot.
What Succulents are Prone to Etiolation?
Any succulent can experience etiolation; select types seem to be more prone than some others. Etiolation is particularly the case for succulents that have rosettes with nicely developed stems.
The succulent genera listed below are the most vulnerable to etiolation.
There’s no reason not to start your very own miniature succulent garden and relish in their beauty now that you understand how to recognize each symptom your succulent is displaying.
Please let us know if this post was helpful; we’d love to know how your succulents are doing!
In conclusion, growing succulent plants can be a challenging experience, but with the right knowledge and tools, you will succeed.
For new gardeners, transfer or propagate your succulent plants. If you transplant, transplant carefully to give the new plant time to acclimatize to its new environment.
Transfer plants or propagate your succulents by cutting away a portion of the plant (leaving the rest) and placing it in water.