Without enough light succulents will start to stretch out for more sun. There are some easy steps for pruning succulents that look leggy or elongated (etiolated).
[Transcript] All righty guys pardon the jiggly camera for just a second. I am in the garage so I’m in a little bit of a different setup. I am moving some plants in for the fall and I wanted to show you I know it’s kind of intimidating when you have a plant that stretches out like this.
This is called an etiolated plant. It’s when it doesn’t have enough light and it stretches and reaches. Now this guy right here this is a little echeveria Lola. This guy actually stretched out about a year ago like this during in the winter when he didn’t have enough light. And since then he’s been in a southern facing window except for the last few days you can see he’s gotten lighter and stretched because I moved him as I’m getting plants in for the fall.
And so, he hasn’t had as much light yet cuz I’m getting everything set up. But so he’s nice and thick at the top here because he’s had a lot of Sun recently. But down here obviously the stem is really long and usually you don’t want that. And in the fall when I bring him in for the winter I like to just go ahead and behead them. It makes it easier for me but it’s really kind of intimidating if you’re first doing it because it seems like you’re really gonna kill your plant.
So, I thought you know what I’m just gonna do this on camera and show you a few different plants and you really don’t have to be paranoid about it. So, what I’m gonna do is this is a nice sharp knife here you can use a razor blade you can use scissors and I am just going to slice this off nice and clean. And this stem I’m gonna leave and keep it fairly dry. But I will water it a little bit and it will sprout new babies that.
So, this is this is a Graptosedum that I cut off a while back. But you can see these were the stems that are left that were left and they’re all just sprouting these lovely little babies. Now this has taken quite a while. You have to be pretty patient but if you are patient you will get more babies off of the stems most of the time. So, I’m not going to toss this. I’m actually gonna take it out of the pot and put it in with some others that are doing the same thing.
Pruning and Shaping Leggy Succulent Plants
But for now, I’ll just set this aside so what you have left is this lovely little top part
here. And what I’m gonna do is remove the leaves that are closest to the bottom here and I’m gonna try and get as clean up a break as possible so that I can possibly use some of these to propagate and get babies as well.
And there’s no real formula for how far up you need to go. Basically, I usually remove leaves until I like the way it looks. If it’s a really pretty rosette that is just straightened out but this one’s a little bit caddywhompus so I am just removing enough of the stem that I have a nice little portion to poke down into my dirt.
I’m just putting on a tray like this and just stick it in the dirt just like that. Not fancy at all. Just take the stem and poke it right down. If you don’t have a long stem like this which I will show you on another plant hopefully here but if you don’t have a really long stem no worries. Even if it’s just a tiny little nub like half an inch or even less you can just set it on top of the dirt and it will root.
You want to keep it pretty dry. You can mist them a little bit but you want to keep it more a lot more on the dry side until you get roots or it will be prone to rot. Then these lovely little leaves here I will lay out in another tray that I have with leaves rooting and see if we can get some babies from those.
Alright here is a guy I wanted to show you. This isn’t actually one of mine I had you can see here that he looks really sad and I will show you what he should look like. This one actually isn’t an amazing shape, but this is what it should be. This is a beautiful echeveria and this one here is blooming. Sorry it’s really long and hard to show but both of these were the same.
Actually, this one was a lot bigger and happier here but, I’m sorry my son is dragging something out in the gravel and making noise, anyways and so what happened is I gave this as a gift actually and it got sunburned. It was used as a houseplant in on the coffee table where it just got indirect light. And once it got a little bit nicer outside she put it outside and it got sunburned and it just could never recover. However, not to despair. She brought it to me and was like what do I do? And I said just leave it and I will fix it and bring you a different one.
Trimming Stretched-Out Succulents
But I’m gonna do the same thing with this guy I am just going to cut him right off. That just leaves this little stem right here. There’s a couple other little sprigs that she had in here that we’ll see. I don’t think this guy is gonna survive. I’m actually gonna cut him off because if where the stem drains onto the roots is completely brown.
I’m not sure the cameras gonna pick this up but if it is completely brown and withered. There’s really no reason to leave the roots attached and you have a better chance of getting sprouts if you actually cut it off and just stick it back into the dirt. Sorry this is a little too low but just poke it back in I’m actually gonna put it in this other tray that I put the other one in. But you actually have better results because there’s no nutrition there’s no nothing coming from the stem right here and it actually holds it up away from the dirt.
And so, if that happens you want to go ahead and cut it off. Alright so then I’m gonna remove the bigger leaves here again closer to the stem. As close as possible so that if possible we can propagate some of these if they break off. Oh well and this is what I have left this tiny little nugget which is also going to go in here.
Just stuck right down into the dirt and I’ll get a shot of that from above in a minute. And any of the leaves here that broke off [… ] we’ll set aside to use also.
Alrighty here’s another little guy. This is another echeveria. I can’t remember which type this gal is and you can see she’s kind of stretched and deformed. She got moved around and I got sick and she just got me lifted a bit. So, I’m gonna do the same thing. I am going to actually leave and they’re thicker it’s a little bit trickier. Sometimes I’m gonna actually remove some leaves around the edge before I cut it this time.
Just keep in mind be creative when you’re trying to deal with your plants. There’s not a certain way just because someone usually cuts at first and then pulls leaves her vise they say you know this this is not magic formulas this is just people doing what works for them and showing you what has worked for them. So I am just you can see I’m just making a little space here just where I’m gonna slice them off.
I will make another video I’m actually gonna remove a few more of these because I would really like this guy to be compact. You can see the top is nice but these on this side are pretty sparse still. So, I’m gonna go ahead and remove these and so that I get a really nice start because once these stretch out they can’t shrink back up. They will always stay etiolated or stretched out. Only the new growth will be compact.
So again, I’m just gonna put this into my tray here stick the little stub right down and this guy I am actually gonna leave some of these leaves attached and it’ll likely send out buds from a lot of these leaf junctions. I’m gonna add this to a pot with some other you know ends like this. This guy can be watered a little bit more since I’m gonna leave some leaves on him. See what kind of babies we can get off of those.
All right the next guy here is this really long if I can get a male on the camera really long pink butterfly plant too has not had a lot of Sun. You can see he was outside, but the Sun really changes here where we’re at in northern Idaho directions and so for a while it had really bright Sun. He was almost getting too much Sun. And then the Sun shifted and I wasn’t able to keep up with things and he’s been a little peeked. So, he has really stretched out and when I got him he was already really long and stretched out.
So, you can see there is roots growing off of the stem here which is what they do a lot of times when they’re not getting enough water. They’ll just start putting out air roots they’re called to try and get a little bit more moisture. And I’m gonna take advantage of these and these will be the start of my roots already. So I’m gonna not cut him up too far because I want to save there’s quite a lovely little bunch of roots here so I want to save those.
So, I’m gonna cut this guy down here. Sorry this guy’s so long it’s a little bit hard to show while I’m doing this process. Little stem here which will shoot out some more babies I have no doubt and that leaves us with this lovely and I’m going to remove some of the lower leaves which is going to expose a few more of these roots. Here as you can see all along there I’m actually gonna cut a little bit more of this off I didn’t realize that was so long and with this little stem piece I’m gonna go ahead and stick it into my potting mixture.
It may or may not root. It really depends. But sometimes they do and if they shoot out a couple of babies that’s always exciting. So I’m left with this guy which I’m going to go ahead and plant into a regular pot because this tray isn’t deep enough for it and get it under a grow light for the winter. So, I’m gonna set him side.
All right the next guy up is this lovely little echeveria and it’s similar to the first Little Lola that I did in that it stretched out for oh probably a year year-and-a-half ago. And so, the top got really nice and compact again but the bottom is all really stretched out and it’s kind of tilted. So, these leaves before and when you pull them kind of twisting them a little bit if you can get a tiny bit of the tissue. Sorry it’s not focusing really well here. You can get a little bit of the tissue off of the plant stem you have a better chance of them rooting.
This one’s a little bit thicker and I don’t want to cut myself or break off leaves so sorry I gotta tilt it a little bit away. All right I’m gonna pull off there, there we have it. Just like this I’m gonna pull off these bottom few here hmm some of these are a little bit more tightly attached and I really don’t want to break themselves.
Alrighty that leaves me with this beautiful little stem and see how it’s tilted this way but no worries there this is oops sorry about my camera this is gonna go under a grow light. And I can just set it into the dirt kind of sideways but it will look straight.
I’m gonna show you right here so I can just poke it down so it’ll be growing straight even though the stem I’m in trouble with holding my camera sorry even though the stem is kind of angled into the dirt this way that’s alright it’ll just go right under there and root and this will be happy.
Yeah back to this guy here. So again, this guy is going to go in a pot with a few of these others and I may remove a couple more of the leaves from down low and propagate those and then some little baby should start shooting out from this guy. These are these guys are the Sunset Graptosedum that were actually the tops that I cut off which have since stretched out a bit. These are the bottom stems and these were the tops that I snipped off.
And when you root them you sometimes lose some of the more bottom leaves as they shrivel up because it takes a little while for them to develop a root system and to be able to actually uptake water. So I like to poke mine in they can be a little bit tall that’s not a problem.
And after they get some roots established then I will remove a few more of the leaves and bury them even deeper down into the pot so that they’re a little bit more flat and get them under a really nice grow light so they don’t stretch again.
These stretched out a bit because as the Sun changed they were beautiful and dark and nice and compact and then the Sun is moving because it is here. And so I got to get these guys planted up.
Alright here is my last contestant for now. This video is already getting long but I guess you guys already know that when you start the video how long it is. But this was a very impromptu video and I’m sorry I’m sorry this is a little bit wobbly, but this guy is my last one I mean it.
I guess I will move all of these. There’s several here but what I’m gonna do is remove the largest one first. Lady just gonna take these bottom leaves these ones are kind of wilted. So, I don’t save those they you don’t propagate well. But if they have a little bit of firmness and plumpness to them they propagate very well usually. All right so we’re left with a lovely little stem here and this rosette. Just gonna poke them into my rooting tray this guy. And I think I’m gonna leave this one since as you can see down here a little pup a little baby sprouting up.
Already I think I’m gonna leave one of these attached just to help him grow a little bit going on. Alrighty I’m gonna give you a little peek of the tray and let this video be done for now because it’s getting really long.
All right and there we have our goodies. A couple African violets in the end that I’m gonna move into a different tray. But you can see they’re nice and flat. You can leave as much stem or as little as you want but this is the best way to get your stretched out or etiolated plants to be compact again and with an added bonus you get babies.
Even though it seems scary just hacking them off like this you get babies from
the stems. You get the moms compact again and you get to start babies from the leaves so you get all kinds of goodies going. And if you’re afraid of your plant dying altogether you can always leave a few leaves on the bottom like this so that you’re sure to have something survive here.
And then if your top for any reason doesn’t survive you have a backup. But they really do root really well as long as you just mist them and don’t keep them wet until roots develop. So I hope you guys have a great rest of your day and happy growing!
Our Summary: There are many ways to make your stretched out succulents look so much better! This video showed some easy ways to prune elongated succulents and propagate the ones that were beyond hope. Check out another video at Prune Elongated Succulents the Easy Way.