Echeverias: Stretched and Stressed

Echeverias are so popular with everyone, but sometimes things go sideways.

You see fat and full echeverias with glowing leaves sitting in pots on a nursery shelf and decide then and there to take one home. The plant, which is not actually a houseplant, is then proudly displayed indoors or on a shaded patio for all to admire. It will be happy for quite some time, but will then start changing its behaviour and growing out of shape. What happens?

  • The once robust rosette will become smaller and lose its symmetry;
  • A long and lanky stem will form;
  • The plant will start growing towards any available light, with long pieces of stem between leaves;
  • The leaves will become smaller, lose their colour intensity, and will even begin to drop off. Why? Even though echeverias need less sun than other very tough succulents, they still like a few hours of sunlight to maintain their colour intensity and health. The main problem can therefore be too little light, which will cause the stretched, lanky growth. This can be aggravated by overwatering and/or bad drainage. Now what?
  • Cut off the top part of the stem with some leaves on, leaving some leaves lower down that will help the mother plant to sprout new growth;
  • Leave the cutting with a bit of stem to dry out for a few days, until the wound has grown a callous. Also allow the original plant to dry out a bit;
  • Plant your cutting in a good quality potting soil mix for succulents. Try not to overwater it – the soil must dry out before watering again;
  • Move your echeverias to a spot close to a sunny window where they can get more light.

Note: Other succulent plants and echeverias in the garden can also become straggly when growing in each other’s shade. You can save them, and grow more plants, in the same way as described above.