“Reach for the stars!”
Etiolated succulents (AKA ‘omg my succulent grew a foot in 2 weeks’) are succulents that are reeaaaaaching for that big bright star in the sky (you know the one) in hopes of soaking up a little extra light. This stretching action has a name: etiolation.
Etiolation, or stretching, is a side effect of succulents not receiving enough sunlight. They will start to grow outward, in an effort to reach more light. Generally, they grow upwards, towards the sun. However, if you keep succulents on or near a windowsill, you might find them stretching towards the window.
Signs of Etiolation
The FIRST sign of an etiolated succulent is a paling of the leaves. If you pay really close attention to your succulents, you may also notice a slight leaning of the plant towards a light source. The SECOND and most apparent sign, however, is more spacing between the leaves along the stem (this is the stretching part).
This spacing is especially easy to see in “rosette succulents,” which are characteristically known for their tight clusters of leaves on a short stem. Take the Moonstone succulents above, for example. The succulent on the left was left on a windowsill, that in the summer has sufficient light, but in the winter is deprived of the necessary light. The Moonstone on the right was placed under a grow light where it got about 16 hours of full spectrum light. As you can see, the Moonstone on the left is considered etiolated.
Now for the fix!
If caught early, the fix is more sunlight! If you live somewhere that gets bright sunlight year round, the solution could be as simple as taking your succulent off the coffee table and putting it on a south-facing windowsill. If you live somewhere where sunlight is seriously lacking in the winter, grow lights are your succulent’s new best friend! (We recommend a full spectrum 30-45 watt bulb.) Once sufficient light has been reintroduced, your succulent will return to its normal growing pattern.
If your succulent is leaning too far or tipping over, or if you just don’t like the way all those stretched out leaves look, cut that succ-er up! First, gently twist and remove the leaves along the stretched part of the stem. You can propagate them by setting on a tray of soil and spritzing with water every other day. Then, cut the stem a couple centimeters below the top rosette (the tight cluster of leaves that haven’t been stretched out), let it sit out for a few days, then nestle in a pot of soil. Voila! You’ve got a new, non-etiolated succulent that will sprout roots in 4-6 weeks.
Steps for both methods can be found here.
*We want to note that stretched succulents are still totally healthy (and still totally cute, tbh), and you don’t HAVE to do anything about it. Succulents are hardy, and they’ll still continue growing and thriving (albeit in potentially curvy, creative ways) even when etiolated.
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