Does your succulent appear stretched out and seems leggy? You might be worried about why your succulents become that.
What is etiolation?
A succulent growing abnormally tall but doesn’t have corresponding leaves, furthermore, it appears weak and poor in growth. That indicates it might be suffered from etiolation. Etiolation is a phenomenon in which plants grown in the partial or complete absence of light start growing abnormally taller in search of the light source. The etiolated succulent plants direct their growth towards the source of light and invest all their energy reserves in growing taller. It is one of the common problems that can be faced by succulent growers.
Unfortunately, the damage once done is unrecoverable. The etiolated succulents will never turn back to their normal shape. The damage is permanent. You can only help your succulents by propagating new plants and this way you will also get more new plants.
Is etiolation harmful to succulents?
Etiolation is not inherently harmful to succulents. Basically, it is abiotic stress that is faced by succulents. It disturbs the normal shape and physiology of the succulents. In nature, the plants need sunlight for their normal growth. In case the succulents don’t receive enough light, they suffer from abnormalities in their shape. Many people find etiolation unsightly, and they don’t want their succulents to suffer from etiolation.
Why does etiolation happen?
The primary cause of etiolation is the succulent’s desperate search for the source of sunlight. Almost all plants need sunlight for their healthy growth and physiological functioning. Plants require light energy to carry out the normal process of photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, the succulents trap the light energy and utilize it to produce carbohydrates (glucose) that is used as an energy molecule for the plant.
Carbohydrates are the principal source of energy for plants. When the plants don’t synthesize enough carbohydrates, they won’t be able to get the necessary energy to carry out their normal physiological functions and ultimately, they will become weak.
When the succulents are kept away from the source of light or at a dark place where they don’t get enough exposure to sunlight for a long time, they will ultimately become etiolated.
The earliest signs of leggy succulents
One of the earliest symptoms of leggy or stretched-out succulents is that they curl their leaves downward to give themselves a larger surface area for the light to reach them.
The succulents also start to grow tall with a wider gap between the leaves and appear lean. Keep a close eye on your succulents to observe the early signs of etiolation.
How to pre-prevent and fix etiolation?
Keep observing and examining your succulents periodically. If you feel that your succulents are turning leggy and growing excessively tall then immediately shift them to a brighter location where sunlight can reach the plants easily. You can place them in a bright sunny area of your garden or near the sunniest window at your home. However, if the plants have been already suffered from etiolation, they will only grow stronger and compact at the tip, which can make the succulents top-heavy and topple over. Therefore, it only works for the very early etiolation.
For indoor succulents, you can use artificial grow lights to pre-prevent the etiolation. Artificial grow lights are easily available in the market, you can purchase and install these grow lights indoors.
Always make sure to check the light requirements for the type of succulents you are growing and set them aside at a bright location where they get enough exposure to the sunlight. However, remember some light-sensitive succulents don’t require sunlight the whole day. Some varieties of Aloe and Echeveria are very sensitive to bright direct sunlight, strong direct sunlight for many hours can cause sunburn or sun injuries.
And there is a question:
Can the etiolation be cured?
Sadly, the etiolated plants cannot be recovered back to their normal shape. Once they become stretched out there is no way back. In case of severe etiolation, the succulents become excessively weak and there can be a risk of losing the plant. The only way to fix the etiolation or save your succulents from dying is propagation. Propagating succulents is fairly easy through leaves and stem cuttings. Then you can resume normal succulent care regimes for the baby plants and get your succulents back to normal.
Watch the video below and see more about How to Fix Leggy Succulents?