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5 Causes of Leggy Echeveria (And How to Fix It)

The compact nature of the rose-like Echeveria makes it popular. Seeing them suddenly grow long and leggy out of nowhere is a bit of a surprise.

Echeveria that is leggy is one that needs a lot more light. Over-fertilization can also be a contributing factor. You must propagate your over-extended plant before relocating it to a brighter area of the house.

What Does Leggy Echeveria Mean?

Leggy Echeveria
Leggy Echeveria

The leaves of the Echeveria succulents are thick and compact. Around a central stem, they form a rose shape.

There are times when that stem grows too quickly for its leaves to keep up with. A rose-like structure gives way to a vine-like structure. In a fragile state, the stem is at risk of breaking.

Etiolation is the term used to describe this rapid growth in the stem. It’s a way for your plant to find the resources it needs. Stretching out to find what it needs is the only way it can get to where it wants to be.

Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of etiolation in Echeveria and see what we can do to fix it.

Causes of Leggy Echeveria

Echeveria Is Leggy In Order to Get More Light

Echeverias, in most cases, are desperate for a little extra light.

It is not possible to grow Echeverias in the shade. Six hours of bright light a day is a minimum requirement. They can also benefit from a few hours of morning sunbathing.

The Echeveria will grow longer stalks toward a light source when the growing environment is too shady for it to use its energy effectively. It’s doing everything it can to get enough sunlight.

Echeveria, like all plants, uses photosynthesis to produce energy. To produce complex sugars, it uses light to draw water and gases from its growing medium and combine them.

It is essential to its survival, and if it doesn’t get enough light, its growth will be abnormal.

When there is insufficient light, it invests what little energy it has in longer stems. If other plants are nearby, the Echeveria’s legginess often pays off when it grows around them and out into the sunlight.

However, it has very little chance of reaching the sun in this manner in a poorly lit room. It’ll just keep getting leggier until it runs out of energy and dies.

Excessive Fertilizer

Succulents are slow growers, so they don’t require a lot of fertilization. Slow and steady wins the race in this case! Many echeveria varieties don’t require any fertilizer at all and can thrive just fine on the nutrients they get from their soil.

If you’ve given them a lot of fertilizer, you may find that they take full advantage of the extra resources by soaring to new heights.

Similar to an Echeveria, an overfed one will try to find new places to grow by stretching towards what it thinks is an unoccupied area.

There may be a promising patch of bare ground in the wild where an overstretched stalk can take root. That wild new land in your home is probably a coffee table or a window sill, which is far less useful!

Pot Size

Echeveria’s compact size is one of its most endearing characteristics, leading many growers to plant them in small decorative pots. Succulents are known for their adaptability, and this one is no exception.

It is possible that an Echeveria that is housed in an over-sized pot will grow outward to take advantage of the extra space and nutrition. The stems almost always experience rapid growth, and the plant is unlikely to fill out later.

High Temperature Accelerates  Echeveria Bolting

Echeverias are a desert plant. Even in direct sunlight, they are able to withstand high temperatures. They can withstand temperatures that would kill other plants if given the proper support, such as plenty of water and adequate ventilation.

However, the Echeveria are so eager for hot weather that they may bolt, growing as high and as fast as they can. In order to keep cool and avoid overheating, they spread their leaves outward.

During their final stages of bloom, Echeveria is susceptible to bolting due to hot weather conditions. The pollination of desert plants is carried out by night-flying insects.

When a moth is passing by, taller flowers are more likely to pique their interest.

However, while this is an effective strategy for a wild Echeveria trying to spread its seed in the Central American deserts, it is less than ideal for a houseplant

Overcrowded pot

The Echeveria’s laid-back nature makes them a popular choice for companion plantings, particularly in commercially available arrangements. It’s common to see three or four different varieties grouped together in a decorative planter from the same family.

Plants in close proximity to each other may get tired of each other’s company and try to get as far away from each other as possible, like siblings on a car ride.

Plants that grow side by side competing for the same limited resources, regardless of how close they are in relation to one another. They compete with one another for access to the growing medium, water, and nutrients.

If you have multiple succulents in the same pot, all growing away from each other, it may be time to separate them into individual pots.

How to Fix Leggy Echeveria

Propagating Leggy Echeveria
Propagating Leggy Echeveria

Etiolation is not harmful to your plant, which is a good thing. It’s a natural reaction to its growing environment, and it’s not harmful in and of itself.

Many people prefer the look of a leggy succulent draped down and out of a pot, especially in companion plantings.

The disadvantage is that it cannot be fixed. The Echeveria will remain tall and leggy once the rose shape has been lost.

To get your Echeveria back to its original size, you’ll need to take drastic measures. Starting from the top-down, you’ll need to remove the entire top of the plant and begin the process all over again.

Propagating Echeveria

You must first decide whether you want to keep the leggy part of your Echeveria.

A new set of leaves is likely to spring up at the base of the plant after the top is removed. Keep in mind that a new pot of sandy cactus mix is required if you intend to keep your original plant.

You’ll also need a pair of scissors and some patience.

  1. You’ll first need to remove the Echeveria’s stem from its top. Cut the last, most tightly packed cluster of leaves free with a sharp pair of shears. However, it’s a good idea to remove all but a few leaves from your original plant if you plan on keeping it.
  2. Keep the cluster out of direct sunlight and in a warm, dry place. Allow the raw end to dry for two to three days. So that a callus can form and protect the Echeveria from decay.
  3. Prepare your new growing medium after a callus has formed. Ideally, a cactus mix should be used, but if you don’t have any on hand, potting soil with a healthy dose of sand and perlite will work just as well. (You can see Amazon’s price here)
  4. Don’t over-wet your mixture; you just want it to clump together.
  5. Make sure your new pot is filled to the brim with water, and then place your cluster on top of it. There should be a callus that is level with or just below the soil.
  6. If you intend to keep your current plant, place your new one in a location that gets plenty of sunlight. As the new roots begin to emerge, water only when absolutely necessary.

In addition, you can grow stray leaves from the stem’s discarded portion. Here’s how:

  1. Remove any leaves from the old stem. Healthy leaves should ‘snap’ free with relative ease.
  2. Allow to rest in a warm, dry space to callus for 2-3 days.
  3. Prepare a flat tray of cactus mix.
  4. Rest the leaves on the surface of the growing medium. Do not plant them.
  5. Mist every other day. The leaves should soon start developing fine roots and tiny rosettes of their own.
  6. The leaf will begin to wither. Once the rosettes have absorbed half the leaf, you can transplant them to a new pot of their own.

Echeveria is easy to grow from both the tops and the leaves. Leggy plants are easy to chop up once you get over your reluctance to do so, and it’s a simple and rewarding method to use.

Echeveria grows readily, from both the tops and the leaves. Once you overcome the reluctance to chop up an otherwise healthy plant, you’ll find that it’s a straightforward and rewarding approach to take with leggy specimens. (Source: Michigan State University)

Can I cut the top off my Echeveria?

Echeverias can be lopped off their tops with no problem. If you have a tall specimen, this is the best treatment. In the end, you’ll have at least two new plants – if not more!

Your Echeveria is a tough little thing. Not only can it withstand having the top removed, but it will emerge from the procedure looking better than ever before.

Pinching Echeveria

If you want to control the rate at which your Echeveria grows, you can pinch out the plant’s growing center.

This removes the plant’s most active part, forcing it to take its time regrowing the plant’s heart while you address the etiolation’s cause.

However, if you’ve spotted it early enough this is an effective way to deal with the problem of legginess.

As previously stated, you can propagate those leaves into a new Echeveria. Discarded parts can grow into entirely new specimens with little effort.

How to Prevent Legginess in Echeveria

Provide Enough Light

Provide at least four or five hours of direct sunlight daily, preferably in the morning, for your Echeveria to keep it from becoming leggy. They’ll also need a lot of bright indirect light throughout the day.

A lot of time in the sun will help these hardy little darlings adapt to their new environment. They despise being cast into the shadows and will do everything in their power to reach for the light.

Southern windowsills are ideal, and in warmer parts of the country, they benefit from a few minutes on a sun-drenched porch or balcony.

Take your time when relocating indoor plants to the outdoors, though – I’ve written about the dangers of sunburning your succulents in more detail.

A grow light may be an option if your growing area lacks long stretches of direct sunlight. There are now a number of excellent, compact options for Echeverias of all shapes and sizes.

The Halo-style lights for succulents like the Echeveria are a lovely addition to an already beautiful plant, in my opinion. (Check out the prices on Amazon here)

Using Suitable Pot Size

When re-potting your Echeveria, don’t be too generous with the soil. They don’t require a lot of space, and it can cause them to grow into leggy monsters.

Maintain a compact size. You should aim for a slight rounder shape than the base of the plant if you are planting alone, and in arrangements, make sure there is enough space for everyone.

Repotting Using Right Soil

Echeveria thrives in the central American desert’s loose, free-draining soil, which retains little to no moisture. They despise the feeling of their feet getting wet.

Repotting Echeverias requires sandy and well-draining soil. Root rot and other fungal diseases can occur if the medium is too wet.

Maintain Low Temperature Around Leggy Echeveria

In high temperatures, your Echeveria will do just fine, but it won’t change its shape. In order to maintain their neat, tight shape, you should keep them no higher than 75°F (24°C).

They can survive up to 90°F (30°C), but the higher the temperature, the more likely they are to spread out and take you back to square one!