Every succulent lover faces an aesthetic problem of stretched out succulents. Surely there is at least one succulent in your collection that has been stretched out in length and has lost its compact shape. Even for advanced succulent breeders, this problem remains unsolved, even though they already have a lot of experience in taking care of succulents. Etiolation rarely occurs with succulents, which are grown in the open field. Most often, this problem concerns succulents grown at home and in greenhouses. Only through experience and observation, you can learn something new. In this article, we will examine in more detail the causes of etiolation.
Etiolation is the result of the action of the hormone “Auxin”. Auxins stimulate the growth of plant shoots in reaction to sunlight. The hypothesis of the existence of a substance that controls phototropism (directed growth movement of plants towards a light source) was first put forward by Charles Darwin in his scientific paper “On the ability of plants to move” in 1880. In experiments on the shading of different parts of the stem, he concluded that the potential growth regulator of plants, which he called the auxin, is synthesized in the apex (top).
Auxins are transported from the active top growth zone of the plant downwards, which leads to suppression of lateral shoots. They stimulate proton pumps in the cell wall, which in turn increases acidity in the wall and triggers growth through an enzyme that weakens the cell wall. Although etiolation increases the chances of the plant getting enough light, it results in very undesirable consequences. This includes abnormal elongation of stems and leaves, weakening of cell walls, stretched internodes with a minimum of leaves, and chlorosis.
Etiolation rarely occurs with succulents, which are grown in the open air due to high ventilation, temperature differences and enough sunlight.
Reasons for Etiolation in succulents:
According to the botanical definition, etiolation is an abnormal stem growth, its extension, lightening of colour due to low levels of chlorophyll, termination of flowering, which is associated with low levels of light. However, the definition is not quite complete, because there are few other factors which also leads to etiolation, which we will talk in upcoming topics.
The reaction of succulents to low light conditions:
Lack of light is the main reason for pulling. When succulents are grown in warm conditions with regular watering and insufficient light, they will start to stretch, because the plant mistakes such conditions as a signal for their growth period. Each time they rush into growth and do not receive a sufficient level of light, they begin to lower the leaves, increasing their area to get maximum light. The more often you water them, the more strength you give them to reach for the source of light, which is most often lacking.
However, from the observations, we can conclude that even though they are kept at the same (warm) temperature, but with rare watering, succulents will still stretch up and grow using moisture from their leaves. Growing under insufficient light will again lead to a loss of its compact shape.
The reaction of succulents to a sudden increase in light:
Another factor that provokes pulling, the light itself! This is especially true for succulents prone to pulling. If you water the echeveria and put it under a lamp or in the sun, it will most likely stretch during the day! The central leaves will close tightly and the lower ones will go down. This comes from the fact that in the first few hours, the water gives the succulents a lot of strength to stretch. However, the problem does not concern the succulents grown in the open air, thanks to aeration. So when do you water them then? It is better to always do it at night, regardless of the season. At night all the physiological processes of plants are suspended, they fall asleep while waiting for the day and we can use this period to water them!
The reaction of succulents to a sudden rise in temperature:
Etiolation can also take place with a sharp rise in air temperature. This has been encountered when sending Korean succulents in parcels. Some Korean succulents start stretching out on their way while leaving Korea for several weeks in a tightly packed box that cannot be hit by a single thin beam of light. Others withstand the road and come in great shape, but the warm conditions of your home can make them stretch out overnight and in the morning you can see that the leaves are planted down. This is especially true when ordering plants during the cold seasons. In warm heated rooms, succulents mistake such a sharp change in temperature as “a favourable condition” for growth and start their growth mechanism. Without meeting the right level of light, they begin to lower the leaves. To prevent this from happening, after receiving the parcel it is good to keep the succulents in a cool place, without water. And on the part of sellers, you need to know that the succulents should be sent “dry” and a little dehydrated so that they do not stretch out on the road.
What to do with Extended Succulents:
During the Autumn/Winter/Summer/ Spring period. If you noticed that the succulent began to stretch and lower the leaves down, the best solution is to put it in a cool place and stop watering. Succulents can tolerate temperatures of 5°C – 32°C, although they can withstand these temperatures they gradually harden when it is winter. By cheating in this way, you will make the succulent think that there is a period of rest and it will slow down its growth and will stop dropping the leaves further. Under these conditions, the plants begin a period of hibernation, all physiological processes virtually stop. Succulents seem to freeze in anticipation of better conditions and plunge into a dream. While your succulent is asleep, you need to change the conditions, ie. to buy more powerful lamps, change the ground to be more “poor” and stony, to correct irrigation to a minimum. Ideally, you should keep the succulents in a cool place and without watering until the sunny days come. But under a lamp!
The best option for placing succulents is to place them on a window sill or balcony because there is ventilation, the cooler temperature, and sunlight. In the summer period, the succulents should be on the window sill in the sunlight, not inside the room on a rack or table. If the succulents are not in the sun, they will stretch.
After the winter months, the succulents should be re-educated to the sun, otherwise, they will start to stretch again. As for irrigation, you should keep the plants on a “dry flood”, but less strict. The corrupted shape of a succulent cannot be corrected anymore. However, it can be rebuilt or intentionally dehydrated.
The photo above just shows the process of re-uprooting. Cut a beautiful compact tip from the mother succulent with a sharp knife/scissors, dry it for a few days to heal the wound from the cut. Then plant them in the soil so that they can develop roots. It is better to root the cuttings in dry “succulent” soil. A week after the tip is planted, you can moisten the ground with a sprayer to stimulate root growth. Do not dig out the succulent from the soil to check if there is any development in the root system as this will only slow down the process of rooting. Leave this work to the plant, and trust him. Once in 1-2 weeks, continue to moisten the soil with a sprayer. When the plant will be difficult to remove from the ground, i.e., it will hold on to it firmly, it will mean that the plant has successfully rooted. This way you get a beautiful new plant!
The empty leaves left on the stem after cutting the tip can be taken for reproduction, and the remaining stump can also give rise to new succulents. If your succulent plant has been stretched out again after some time stop watering the succulent completely so that the plant itself gets rid of ugly leaves. This may even take 2 months. This method is suitable for the initial and middle stretching (maximum 2 tiers of lowered leaves). You should not worry that the plant may die without water. The succulent will “drink” water from its leaves!
To keep the ideal shape of the succulents is not as difficult as it may seem. It is enough to understand the causes of stretching in succulents. The proper implementation of the tips and tricks in this article will help you keep them beautiful!