Succulent Etiolation and How to "Fix" it

Succulent Etiolation and How to



One of  the more common problems of succulents is etiolation caused by lack of light, which results in a “leggy” succulents with longer stem, paler and less condensed leaves. Succulents etiolation is more of a warning sign and there’re plenty of ways to “fix” the plant before things get worse. Here’s everything you need to know about etiolation.

What is etiolation

Etiolated succulents
Image: Instagram @succulent.yinn


Etiolation by dictionary term is a pathological condition of plants that grow in places that provide insufficient light, as under stones. It is characterized by elongated stems and pale color due to lack of chlorophyll.


What causes succulent etiolation

Etiolation is usually a signal of light deprivation but it also can also be about temperature and the amount of light and water a succulent receives. If the plant is kept warm, then a regular-watered plant without enough light will also stretch as the plant was tricked into thinking it’s growing season, resulting in new growth searching for light. While at the same temperature, with less watering the plant still stretches out new growth and takes moisture from older leaves and stems leading to an unhealthier and worse-looking plant.

Thus a temporary solution for etiolation is to keep your succulent in cool temperature with much less watering. This will trick the plant into thinking it’s dormant season and it’ll stop new growth.

Succulents that are light sensitive

Etiolated succulentImage: Instagram @plant_joy

Most succulents will grow “leggy” if they don’t get enough light. But those succulents that change colors when stressed are usually more light sensitive than others. Their reaction can be quick, putting out etiolated “growth” in a mere few days. And aesthetically speaking, rosette-shaped succulents like  Echeveria, Graptoveria and  Graptosedum would look worse if etiolated.


Etiolation vs Healthy growth

While etiolation can be common, it’s important to distinguish between etiolation and healthy growth of a succulent. The easiest way to differentiate them is to look at the color and the space between the leaves, a healthy succulent will have more condense leaves and vibrant colors (For colorful succulents, dark green leaves are also considered healthy, only fading or paler leaves will be considered unhealthy). And if you’re still concerned, you can check on the plant description to see how tall the plant can be to estimate if the growth is healthy or unhealthy.

How to “fix” succulent etiolation

When a succulent is etiolated, there’s no going back, the succulent won’t revert back to looking the same as before etiolation. A few adjustments would bring the plant back to health, but aesthetically, if you’d like to have a better looking plant then there are a few things you can do to “fix” it.

Give the succulent more light

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It’s the intuitive solution, however your succulent need to be adjusted to brighter light gradually. Give them 30 minutes of more light per day every third day while keeping a close watch on them. If the plant seems to stop stretching but still have a few leaves pointing down, continue to add more light until the plant stops showing signs of stress. Meanwhile if the leaves show brown spots it means the plant is sunburnt and the adjustment is too quick for the plant to adapt, thus slowing down the process should solve the issue.

Aesthetical purpose: Cut the etiolated part to grow a new plant

Succulent propagation - How to fix succulent etiolation

Image: Instagram @contrivecreations


After nursing the plant back to its normal health and making sure it is getting adequate sunlight, if for aesthetical reasons, you still want to “fix” the plant, then you could cut the etiolated part and start to grow a new plant from that cutting.

The cutting should start to grow roots within 2-3 weeks and the original base plant also will grow new offshoots from the cutoff stem too. This way you can “groom” the new plants to grow properly and even get more plants from the old etiolated plant. For more details on propagation from cuttings, read our blog here.


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