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Is Your Succulent Getting Enough Light? Look for ‘Leggy’ Growth

I planted these succulents at the same time from the same local plant shop. I believe they are Eve’s Pin Cactus or sometimes called Eve’s Needle Cactus. I planted one of them in a miniature pot and placed it directly in the middle or a narrow windowsill. The other succulent I placed in the middle of the room in a desert-themed terrarium on my dining room table. The cactus on the windowsill has grown full, dense foliage but only a little vertically. The cactus in the terrarium has shot up but with only small and sparsely spaced leaves. That’s because this succulent isn’t getting enough light. Or at least less light exposure than is ideal. This plant can likely survive in this way for a long time, but it must compensate to do so leaving it vulnerable to other stressors in its environment. I’ll have to keep an eye on this houseplant.

What to Do about Leggy Growth

The most obvious solution is to move the plant to a sunny spot in your home and/or replace the plant with one that does better in low-light conditions. You may notice that the leggy growth is concentrated on the side of the plant facing away from the sun. In this case, the answer may be as simple as rotating the plant every month or at least a few times a year. Another thing that can help to some degree is pinching the plant and removing the growth that’s most affected by the leggy growth. That said, there’s no hard-and-fast rule that says you have to do anything about leggy growth. Give the plant a second look, and you may decide you like the stretched look.

Other Houseplants that Reach for Light or Show Leggy Growth

Lots of houseplants will exhibit leggy growth when they aren’t getting enough light. Some houseplants have naturally bigger leaves than others, but in most every case leggy growth can be characterized by elongated stems and stunted leaves compared to the plant’s normal growth pattern. Knowing the type of houseplant you’re dealing with makes it a lot easier to recognize the difference between healthy growth and leggy growth patterns. Here is a photo series that shows a leggy begonia plant being nursed back to full health.

Other Signs a Succulent isn’t Getting Enough Light

Before leggy growth occurs, there is often an initial compensation the plant will make by tilting their leaves to maximize its exposure to light. Consider this an early warning sign. Many succulents are slow-growing, but if the leaves themselves show lackluster growth, this could be another sign. Some plants, like the Spanish bluebell hyacinth, also have yellowish leaves when lacking sunlight. If it’s getting just a little less than the ideal amount of sunlight, some houseplants will compensate by conserving energy. It may have full foliage and stay healthy for many years but will not flower unless it’s moved to a sunnier spot.

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