The burro’s tail, also known as the donkey’s tail, is a succulent houseplant loved by many gardeners. This showstopper comes with a long stem plaited with thick, green, bead-like leaves, ideal as hanging decor for indoor walls.
If you have fallen in love with this beauty, be warned in advance that it may not be very easy to grow, even though it is succulent. Occasionally you may see its beads falling off as part of its growth cycle, but even disturbing the leaves slightly may cause them to fall off due to the plant’s fragile nature. Frustrating as it may be, this situation is completely normal and harmless.
But what if your burro’s tail starts to lose more of its leaves, more frequently? In that case, it could be a cry for help. You may need to investigate several possible issues that can cause sudden leaf drop, and address the culprit promptly to save your plant.
Causes of falling beads
Unlike other succulents, the burro’s tail is generally a sensitive and fragile plant. Even strong winds or being moving around can cause some of its beads to fall off.
However, if you start noticing a large number of leaves falling frequently, then something must be wrong. As much as possible, you want to preserve the beauty of your burro’s tail, and understanding the problem behind the leaf drop may help you come up with the right solution to prevent it from losing even more beads.
Below, we have listed some of the most common causes of leaf drop in burro’s tail.
1. Part of the natural life cycle
Even healthy burro’s tails are susceptible to losing their beads, because they are fragile by nature. Falling leaves may also be a sign of fresh growth, so if you notice your plant’s leaves suddenly dropping off, do check for any offsets forming beneath the plant.
The infrequent dropping of beads may simply be part of your plant’s natural life cycle. If this is the case, there is no need to worry about your burro’s tail; you can just let it be.
Overwatering is the top enemy of most succulents, and the burro’s tail is no exception.
The burro’s tail can store water in its stems and leaves, so there is no reason to give it more water than it actually needs. Moreover, too much water can cause the roots to rot and prevent the uptake of nutrients to your plant. Without healthy roots, it is almost impossible for your burro’s tail to survive.
Overwatering may also cause the soil to become soggy, encouraging the growth and spread of bacteria and fungi. Although succulents like the burro’s tail are highly resilient, watering them the wrong way may cause them to catch various diseases.
Burros in general prefer dry soil and little water. However, bone-dry soil may also damage the plant’s root system and cause it to wither.
Again, a healthy root system is very important for your burro’s tail to thrive and stay intact. Even if it does not need a lot of watering, leaving it dry for a very long time may eventually cause it to lose its beads, as well as shorten its lifespan.
4. Using a pot or soil mix with poor drainage
A pot or soil with poor drainage can be as dangerous as overwatering. Without proper drainage, even a small amount of water can be enough to soak the soil and rot the roots.
So, if you notice your burro’s tail losing its beads and becoming unhealthy overall, do check the soil quality and the container, as this can be the culprit. Dig deep and you may find that the bottom section of the soil is soggy and some of the roots have started to rot, even if the topsoil is completely dry.
5. Exposure to hot, direct sunlight
Succulents love the sunlight. But direct exposure to intense heat from the sun may have detrimental effects on your burro’s tail.
Partial exposure to sunlight should be sufficient for a burro’s tail to thrive. If you leave it under the hot sunlight, you may start to notice its stem-changing from blue-green to pale green, and eventually losing a majority of its leaves.
6. Using a container too small for the plant
A container too small for your burro’s tail can cause this fragile plant stress, and this can manifest as leaf drop.
Burro’s tails tend to grow bigger and heavier over time. As your plant reaches maturity, you will notice that its stem grows longer. It stands to reason, then, that your plant will need a larger and stronger container to allow it to thrive. Most gardening enthusiasts highly recommend a hanging basket or pot to give the plant enough space to grow longer.
How to stop your burro’s tail’s leaves from falling off
Unlike most succulents, the burro’s tail is a little challenging to grow. Its fragile nature requires your special care and attention. Even moving it to a new location or exposing it to a stressful environment can cause a large number of its leaves to drop.
Fortunately, there are ways you can preserve the beauty of a plant. Hopefully, the tips below can help save your plant’s beads from falling further.
1. Give your plant partial sunlight
Contrary to what you may believe, some succulents, including the burro’s tail, only require partial sunlight to stay healthy. If you leave it exposed to direct sunlight, the intense heat may burn its stem and leaves.
If you prefer to grow your burro’s tail outdoors, make sure it is placed in a shaded area where it can receive just enough sunlight. You can also grow it indoors, as long as it has access to sunlight, such as a spot near a window.
2. Use a fast-draining soil mix
Burro’s tails grow better in a fast-draining medium. The soil should allow water to drain fast to avoid standing water and prevent root rot.
To ensure that your succulent grows well, consider using a soil mix formulated for cacti and other succulent plants. You can also mix your regular potting soil with perlite, pumice or horticultural-grade sand to achieve an airy soil texture.
3. Give the right amount of water
When it comes to watering your burro’s tail, moderation is key to keeping it strong and healthy. Give it too little and you will completely dry out the soil and damage the roots. Give it too much and the roots will start to root. Either way, can be damaging to your plant.
There is no right amount of water that works for all seasons, so make sure you continue to monitor your plant and adjust your watering accordingly. For example, you may need to give your burro’s tailless water when it is dormant during the winter. In growing seasons, meanwhile, you may need to hydrate it as soon as you notice the soil has dried out.
4. Get rid of pests
Nothing can be more annoying than seeing pests rummaging on your precious plants. Fortunately, the burro’s tail is less susceptible to pest infestations than many other plants, and if you ever do spot pests, they’re most likely aphids. These bugs are not difficult to control so you do not have to worry too much.
To stop the bugs from assaulting your plant, you can mix one-fifth of rubbing alcohol with four-fifths of water and spray the solution directly on the plant. It is also good to follow this up with neem oil spray to keep the pests at bay.
5. Protect your plant from extreme temperatures
Extreme temperatures such as cold or intense heat can be detrimental to any plant, especially the highly-sensitive burro’s tail. To keep its tail healthy and intact, it is recommended to keep it in an area where the temperature is 40 to 70° Fahrenheit. Monitor any color changes on its skin, as this can be an obvious sign of intolerance to extreme temperatures.
If you do notice your burro’s tail turning pale green, try transferring it to an area with more shade.
Growing a burro’s tail can be different and a little challenging compared with other succulents. You may notice its leaves falling off despite all the love and care you give it. New gardeners might get easily frustrated, but with enough time and patience, you will be rewarded with a beautiful tail of braided beads hanging on your wall or in your rock garden.
Image: istockphoto.com / sirichai_ec2