Burro’s Tail Shriveling

Burro's Tail Shriveling

The burro’s tail is a popular succulent houseplant with distinctive leaves that are plump, fleshy and teardrop-shaped. They grow in a row along a vine, which looks beautiful trailing over the edge of a hanging basket.

This plant is native to Mexico and Honduras and can grow as long as four feet in six years. It produces white, yellow or red flowers that bloom in the summer.

The burro’s tail is a low-maintenance plant and is not really prone to many problems, but one fairly common problem is when its leaves start to shrivel.

If this happens, it usually means that the plant is stressed by some kind of change in its environment, and you will need to determine the exact cause of the shriveling in order to take the right measures to resolve the problem.

The most common causes of shriveled burro’s tail leaves are underwatering, overwatering, excessive light, or if the soil is too dense or has become hydrophobic.

In this article, we will discuss these different causes and how to resolve each one. So, if you are currently having this problem, keep reading to learn more.

Why are the leaves on my burro’s tail shriveling?


Although the burro’s tail is succulent that requires relatively little water, this does not mean you can neglect to water it whenever you want to. Water is still necessary for the plant’s survival because apart from hydration, it also serves as a vessel to transport nutrients and minerals from the soil into the plant. If there is insufficient water in the soil, the plant will not only dry out due to dehydration; it will also become weak from a lack of essential nutrients.

When the burro’s tail is underwatered, it will try to conserve whatever water stores it has left. It does this by wrinkling its leaves to reduce their surface area, which results in a decreased rate of evaporation. If you notice very dry soil along with shriveled leaves on your plant, chances are that it is underwatered.

To save your underwatered burro’s tail, water it thoroughly, until the soil is soaked, and move it to a spot that gets moderate sunlight.

To avoid the same problem in the future, you will need to develop better watering habits. /there are numerous factors that can influence the rate at which the soil in the pot dries out, so you cannot simply set a time or day for watering your plant; instead, check the moisture level in the soil before watering it. Stick your finger into the soil, and water the plant if the top two inches of soil feel dry. If the soil remains slightly damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.


Another possible reason for shriveled leaves on your burro’s tail is that it is receiving too much water. Overwatering can occur as a result of giving the plant too much water each time you water it, watering it more frequently than necessary, using a poorly-draining potting mix or container, or not adjusting your watering schedule according to changes in the weather, season, or climate.

A burro’s tail is succulent, which means it can absorb and retain more water than most other plants. This enables it to survive for extended periods without water by utilizing the water reserves in its roots, stems, and leaves. And the fact that the plant does not require as much water as other plants also make it particularly prone to overwatering.

An overwatered burro’s tail will have yellow, shriveled leaves that feel soft and mushy to the touch. This is because the plant will continue to absorb the excess water from the soil until its cells literally burst from the overload. This is why the leaves may also feel slightly slimy when touched.

Root rot is a serious consequence of continued overwatering. It is caused by the prolonged exposure of the plant’s roots to waterlogged soil so that they are unable to dry out between waterings. The roots will eventually drown and start to rot. The rot will leave them vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens in the soil, which will exacerbate the rot and accelerate its spread throughout the plant. Eventually, the entire plant will be affected and may even die.

If you believe your burro’s tail is overwatered, stop watering it immediately and place it in a sunny location to allow the soil to dry out as fast as possible.

If you suspect root rot, you will have to unpot the plant to confirm this. Remove as much soil as possible from the roots, working carefully as the roots will be fragile in this state.

Inspect all of the roots for brown or black areas; these are rotten and will need to be removed. Cut away the infected roots with a sterile pair of scissors until only the healthy white parts remain.

Lay the plant on a dry surface for a few hours to allow the roots to air-dry, and fill a new pot halfway with fresh potting mix. Place the plant in the center of the pot and add more soil to cover the roots. Thoroughly water the soil until excess water drains out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Then, place the pot in an area that receives bright, indirect light and has adequate air circulation.

Prevent future overwatering and root rot by knowing how to tell when your plant needs watering. As mentioned above, you can do this by touching the soil in the pot with your finger. If the top two inches of soil are dry, water the plant; if not, wait one or two days before checking the soil again.

Also, make sure that your pot has drainage holes at the bottom, and that the soil is not dense, compact, or heavy, as this will cause water retention around the plant’s roots.

Excessive light

Another reason your burro’s tail’s leaves are shriveling could be heat stress. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including hot weather or direct sunlight, among others. Direct sunlight is fine for your burro’s tail, as long as it does not exceed six hours per day because excessive exposure can scorch and shrivel the fleshy surfaces of the plant’s leaves.

Move your burro’s tail as soon as possible if you think it might be shriveling due to exposure to direct sunlight. Choose a shady location where the leaves will not receive any more direct light. This plant only requires six hours a day of direct sunlight to achieve its maximum growth potential. A window with a southern orientation is ideal for this. If the only window in your home lets in a lot of harsh light, you can always drape a sheer curtain over it to diffuse the intensity of the light.

Dense or hydrophobic soil

Another reason this plant’s leaves might shrivel is if the soil in its pot is too dense and compact, or has been left to dry for so long that it has become almost hydrophobic.

In this case, any water that is poured on the soil will simply roll off of the top layer, either because it cannot penetrate the very dense, compact soil, or because the soil has become water-repellent.

Either way, no water will reach the roots and the plant will suffer from a loss of moisture as well as a lack of nutrients. The longer the roots are deprived of water and nutrients, the more the plant’s leaves will shrivel and dry out.

In order to fix this problem, you will need to change the soil in the plant’s pot. The new soil should be a mix that is specially made for succulents, which is loose, airy and well-draining. Refrain from using pure potting soil for this plant, because regular potting soil is too dense and retains too much water for a succulent’s liking.

Burro’s tail care


As is the case with many succulents, the burro’s tail thrives in direct sunlight. If you are going to keep your plant indoors, choose a sunny windowsill that receives several hours of direct sunlight daily. If you are growing it outdoors, choose a spot in your garden that receives ample morning sun but is partially shaded during the more aggressive afternoon hours to avoid scorching its beaded leaves. If your plant begins to turn grey or very dull green, this is most likely a sign that it is receiving too much harsh light. Additionally, you may notice a chalky white, waxy appearance on the leaves. Do not be alarmed; this is a perfectly normal occurrence called epicuticular wax, which the plant produces to protect itself from excessive sunlight.


To ensure the healthy growth of your burro’s tail, it should be planted in well-draining, sandy soil. If you plan to grow it in a container, choose a gritty soil mixture formulated specifically for succulents. If you are planting it in a larger garden, be sure to place it among other plants that prefer well-draining soil, because it will die if its soil retains too much water. Also keep in mind that the burro’s tail thrives in soil with a neutral to acidic pH, ranging between 6.0 and 7.0, although it is not particularly picky in this regard.


Less is more when it comes to watering your burro’s tail. As with most succulents, an established burro’s tail is drought-tolerant; you will want to water it more frequently during its spring and summer growing season and less frequently during the fall and winter months. In general, opt for a single, heavy watering per month if your succulent is housed indoors, increasing to once every two or three weeks if it is outdoors. A good rule of thumb is that the soil should completely dry out before you water it again. 

Choose a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom, and keep in mind that terracotta or clay pots also aid in wicking water from the soil. When in doubt, waterless rather than more.

Temperature and humidity

While the burro’s tail prefers warm weather, it can tolerate cooler temperatures better than some other succulents. On average, try to maintain a temperature range of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of whether you keep your plant indoors or outdoors. It can withstand temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit for a brief period but bring it inside before the first frost. When indoors, keep it away from drafty windows during the winter months. 

This plant has no special humidity requirements; indeed, it is happy with average humidity levels. However, it may rot if the humidity in its environment gets too high.


While fertilizing your burro’s tail is not strictly necessary, it won’t hurt to provide the plant with some extra nutrients at the start of its growing season, in the spring. Use a controlled release, balanced, 20-20-20 fertilizer that contains equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Fertilizer at a quarter-strength is preferred by mature succulents, while younger plants prefer less nitrogen.


The burro’s tail, native to Mexico and Honduras, is a popular succulent houseplant that has distinctive, teardrop-shaped leaves that grow on a vine. It is often planted in hanging baskets so that the vines can cascade over the edges. Its plump, fleshy leaves can store water for use in the event of drought, which means it can survive better than most plants in very dry conditions.

This plant is low-maintenance and does not need much attention to be able to thrive in any household. It makes a great gift for plant-lovers who are just starting their succulent-collecting journey.

One of the most common problems encountered by burro’s tail owners is when the plant’s usually-plump leaves suddenly start to shrivel. Shriveling burro’s tail leaves are a sign that the plant is stressed. It is up to you to determine exactly which environmental factor is causing this stress so that you can accurately address the problem.

The most common causes of shriveled burro’s tail leaves are underwatering, overwatering, excessive light, or soil that is too dense or has become hydrophobic. The sooner you can correctly identify the cause, the sooner you will be able to nurse your plant back to full health.

Image: istockphoto.com / NancyAyumi