With its trailing stems densely packed with plump teardrop leaves, it’s easy to see where the Donkey’s Tail plant gets its common name. This distinctive succulent is also known as Burro’s Tail or Sedum morganianum. Admired for its unique looks and low-maintenance nature, Donkey’s Tail makes an excellent houseplant for beginners and experts alike.
Learning the basics of Donkey’s Tail care allows you to have success growing this charming plant indoors. Read on to find out everything you need to know about providing the perfect conditions for your Donkey’s Tail to thrive.
Donkey’s Tail Overview
Donkey’s Tail is a perennial succulent in the Crassulaceae family, native to southern Mexico and Honduras. With its long, densely leaved stems trailing up to three feet, it’s one of the most ornamental succulents grown as a houseplant.
The plump teardrop leaves stacked along the pendulous stems give Donkey’s Tail its distinctive look. The leaves are green to blue-green in color and may develop red tinges in bright light. Tiny star-shaped pink or white flowers may appear in summer but are unremarkable.
This easy-care succulent remains compact, growing to only about one foot tall but trailing several feet long. The stems can be trained to cascade attractively from containers or hanging baskets. Indoors, provide as much direct sun as possible for the fullest growth habit.
Natural Habitat & Origins
Donkey’s Tail is native to warm, dry regions of Mexico and Honduras in Central America. It’s found growing in rocky soils on cliffs and hillsides in these arid environments. Like most succulents, this plant has adapted to store water in its fleshy foliage to survive periods of drought.
These origins provide clues to help us replicate the ideal growing conditions Donkey’s Tail needs to thrive indoors: plenty of sun, porous and fast-draining soil, and relatively dry conditions between occasional deep waterings. Getting the basics right allows your Donkey’s Tail to live happily in an indoor container garden.
Ideal Growing Conditions
Matching your Donkey’s Tail’s preferences for dry, sunny conditions is key. Here are the details on providing the light, temperature, humidity, watering, and soil this succulent prefers.
Bright light is essential for full, robust growth of Donkey’s Tail. Provide as much direct sun as possible – a southern window is ideal. At minimum give bright indirect light for several hours a day. Insufficient light causes weak, leggy growth.
Temperature & Humidity
Donkey’s Tail prefers daytime temperatures between 70-80°F and slightly cooler temperatures around 55-65°F at night. Avoid cold drafts below 50°F. Low humidity around 30-40% is suitable – high humidity may encourage rot.
Use a very porous potting mix formulated for cacti and succulents, or create your own blend using equal parts potting soil, coarse sand, perlite, and/or pumice. Good drainage is critical to prevent soggy soil. Add inorganic grit like perlite if needed to improve drainage.
Donkey’s Tail prefers infrequent but thorough watering. Wait until the soil is completely dry before soaking the pot. Water deeply until it runs from the drainage holes, then do not water again until the soil is fully dry – this may take up to 2-3 weeks in winter. Take care not to overwater, as soggy soil will cause root rot. The plump leaves will start to wrinkle before fully shriveled when the plant needs water.
Caring For Your Donkey’s Tail
With the proper growing conditions met, Donkey’s Tail requires minimal care and maintenance to continue looking its best. Here are a few simple tips:
Pruning & Shaping
Remove any dead or damaged leaves by gently twisting them off the stems. To control size, prune back long stems using sterilized scissors. Trimming stems helps maintain fullness.
Fertilize Donkey’s Tail every 2-3 weeks during spring and summer with a balanced succulent fertilizer diluted by half. Don’t fertilize in fall/winter. Over-fertilization can damage the roots – follow directions carefully.
Repot in spring every 2-3 years in fresh potting mix. Use a pot only slightly larger than the current one to discourage overgrowth. Handle this fragile plant gently to avoid broken leaves and stems.
Propagating New Plants
Take 3-4 inch stem cuttings in spring or summer. Remove the bottom leaves and let the cut end dry overnight before inserting into well-draining soil. Water sparingly. In a few weeks, new roots will sprout and the cutting will establish as a new plant.
Troubleshooting Common Problems
Donkey’s Tail is quite resilient when given proper care but can develop issues if cultural conditions are incorrect. Watch for these common problems:
Wrinkled, Shriveled Leaves
This is a sign of underwatering. Allow the soil to dry out between thorough waterings. Water deeply until water drains from the bottom of the pot.
Sparse, Leggy Growth Habit
Insufficient sunlight causes weak, leggy growth with large gaps between leaves. Provide the brightest location possible, ideally a sunny south-facing window.
Brown Leaf Tips
Low humidity, over-fertilizing, and inconsistent watering may cause dry, brown leaf tips. Mist leaves occasionally, reduce fertilizer, and ensure the soil dries thoroughly between waterings.
If many leaves drop suddenly, the plant is getting too much water. Allow the soil to dry out further between waterings. Dropped leaves won’t re-attach, so be careful not to jostle the plant.
With its trailing stems covered in plump blue-green leaves, it’s easy to see the appeal of the uniquely beautiful Donkey’s Tail succulent. This charming plant thrives when given bright light, porous and fast-draining soil, infrequent but deep watering, and relatively warm and dry conditions. A little basic care allows you to enjoy this distinctive houseplant for many years to come. Its sculptural trails of densely stacked leaves add a lovely texture reminiscent of its arid desert origins.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much sunlight does a Donkey’s Tail need?
Donkey’s Tail thrives in direct sun. Provide as much direct sunlight as possible for the fullest growth. An east or south facing window is ideal.
What type of soil should I use for a Donkey’s Tail plant?
Use a very fast-draining cacti/succulent potting mix. You can make your own by mixing equal parts potting soil, perlite, coarse sand, or pumice. Good drainage is critical.
Why are the Donkey’s Tail leaves falling off?
Sudden leaf drop is most commonly caused by overwatering. Allow the soil to dry completely between waterings and reduce watering frequency. Handle the plant gently to avoid dislodging leaves.
How often do I need to water a Donkey’s Tail succulent?
Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings, then soak the soil fully until water drains from the pot. Repeat this cycle of thorough soaking and drying. This may mean watering only every 2-3 weeks.
What temperature and humidity is best for Donkey’s Tail?
Donkey’s Tail prefers warm temperatures around 70-80°F during the day and 55-65°F at night. Average room humidity around 30-40% is fine. Avoid cold drafts.