How To Grow and Care For Burro's Tail
Burro’s tail is a popular succulent that is easy to grow and requires very little care. In fact, this plant thrives on neglect and will be extremely forgiving if you miss an occasional watering.
This plant is easily identifiable from its trailing stems, which are tightly packed with leaves in the shape of swollen tear drops. The leaves overlap on the stems in such a way that they look as though they have been braided. Each stem is reminiscent of a donkey’s tail, which is how this plant gained its common name, with ‘burro’ being the Spanish translation of ‘donkey.’
Burro’s tail is a pale blue-green in color and can have a soft chalky texture. It rarely produces flowers when grown outside and almost never when grown inside.
Burro’s Tail Overview
|Origin||Honduras and Mexico|
|Scientific Name||Sedum morganianum|
|Common Names||Horse tail, Donkey tail, Burro’s tail, Lamb’s tail, Monkey tail|
|Height||Up to 2 feet long|
|Light||Bright, indirect light|
|Watering||Allow soil to dry out between waterings|
Depending on your size preferences, you might want to look into growing one of these two varieties.
Sedum burrito ‘Baby Donkey Tail’
This is a dwarf variety of the burro’s tail, growing to about half of its size. If you like the look of the burro’s tail but have limited space, then this would be a good option. Its leaves are around half the size of the burro’s tail, giving it a very cute and quirky look. The care of this plant is much the same.
Sedeveria ‘Giant Burro’s Tail’
This plant is actually a hybrid of two different succulents; the burro’s tail and echeveria. It features big pointy leaves like those you see on echeverias, but they grow on draping stems to create an extra chunky looking burro’s tail plant. Some of the ‘tails’ of this plant will also grow upright.
Caring for Your Burro’s Tail
If you want to grow the burro’s tail outside, you will probably want to plant it into a container or directly into the ground. To do this, you should take extra care as the leaves of the plant tend to drop easily when it is being handled. If this happens, don’t worry too much as the plant should recover well, and you can use the dropped leaves to propagate the plant.
The plant should be grown in well-draining soil, ideally of a gritty or sandy texture. This will help to prevent root rot if the plant receives too much rainfall, as the gritty soil will help the excess water to drain away from the plant’s roots. Burro’s tail also prefers slightly acidic soil with a pH of around 6, though it will grow in a range of soils.
Like most succulents, burro’s tail is drought-tolerant once established. If kept indoors as a houseplant, it will likely need watering much less than if kept outside. Around one generous watering each month will probably suffice, but pay attention to the condition of your plant and its soil rather than adhering to a watering schedule.
Always opt to give a heavy, infrequent watering rather than a frequent light watering, as the heavy watering helps to flush salts and other residue minerals out of the soil. A build-up of these salts can affect plant health, so this is an easy hack to help prevent this, and it also saves you from having to water the plant as often.
Check the soil of your burro’s tail before watering, and only proceed with watering if the top few inches of soil are dry. This plant does not like to sit in water, so be sure always to discard any excess water from your drip tray afterward.
If you keep burro’s tail outside, it will need watering more frequently in the summer as the sun and the heat will evaporate the soil’s moisture more quickly, and the plant will drink more as a result of the summer climate. Around once every ten days to two weeks will work as a guide, but again, water according to your plant’s own conditions. If kept in a terracotta pot, moisture will evaporate even quicker, and this will need to be taken into account with more frequent watering.
Burro’s tail holds moisture in its swollen leaves, and it can survive on this stored moisture during periods of drought. Although this plant would prefer to be kept in lightly moist soil, it will not tolerate too much water, so if you are unsure about how often to water the plant, err on the side of caution. Too little water is preferable than too much water for this plant.
Like most succulents, burro’s tail enjoys plenty of sun with some shade. It tolerates heat incredibly well, but it can suffer from burns if positioned in too much bright light. If you keep this plant indoors, the best spot will be in one which receives bright indirect light. A bright windowsill with some protection, such as a sheer blind would work well.
When grown outside, plant the burro’s tail in a position that benefits from the morning light, and then has some afternoon shade when the sun moves around. This will ensure that the plant’s requirements for light are met without risking burn damage.
You will know if your plant is suffering in the blistering afternoon sun because the color of the foliage will dull. The plant at its healthiest should be pale blue-green, but when kept in too much sunlight, it will dull to gray-green. If this happens, you will need to move your plant to a more sheltered position to give it some relief and enable it to recover.
Burro’s tail is hardy to USDA zones 9 through 11, so it is a good choice of plant to grow outside if you live in a warm climate. Indoors as a houseplant, it likes to be in temperatures in the region of 65-75 °F, though it will tolerate marginally cooler temperatures in the winter when it is dormant.
Keep it away from any cold drafts by ensuring it isn’t placed near a doorway or open window, and also don’t keep it close to any heating vents as this may overheat the plant and dry it out.
With regard to high temperatures, this plant is extremely heat-tolerant and will cope easily with heatwaves and intense summers. It may need to be shaded in the heat of the afternoon, but this is to protect it from the light rather than the heat.
This plant does well in average household humidity. Do not mist the plant or make any other attempts to increase humidity as it will not tolerate high humidity. Don’t grow burro’s tail in bathrooms or kitchens where humidity is naturally higher.
One of the trickiest things about caring for this plant is finding a way to prevent its leaves from dropping off. Although it is a very hardy plant with regards to drought-tolerance and heat-tolerance, it can be physically quite fragile. Even the most experienced plant lovers find a puddle of fallen leaves on the ground after handling the plant, and some people even report that just watering the plant is enough disturbance to make leaves drop.
Fortunately, like most succulents, burro’s tail propagates easily. Simply collect any dropped leaves and set them aside for a few days to allow the skin to scab over. Then, insert the leaves into the soil of your burro’s tail plant with half of the leaf sticking out of the soil. Keep the soil moist, and your dropped leaf will soon be sending out a new ‘tail,’ adding fullness to your plant.
Alternatively, if you want to create a whole new burro’s tail plant, you can propagate from stem cuttings. You will need to take cuttings of several inches in length and remove a third of the leaves from the stem, starting at the cut end. Set the cutting aside for anywhere between a few days and a few weeks, while the raw fleshy parts of the stem develop new dry skin.
Once this has happened, you can place the bare end of the stem in a growing medium, keeping it moist, and it will develop roots. To make a new lush plant, take several of these cuttings and propagate them all in one plant pot.
Burro’s tail likes to be kept root bound in a small pot, so it is possible that you will never have to repot it. This is fortunate because the leaves of the plant are so susceptible to dropping when you handle it that repotting it could severely damage the look of the plant and cause lots of leaf loss.
This plant can produce flowers, but it does so rarely. Burro’s tails grown outdoors are much more likely to bear flowers, as those grown inside often never produce flowers at all. The flowers of this plant are small, scentless, and star-shaped. They can be red, purple, or anywhere in between and appear in spring and summer.
Even when the plant does bloom, it is usually only with a handful of flowers. The plant is instead grown for its interesting foliage (Royal Horticultural Society).
The most common problem with this plant is leaf loss. Some people find that if they so much as look at the plant, it will drop its leaves! The best way to prevent this problem is to limit the amount of time you have to handle it.
Don’t make a habit of disturbing the plant by moving it, and always water it in situ rather than taking it over to a basin. Position the plant in an area where it won’t be disturbed, such as hanging in a high corner or on a windowsill. Refrain from repotting this plant for as long as possible, and keep it out of reach of the wandering hands and paws of children and pets (North Carolina State University Extension).
Burro’s tail is rarely affected by pests, but if it does suffer from a pest infestation, then it will typically be aphids. The usual way to remove aphids from a plant is to hose it down, which will wash away most of the aphids. You can repeat this every few days until the infestation is gone.
However, due to the fragility of this plant and the tendency it has to drop leaves when disturbed, you may find that hosing it down puts too much water pressure on the plant and causes it to lose leaves. If this is the case, try to battle the aphids with neem oil instead.
Organic neem oil is an environmentally friendly means of discouraging aphids from setting up camp on your plant. Spray the solution on your plant with a misting bottle, wait a few days and then repeat. You will need to continue spraying the plant at this frequency until the aphids have all gone.
Neem oil doesn’t work immediately. It prevents the aphids from being able to feed, which kills them slowly, and therefore, it may take a few weeks before the infestation is under control. You can continue using a more diluted neem oil spray as a preventative method to discourage pests from infesting your plant in the future.
This is the most common cause of decline for all succulents. Succulents do not need to be watered frequently, as they are accustomed to growing in hot, dry climates. Overwatering your burro’s tail can lead to root rot, which as an irreversible and usually fatal condition for your plant.
If the roots become too wet and rot, they are unable to absorb and deliver nutrients to the rest of the plant, thereby starving it to death. If you suspect root rot, you should remove the plant from its pot, cut away all rotten roots, and replant the burro’s tail in dry soil. If there are enough healthy roots left, it may be able to survive.
Leave a comment if you have any questions about burro’s tail, and share this page with other succulent gardeners!