Q: My office has been closed since March. Only essential personnel have been in the building. I had to go back last week to get some equipment (and, full disclosure, some candy that got left behind). I expected all the office plants would be dead, but apparently someone is watering them. My plants have gotten huge! But one succulent has gotten very weird. It has a long, bare stem, just leaves at the top, and it’s bent at almost a 90-degree angle. What happened? Can I save it?
A: Succulents like a lot of light, and they will contort themselves bending toward light sources. Without enough light, they tend to get “leggy,” with long stems and sparse leaves.
There isn’t a lot you can do for that plant now that that has happened, but don’t despair. You probably can make new plants out of it. You can try cutting off its top, letting it dry for a couple of days, and then planting it — but closer to a bright window this time. Keep it moist but not soggy until roots develop. You can tell if it has roots by giving it a little tug and seeing if it pops right out of the growing medium.
It’s also possible that the beheaded stem will grow new plants.
Many succulents can also be propagated from leaf cuttings. Lay cut leaves on damp, sterile sand, perlite or vermiculite — or just lay them on the growing medium of your existing plant. Eventually, roots and a new little plant will form, and the original leaf will wither away. (I find that this can get addictive, and I wind up with lots of little succulents, but they make great gifts.)
Once you’ve got a new succulent going, you can prevent it from bending by turning it once a week or so. But if the light isn’t as bright as it likes, it will still get leggy eventually.
Written by U of M Extension Master Gardeners in St. Louis County. Send questions to email@example.com.