Donkey's tail (also commonly known as burro's tail or lamb's tail) is a popular and easy-to-grow succulent with rows of fleshy, tear-drop shaped leaves. Native to Honduras and Mexico, mature specimens grow slow and steady but can reach trailing lengths of up to four feet long in six years' time (though the average length is closer to 24 inches). Indoors, the succulent can be planted and propagated year-round, while outdoors it does best planted in early spring. Red, yellow, or white flowers can emerge in late summer, though the plant rarely blooms indoors.
|Botanical name||Sedum morganianum|
|Common name||Donkey's tail, burro's tail, lamb's tail|
|Plant type||Evergreen succulent|
|Mature size||1–4 ft. long, 1–2 ft. wide|
|Soil type||Loamy, sandy|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Bloom time||Late summer|
|Flower color||Red, white, yellow|
|Hardiness zones||10, 11 (USDA)|
|Native area||North America|
Watch Now: Guide to Growing Donkey's Tail Succulents (Sedum Morganianum)
Donkey's Tail Care
All things considered, donkey's tail succulents are pretty forgiving plants. Like most succulents, they do well if left slightly neglected—if you forget to water them once or twice, they'll still be just fine. Where you really have to treat your donkey's tail with care is while handling it. Its eye-catching beaded stems are actually extremely fragile and can break off with even the slightest touch. For that reason, it's best to choose a sunny spot to place or hang your donkey's tail succulent and then, quite literally, forget about it.
As with many succulents, donkey's tail thrives best with lots of warm sunlight. If you're choosing to house your plant indoors, opt for a sunny windowsill that boasts several hours of daily light. If you're growing your succulent outdoors, place it in a pot or spot in your garden that gets plenty of morning sunlight but is partially shaded during the more aggressive afternoon hours to avoid scorching its beaded leaves. If you notice your plant turning grey or a very dull green (rather than its typical rich blue-green), that's probably a sign that it's getting too much harsh light. You may also notice a chalky white, waxy appearance on the beaded leaves of your donkey's tail succulent. Don't stress—it's a completely normal occurrence called epicuticular wax, which the plant produces to protect itself from too much harsh sun exposure.
In order for your donkey's tail succulent to grow successfully, it should be housed in well-draining, sandy soil. If you plan to plant your succulent in a container (either to keep outdoors or to live inside), opt for a gritty soil mixture suited specifically for cacti or succulents. If you're including it as part of a larger garden, be sure to choose a spot amongst other plants that prefer well-drained soil, as too much retained water will cause it to die (you can even consider mixing sand into your ground soil to aid in drainage). Additionally, donkey's tail thrives in soil with a neutral to acidic pH of around 6.0, but isn't too picky in this regard.
When it comes to watering your donkey's tail succulent, less is more. Like many succulents, donkey's tail is drought resistant once established, so you'll want to water it more frequently during its spring and summer grow season, then taper off throughout the fall and winter months. Generally, opt for a single heavy watering each month if your plant is indoors, increasing to once every two or three weeks if you're housing your succulent outdoors. A good rule of thumb: The soil of your succulent should dry out completely in-between waterings. To aid in drainage, choose a pot with holes at its base; a terracotta or clay material can also help wick water from the soil. When it doubt, err on the side of less watering rather than more—donkey's tail holds moisture in its beaded leaves and can tolerate periods of drought but is not at all tolerant of over-watering.
Temperature and Humidity
Donkey's tail prefers warm weather, though it stands up better to cooler temperatures than some other succulents. On average, try to maintain an environment of 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit whether you keep your plant indoors or outdoors. It can survive when exposed to temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but only briefly, so be sure to bring it inside before the first frost or move it away from drafty windows in the winter months. When it comes to humidity, donkey's tail has no special needs. In fact, it prefers average levels of humidity and can rot if attempts are made to increase the humidity of its environment (so no need to mist its leaves or keep it somewhere more humid, like a bathroom).
While fertilizing donkey's tail succulent isn't totally necessary to its successful growth, it also won't hurt and can be a great way to give the plant added nutrients. Focus on feeding your plant at the beginning of its grow season in spring, using a controlled release, balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer, which contains equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Mature succulents may prefer the fertilizer at one-quarter strength, while younger plants may prefer fertilizer with less nitrogen.
Propagating Donkey's Tail Succulents
Like most succulents, donkey's tail is easy to propagate through its leaves, which is good news, as they seem to fall off at the slightest touch. If you notice your plant has shed some of its beaded leaves recently, simply put them aside until the skin has scabbed over, about two to three days. From there, you can insert the leaves into a new pot filled with cacti or succulent soil mixture, leaving about half of each leaf exposed above the soil line. Water regularly (about once a week) until you see new growth start to emerge.
Repotting Donkey's Tail Succulents
Because of their fragile nature, great care should be taken to never repot a donkey's tail succulent unless absolutely necessary. Do so, and you risk losing many of your "tails" to jostling and replanting. However, if you must repot your succulent, you will find the most success in the warmer months. Make sure the soil is completely dry before beginning, then gently remove the succulent from its current vessel, knocking away any old soil from the roots of the plant. Place it in a new pot and backfill with soil, making sure to spread out the roots in the new, larger pot. Allow it to "rest" for a week or so before giving it its first watering in its new home.
The donkey's tail succulent is not particularly susceptible to pests, but if it does experience an infestation, it's likely to be from aphids. Though aphids can typically be hosed off a plant, that's not the best solution for donkey's tail succulents given their fragile nature. Instead, opt to mist them every few days with organic neem oil until the aphids disappear (typically around two to three weeks).