Hens and Chicks Growing Tall: Cause and Solution

If you notice your hens and chicks growing tall, it is because it lacks light. When a plant does not receive enough sunlight, it begins to stretch and loses its beautiful original shape, especially those that have a rosette shape: sempervivums, echeverias, graptoverias and the like. It is one of the most common problems of succulents. Today I explain how to prevent stretching and how to “fix” a hens and chicks succulent that has already etiolated.

hens and chicks growing tall

Hens and Chicks Growing Tall

A couple of days ago I received an email from Sarah, a reader who noticed her sempervivum growing tall, with leaves that are drooping. This is quite common, especially when growing Sempervivum indoors.

Succulent plants are generally quite slow growing. Those that are rosette-shaped tend to grow in proportion to the width and length, but when they do not receive all the light they need, they stretch very quickly . There is a scientific name for this, it is called etiolation.

In botany, etiolation is the process of growing seeds or plants in low light conditions. It is characterized by the lack of chlorophyll, low development of chloroplasts, by the lengthening of the distance between nodes and by the scarcity of lignification.

Lack of Light Causes Hens and Chicks to Stretch

Sempervivums stretch when not enough sunlight reaches them and it is ironic that this makes the plant grow faster. The first thing you notice is that the succulent begins to bend towards the light source. Then it will continue to grow by stretching, as it gets taller and with more space between the leaves. In addition to this, the leaves will become smaller and lighter in color, due to the lack of chlorophyll.

At first the plant is not sick and will continue to grow. But if this situation continues for a long time, its health will weaken and if no remedy is given, it may die in a few months.

How to Fix a Tall Sempervivum

Once a sempervivum has been stretched there is no way to return it to its compact shape. But do not be alarmed, the problem has a solution, and we can even take advantage of this situation.

To fix it, we will cut the upper part of the hens and chicks plant with very sharp scissors, leaving between two and four centimeters of stem to be able to plant it. At the base (the part with roots) we must leave a few leaves so that it can catch the sunlight and breathe. Although succulents are capable of sprouting from bare stems, they do so more easily if they have some leaves.

Some people let the stems dry for a few days so that the wounds heal, I don’t usually do it but it is possibly the right thing to do to avoid infections, so I must recommend it. Then plant it in a substrate that drains very well, and put it in a place where it can receive more light and then wait for it to take root. It will take two or three weeks for this to happen and then you will begin to notice some growth in the upper part.

What Next?

With the previous procedure we can get the plant to grow back and have its usual shape, but we will not achieve our purpose if we do not provide it with more light. If we leave them in the same place they were, they will stretch again, so before doing the whole process, look for a place where they are more illuminated.

Indoors, it is very difficult to grow succulents without etiolating a little, you have to place them in a window where they get a lot of light throughout the day, but not direct sun. When there is no possibility of providing natural light, artificial grow lights can be used.

Now we know what to do when we see that a hens and chicks plant growing tall and stretch towards the light. Don’t be afraid to behead it, because it will easily grow again.

Thank you very much, Sarah, for providing me with the photos of your hens and chicks plant to illustrate this post.