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How to Grow Burro's Tail (Donkey Tail)

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

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One of my favorite houseplants right now is my Burro’s Tail. Unlike succulents that grow along the ground, burro’s tail likes to drape over the sides of its pot adding drama to my plant shelf.

What is Burro's Tail?

Burro’s tail (Sedum morganianum) is a succulent that is native to southern Mexico and Honduras. In its natural habitat, it grows on vertical cliffs and ravines, draping down from rock ledges. Because of the unique way that its leaves grow, the plant is also known as Donkey Tail, Horse Tail and Lamb’s Tail.

Burro’s tail is hardy in zones 10 – 12. The stems grow to 24 inches long. They are covered with fat gray green leaves that look like tear drops. The leaves store water for the plant to tide it over in dry periods. They are covered with a waxy layer to prevent the stored water from evaporating. The leaves are easily knocked off of the stems so handle this one with care. Interestingly, anywhere on the stem where a leaf has fallen off can produce a branch.

There is a smaller cultivar called “Burrito” or Baby Burro’s Tail that has smaller, more rounded leaves on shorter stems.

Burro’s tail blooms in the late summer. The flowers appear at the ends of the stems. They are usually pink or red. Pollinators love them so think about giving your plant a summer vacation outdoors to feed our pollinator friends.

The flowers are usually pink or red and grow from the ends of the stems.

The flowers are usually pink or red and grow from the ends of the stems.

How to Grow Burro's Tail

Most gardeners grow Burro’s tail as a houseplant. It can be grown in a hanging basket or, like I do, on a shelf. You want to grow it somewhere where it can drape over the edge of its pot or shelf to show it off the best.

The plants grow best in full sun, so put it in your sunniest window. If you elect to move your plant outdoors during the summer, put it somewhere where it will get partial shade. The interior of our homes are not a light as full sunlight outdoors.

Burro’s tail needs very well-drained soil that is rather dry. Use a potting mix specifically formulated for cacti or create your own using regular potting mix and adding perlite, pumice or even very small pea gravel to create drainage. Avoid using sand. Sand will fill up the minute spaces in the potting mix and actually prevent drainage.

Water your plant sparingly. Weekly waterings should be fine. Allow the soil to dry out between watering. In the winter when the plant is resting, you can cut back to watering once a month. When your plants are outdoors during the summer, they may need to be watered more frequently because the soil will dry out faster.

Use a slow release fertilizer in the spring. That will last throughout the growing season. Do not fertilize your plant during the fall and winter. It should be allowed to rest. Fertilizing it encourages the plant to grow which you don’t want it to do during the winter.

Burro’s tail can survive temperatures as low as 40⁰F but it’s best to wait to put your plants outdoors until the nighttime temperatures are consistently above 65⁰F. In the fall, when nighttime temperatures start to fall to 65⁰F, it’s time to bring your plant back indoors.

There is a smaller cultivar with rounder leaves call "Burrito".

There is a smaller cultivar with rounder leaves call "Burrito".

How to Grow Burro's Tail From a Stem Cutting

Growing a new burro’s tail from a stem cutting is easy. Take a cutting from one of the stems of your plant. Shorter is actually better. Longer cuttings will need to be supported because this plant drapes rather than stands upright. Strip the leaves from the end of the cutting say 1 or 2 inches.

Allow your cutting to callous for 24 hours. This means just leave it out of the soil for 24 hours. Thi allows the plant to form callouses over the places on the stem where the leaves that you stripped off used to be. You want the areas to form callouses so that pests and diseases cannot enter the plants.

Once your cutting is calloused, simply push it into your well-drained potting mix and keep the soil moist. Roots will start to form in a month or two.

How to Grow Burro's Tail From a Leaf

Don’t throw away those leaves that you stripped off of your stem cutting! You can grow new plants from them too. Also, any time you move the stems of your plant around or even just brush by it, leaves will fall off.

No matter how you ended up with leaves, you will want to leave them out for 24 hours to callous just like your stem cuttings. Then simply lay the leaves on top of your moist well-drained soil. Use a mister to keep the soil moist. Don’t make the mistake that I did and use a watering can! The water from a watering can hits the soil with such force that it dislodges the leaves. They need to remain in place so that they can grow their roots. Be patient. Like your stem cuttings, it take a month or two before your leaves start to grow roots.

© 2020 Caren White

Comments

Caren White (author) on August 18, 2020:

No, you are learning just like the rest of us. I have gardened since I was a child and I am still learning new things every day.

Abby Slutsky from LAFAYETTE HL on August 17, 2020:

Thank you. I am a very poor gardener.

Caren White (author) on August 17, 2020:

Actually, rooting plants in water is a bad idea. Roots that grow in water are very weak because they have nothing to push against. Then when you transplant them into soil, most of the roots break or are too weak to grow through the soil. That's why so many transplants fail. For best results, always root your cuttings directly in soil. That way the plants will have strong, healthy roots.

Abby Slutsky from LAFAYETTE HL on August 16, 2020:

This was very interesting. I did not know you could grow plants from a leaf by placing the leaves directly on the soil. I aways that they had to develop roots in water. Thank you for sharing.

Caren White (author) on August 16, 2020:

it's such a fun plant!

Caren White (author) on August 16, 2020:

Lucky you! Mine has never bloomed. I keep moving it around my house trying to find the right spot where it will feel comfortable and bloom.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on August 15, 2020:

I've never heard of this plant before, but I really like it.

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on August 15, 2020:

Since the sevenities I can not recall seeing our donkeytails bloom. We finally witnessed blooms last year from my Mom's plant. It actually gets rain water during the wet season.