Soft main stems / 'trunks' on different succulents


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I'm learning succulents.

Two here are 'tree-like' types, meaning that they have a main, central, vertical stem, from which leaves and branches grow out:
- a standard jade plant
- a 'peacock' echeveria

Here's the problem: I think I've learned how to balance their water needs, not too much or too little, and the plants look basically healthy, BUT the stems on both remain soft, such that I have to stake the plants to keep them upright, to keep them falling over: the main stems, the 'trunks', remain soft.

Any ideas? Am i perhaps over-watering despite other indications? Do they need special fertilization? I'm attaching a couple of snaps of the peacock echeveria, if that helps. Thanks!

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For the jade plant I would say more bright indirect light. Always let throughly dry before watering. I have one variety bonsai’d. Don’t be afraid of pinching back to get the shape you want. I had to add stones to weigh the pot down so the plant didn’t topple. Stones can also help support the plant and anchor the roots
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For the other I’d say the same as above....if it’s a larger variety. Here is something I have that might be similar. It sprawls also but is, I believe, a smaller variety. It is about time for me to start a new pot by simple cuttings and discard the parent plants. Here’s photos of the front and backside of the plants. Sun is a very important component for strong stems for most succulent types. Bright light close to the window is best. I never fertilize my succulents, but that is a personal preference since I don’t desire larger plants. Until your plants have developed strong stems, are exposed to more light I would hold off on any fertilizer.
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If you let this type of plant “lay down” in the pot it might develop miniature stems along the main stem. Don’t know the look you are going for, but it is another option.
 

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Thank you! That's all very interesting.

Your first photo: that's a jade plant, that fellow with the tubular leaves that you've bonsai'd?! First, it looks fantastic, great job with the bonsai work. Second, though, we have a couple of these, but younger, just florets, so I didn't realize they were a variety of jade. How exciting. We've had ours for six months at least, but no sign of them getting 'vertical' yet. That will be fun. Third, I'm really interested in what you say about jade plant care generally, that *indirect* bright light suits them better. Duly noted. I'll get ours back from the windowsill, south-facing, where they've had direct sunlight.

If i may ask, how many years old is your bonsai? It looks mature and the better for it!

Your second and third photos, the echeveria: they look healthy too, and I see that some stand 'vertical', while others have flopped – but seem perfectly healthy being 'horizontal'. To make sure i understand you: you reckon that echeveria might respond to *direct* sunlight by 'wooding' up its stems and so staying more vertical?
 
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First I have to qualify that my plants have acclimated over many years to my home environment so always take anything I say as opinion not necessarily fact:sneaky:

The Gollum Jade I got in 2009 in a 1 inch pot. When it began to get too big (I have limited window space) I put it in a spare bonsai pot, trimmed the plant heavily, tied it down and had to weight it with rocks. I just pruned it back again. I have done it yearly since potting this way about 2-3 years ago.

If your echeveria is in a south window it is should be getting plenty of light. Same with the jade. They can acclimate to full sun as long as they aren’t up against the glass. (I am thinking the quality of your southern exposure is unhampered by trees or buildings.). Since you said the plants are in a south window, my guess would then be that they may have gotten too much fertilizer or not allowed to throughly dry before watering. As long as the stems aren’t rotting, I’d just be patient and see what happens.

With both of these plant you can always take cuttings, let the cut end dry, and stick in soil. This time of year they root fairly fast.

Newly pruned Gollum and cuttings potted below
 

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Low Altitude

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Hi hi.

When you say, "up against the glass". My south-facing windowsills are NOT shaded by buildings or trees or anything, I'm lucky, so they get full sunlight. I make sure that plants on the windowsill have don't touch the glass, but the windowsills are about 7 inches deep so there's only 1-2 inches clearance. Is that enough? The windows are double-glazed.

Cuttings: I've had best success with propagating succulents including my (standard, not 'Gollum') jade plants with leaf cuttings: just lay a leaf on the soil and see if it strikes after a while. I was amazed, but it's been mostly successful for me, so long as I choose a reasonably healthy and sizeable leaf.

Is 'Gollum' a term in general use, or your own? Either way, I like it. Descriptive!

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Great plant starts. you are well on your way to having a forest of plants. Happy gardening.

Being too close to a window can cause a magnification of sun light burning the plant. Just keep an eye out on sunny days especially when the days are longer and the sun is more intense.

The plant I grow has a common and scientific name
Gollum jade (Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’)

Here is a quick little article that applies to all jades but is written specifically for gollums. Read more at Gardening Know How: Gollum Jade Care – Information About Gollum Jade Crassula Plants https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/jade-plant/gollum-jade-care.htm
 
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I tried to unstake the echeveria again today, after almost another three months. It fell over immediately. Strange. I think I'm going to (a) let it dry out longer between waterings and then (b) fertilize it when I do water it, and see if that helps. i have no idea what I'm doing.
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I simply cut the tops off and replant in the same pot or start a new pot. I prefer multiple plants per pot. The first is of my old pot with a 4th generation adult cutting. I let it lay in the pot and it’s rooting. The tiny plants are old stems that have sprouted multiple little heads. There are also a few different cuttings I took from others plants. This is the same planter I showed earlier after I harvested for a revitalization.
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The second photo is all the heads I took from the first pot and stuck in new soil/pot and they are already rooting. Looks like I had a couple of casualties that need to be removed because they were slow to root. But I do see roots.

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As you can see one method takes much longer and the second gives instant results. If you choose to use the radical cutting let the cut end dry for an short while removing leaves to create a stem you can bury in the soil. Go real easy on the watering, letting the soil dry. If you overwater the stem will rot instead of rooting. You need to monitor for wilting (I am big on using clear plastic bags for mini green house...left open at top for succulents) but still go easy on the watering, slightly moist soil versus wet soil and always let throughly dry. A warm area or plant heater and bright light will have roots forming quickly.
 

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Jewell,

Great to hear from you again, and thank you for your wisdom. Very interested to hear of your 'Gordian knot' solution to the falling-over Echeveria. Does that mean that it's just not possible to get the stems to strengthen? I wonder if there is a way, though. The plant just looks like it evolved to stand erect.

In other news, here's how my baby jade plants look now – compare with photo above taken in Jan, three months ago:

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As a newbie to succulents, I'm surprised – the magic of nature – at how reliable is the leaf propagation method. Super little things.
 
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Love seeing your baby jade plants. I abandoned my baby Gollums(on the street in front of my home) and they all went off and found new homes. (Rehomed about a dozen plants that I habitually propagate or get too big this way. I live in a very walkable neighborhood so this works well.)

From travels to where I have seen these plants grown outside they grow typically in clumps, have more light, but do also sprawl and are ground huggers. They propagate along the stems. With more light I understand they don’t get extended stems, although I have seen them stretch out along the ground outside also.
 

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I've made the staking a bit less 'medical' / frankenstein-looking. I'm going to try being more generous with water and fertilizer and see if that helps.
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Dunno why it included each pic three times, sorry. Not my doing....
 

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You're kind, but i am an idiot and there's no way it's ever going to stand unsupported. I get this now, having seen this lady's admirably clear video:


The plant has become 'etoilated': it didn't have enough light when it was younger, just as you said, so it's trying to send that stem laterally, to find somewhere with more light and propagate itself by dropping leaves there. It's never going to stand erect like a palm tree. It's not a palm tree. It's an echeveria.

Okay, so the thing to do now, as you said, is to decapitate and dismember and start again with (1) main plant, bare stem (2) the 'top' of the existing plant, hoping it'll root, and (3) a bunch of leaf props.

Okay. It'll be fun.
 
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As you figured out, it has nothing to do with water or fertilizer. It's all about light. Also, Echeverias flop no matter what you do. It's just what they do. It's best to either decapitate them or let them lay down on their own. They end up being real striking sprawling plants and will branch when the growing point is no longer the highest point. It's called apical dominance. The apical bud (the growing point at the tip of the stem) produces a hormone which flows down the stem and inhibits the growth of the buds below it. When it is no longer above them, they start to grow.
 
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Echeverias flop no matter what you do. It's just what they do.

It took me too long to figure this one out, despite Jewell's helpful info. I'm embarrassed that I was 'fooled by appearances': it looked like it wanted to be a tree, so I assumed I was doing something wrong.

Anyway, wiser, I divided it - actually five ways as it turned out: 1. 'cap' section, 2. mid section, 3. a bit of bare stem, 4. the base with roots but no leaves and (5) a lot of individual leaves. Two weeks on, it's interesting: the cap section and the mid section look healthy (on the right / foreground in the pic, with other buddies to their left) and the individual leaves look fine in another container, presumably prepareing to do their amazing propagation thing; but the bare stem section died quickly and it looks like the former base, with the former roots, has also died.
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