Encyclopedia of Houseplants

How to Grow Burro’s Tail, a Delicate but Beautiful Succulent

updated Jun 5, 2020
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Burro's Tail
Credit: Coplay/Shutterstock

Burro’s tail, or sedum morganianum, is one of the most adorable potted succulents to take on the houseplant world. Also called donkey’s tail (burro means donkey in Spanish), burro’s tail is a trailing sedum native to southern Mexico that is usually found in plant shops or nurseries in its juvenile stage in a four-inch planter’s pot. Once mature, it has big, long stems that drape over the sides of its container. It’s the perfect plant for hanging pots or for that high up spot on your bookshelf. 

As darling as it is, burro’s tail has a reputation for being difficult to grow indoors. Each trailing stem is covered in small succulent leaves, which is part of what makes the plant so attractive. But even the slightest brush against it can send all those baby leaves flying onto the ground, which is just one of the reasons this plant isn’t the best fit for beginner plant parents. But for those up to the challenge, check out these tips and tricks to help your plant thrive indoors.  

The number one thing you need to remember? Avoid handling this plant as much as possible to avoid damaging it. Think of it as a good friend that likes its distance—don’t give it a lot of attention and your relationship will thrive.

What type of soil and container should you use for burro’s tail?

Like other succulents, a burro’s tail plant will thrive in dry, sandy soil. You can use a pre-mixed cactus soil or make your own by adding equal parts sand to your regular potting mix. 

Choose a container that will help wick moisture away from the roots of your plants. A pot with porous material like terracotta or similar will work best. It’s also in your best interest to choose a container that has a drainage hole in the bottom, to make sure that your plant is 100 percent not sitting in water. If you decide to play roulette and pick a pot with no drainage hole, you must layer an inch or two of gravel or rocks at the bottom. This will help the roots stay out of the standing water.

Burro’s tail plants don’t mind being rootbound, so like other succulents, you’ll only have to repot it once every few years. Don’t stress yourself out by repotting it more than that.   

What kind of light does your burro’s tail need?

Sedums like burro’s tail need bright, direct light to grow properly. Make sure you turn your plant frequently to keep it from getting sunburned. Each leaf is covered with a chalky substance called epicuticular wax that helps protect it from the hot sunlight and keep its moisture in. Without enough sunlight, the plant will start to lose its leaves and turn more yellow than green. You might find that it becomes mushy, especially if light deprivation is paired with overwatering. 

How much water does your burro’s tail need?

If there’s one piece of advice that you take away, it’s that you should never overwater this plant. If you overwater it, there’s a pretty big chance that it will rot, especially if it’s a young plant. This is where that bit about picking the correct container comes in. Drainage is imperative. 

If you’re giving your plant the proper amount of light, you shouldn’t have to water more than once every two weeks. Let the soil dry out all the way through before watering it thoroughly. The only exception to this rule would be if you have a very young plant, one that’s in a two-inch pot, or a cutting. Then you’ll want to water with a lesser quantity, but more often. 

Worried about overwatering, but also worried about not watering it enough? Don’t fret. Succulents have a built in warning system that tells you when they need water. If you notice that the usually plump leaves have started to pucker, resembling the outside of a raisin, it’s time to water your plant. After watering, the plant will rehydrate its leaves! 

What varieties of burro’s tail are there?

There are a few varieties of burro’s tail that are relatively easy to find in local shops. The traditional S. morganianum has leaves that come to a point. S. morganianum  “Burrito”  has leaves that round off at the tips. Both have the same care and are equally as cute! There are also dwarf varieties to be found, if you search for them. 

Credit: Bozhena Melnyk/Shutterstock

Where should you purchase burro’s tail?

Burro’s tail is a plant that you should consider buying from a local shop if possible, since the delicate plant can be damaged in shipment. The prices are generally the same and you’ll end up with a healthier, happier plant if you just inquire with your favorite local shops and nurseries.