Why Is My Donkey Tail Losing Leaves? Top Reasons Explained

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Donkey tail plants, also known as burro’s tail or Sedum morganianum, are popular succulents valued for their cascading, bead-like foliage. As with any plant, proper care is essential to maintain their health and appearance. However, even with the best care, donkey tail plants can sometimes lose their leaves due to various factors.

One possible reason for leaf loss in donkey tail plants is overwatering. Succulents like the donkey tail plant are sensitive to excess moisture and are prone to overwatering, which may cause their leaves to fall off 1. It’s essential to strike a balance in watering and provide well-draining soil to keep the roots healthy.

Another factor that can lead to leaf loss is the plant’s fragile nature. The beaded leaves of a donkey tail plant can break off easily, even with the slightest touch 2. It’s essential to handle the plant carefully and minimize any disturbance to avoid unnecessary leaf loss.

Why Donkey Tail Leaves Fall

Natural Leaf Shedding

Donkey tail, or burro’s tail, is a type of succulent plant known for its cascading, bead-like leaves. One reason these leaves might fall is the plant’s natural fragility. Donkey tail plants tend to shed their leaves easily, often with the slightest touch or movement. This natural leaf shedding is part of the plant’s growth pattern and not necessarily a cause for concern.

However, if you notice excessive or rapid leaf loss, other factors might be at play.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors, such as overwatering, can also lead to a donkey tail losing leaves. Overwatered plants may experience leaves becoming soft and plump, as they fill up with water. To prevent this issue, allow the plant to dry out completely between watering sessions.

In addition to watering, the plant’s living conditions can impact leaf shedding. Make sure your donkey tail has access to bright, indirect sunlight and is placed in well-draining soil. Sudden temperature changes or drafts can also cause leaf loss, so try to maintain a consistent environment for your plant.

Pest Infestation

Pest infestations might be another reason for donkey tail leaves falling off. Common pests that attack succulents include mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites. These pests feed on the plant’s sap, causing weakened growth and leaf drop. Inspect your donkey tail regularly for signs of infestation, such as discolored leaves, sticky residue, or small bugs.

To treat an infestation, you can:

  • Remove affected leaves or stems
  • Clean the plant with a damp cloth or cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol
  • Apply an insecticidal soap or neem oil to the infected areas
  • Maintain proper plant care, as healthy plants resist pests more effectively

Keep an eye on your donkey tail’s health and adjust its care as needed to prevent leaf loss due to environmental factors and pests. Remember, some leaf shedding is natural for this fragile succulent, but excessive amounts may indicate a problem that requires attention.

How to Prevent Leaf Loss

Watering Requirements

Burro’s tail, like all succulents, does not require much water. Overwatering can lead to leaf loss, so it’s crucial to water the plant only when the soil is nearly dry. To achieve this, water the plant thoroughly and allow the excess moisture to drain out, then wait until the soil dries out before watering again. Burro’s tail is drought-resistant, so less is more when it comes to watering. Remember to reduce watering during its dormancy to prevent overwatering and poor growth in general1.

Light Exposure

Finding the right balance of light exposure is essential for the health of your donkey tail plant. Although they need bright light to grow, direct sunlight can cause sunburn on the leaves, leading to leaf loss2. To find the perfect spot for your plant, place it in a location with bright, indirect sunlight. If you notice that the leaves are drooping or wilting, simply move your plant out of direct sunlight, and it should recover swiftly with proper watering3.

Temperature Considerations

Burro’s tail plants are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, so it’s essential to maintain a stable environment for optimal growth. They thrive in temperatures between 65-80°F (18-27°C) during the day and prefer a slight drop in temperature at night. If temperatures fall below 40°F (4°C), the plant may suffer from cold damage, resulting in leaf loss. Keep your plant away from drafty areas or locations near heating and cooling units to avoid drastic temperature changes4.

Fertilizer Usage

Fertilizing your donkey tail plant is essential for its overall health and growth. During the growing season, apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer every few months to provide your plant with the necessary nutrients. Over-fertilizing can result in a weak plant with excessive foliage and a higher risk of leaf loss. Stick to the fertilizer’s recommended usage guidelines and avoid fertilizing during the plant’s dormant period5.

By following these simple tips for proper watering, light exposure, temperature control, and fertilizer usage, you’ll help prevent leaf loss in your Burro’s tail plant, promoting a healthy, lush, and thriving succulent.

Treatment Options for Affected Donkey Tails

Addressing Root Rot

If your donkey tail is losing leaves, one possible cause may be root rot caused by overwatering. To address this issue, first, adjust your watering schedule to ensure you’re not watering the plant too frequently. Ensure the soil is never waterlogged, and let the soil dry out between watering sessions.

In addition to adjusting your watering routine, consider repotting your donkey tail with a specifically prepared succulent soil mixed with perlite or coarse sand. This mixture ensures proper drainage for the root system, which is essential for preventing root rot. It is important to avoid using regular potting or garden soil for this plant.

Controlling Pests

Pests can also play a role in your donkey tail losing leaves. Common pests that attack donkey tails include mealybugs and spider mites. Here are some ways to fend off these pests:

  1. Regular inspection: Check your donkey tail periodically for any signs of pests. Early detection is key when it comes to controlling infestations.
  2. Isolate affected plants: If you find pests on your donkey tail, immediately move the affected plant away from other plants. This helps prevent the spreading of pests.
  3. Insecticidal soap or neem oil: Apply a solution of insecticidal soap or neem oil to the affected plant. This helps eliminate pests, doesn’t harm the plant, and is considered safe for use around humans and pets.

Treating root rot and controlling pests will both help your donkey tail recover from leaf loss. By addressing these problems and providing proper care, you can ensure your donkey tail remains healthy and vibrant.


In conclusion, donkey tail succulents, also known as burro’s tail, are delicate plants that can lose leaves for various reasons. One of the most common causes is overwatering, which leads to waterlogged roots and weak leaves. To prevent this, ensure you provide a well-draining soil mix and proper watering intervals.

Another factor that contributes to leaf loss is excessive light. Ensure your donkey tail succulent receives plenty of indirect sunlight, but avoid exposing it to harsh, direct sunlight for extended periods, as this can cause stress and leaf dropping.

Finally, donkey tail succulents have fragile leaves that can fall off with only the slightest touch. To minimize this issue, place the plant in a location where it won’t be disturbed frequently and avoid handling it more than necessary.

In summary:

  • Monitor watering to prevent overwatering and waterlogged roots
  • Provide indirect sunlight and avoid exposing the plant to harsh direct sunlight
  • Minimize physical disturbance to prevent fragile leaves from falling off

By following these guidelines and tending to your plant with care, it’s possible to reduce leaf loss and keep your donkey tail succulent thriving.

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