Guide: Propagating Donkey Tail in Water, Soil & Division (Burro’s Tail)

Donkey’s Tail, or Burro’s Tail, Sedum morganianum, is a delightful little succulent in the Stonecrop family, Crassulaceae. It is native to Mexico and Honduras and can live happily outdoors in USDA zones 9 to 11, but it is typically grown as an easy-care, easy-to-propagate houseplant.

It can reach 4′ in length, with overlapping, plump, blue-green leaves and trailing stems that spill over the sides of a hanging basket.

If you want duplicates as gifts or more plants for your home or office, try propagating it by one or all of the methods below.

Propagation Methods for Donkey’s Tail

propagating donkey tail

There are three easy methods to propagate your plant: leaf cuttings in soil, stem cuttings in soil or water, and division. They will all root, but at different rates.

Note: The best time to propagate by any method is during the plant’s growing season in the spring and summer.

Leaf cuttings

  1. Select some healthy leaves and gently remove them from the plant. They are prone to snapping off easily, so take care that more don’t come off than you want.
  2. Leave them in a warm, bright spot and allow them to callus over for 2-5 days.
  3. Prepare a pot or tray of light, well-draining soil such as succulent mix or sphagnum moss that you’ve lightly moistened.
  4. Set the leaves on top of the soil or sphagnum moss. Keep them in medium indirect light out of any drafts, and mist them once a week.
  5. They should begin to form roots and new plantlets in 2 to 4 weeks.
  6. When the roots grow 1″ to 2″ long, you can transfer them to a new pot in well-draining soil.

OPTIONAL: Before setting the leaves on the soil to root, dip the callused ends in rooting hormone to encourage faster growth.

Stem cuttings

Stem cuttings can root easily in either soil or water.

Soil method

  1. Cut a length of stem 4″ to 6″ long and remove the leaves on the lower half of the stem.
  2. Set them in a warm spot and allow them to callus over for a week or two until the scars develop a tough skin.
  3. Prepare a pot of light, well-draining soil such as succulent mix or indoor potting soil that you’ve moistened and mixed with perlite, coco coir, or peat.
  4. Stick the bottom 2″ to 3″ of the bare stems into the soil and set the pot in bright indirect light out of any drafts.
  5. Water the soil lightly so that it stays moist but not soggy about every 7 to 10 days.
  6. The cuttings should begin to root after a month or two.
  7. Follow the usual cultural care.

OPTIONAL: Before sticking the stem in the soil to root, dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone to encourage faster growth.

Water method: propagating donkey tail in water

  1. Cut a length of stem 4″ to 6″ long and remove the leaves on the lower half of the stem.
  2. Set them in a warm spot and allow them to lightly callus over for 1 to 2 days. This is optional, but it helps to prevent the stems from decaying in the water.
  3. Put the bottom 2″ to 3″ of the bare stem in fresh water in a clean jar or vase and set it in a warm spot in medium light.
  4. Change the water every 4 or 5 days to prevent algae from growing.
  5. Roots should begin to form after a few weeks.
  6. You can transfer the plants to a well-draining potting mix when the roots grow 2″ to 3″ long,

Division

propagating burro tail

Division is the easiest method of propagating Donkey’s Tail, and all you need is a mature plant with at least two stems growing from the roots and a new pot with fresh, well-draining potting mix. 

Gently remove the plant and its root ball from the pot and separate the stems together with their roots. You may be able to pull them apart, or if they’re too tight, cut them with a clean knife.

Then repot each separate plant in a moist, well-draining potting mix. Set the pots in medium light, don’t water them right away, and hold off fertilizing to reduce the stress while they are acclimating to their new digs.

After a week, you can resume watering them and set them in brighter indirect light.

Ongoing Care of Your Donkey’s Tail Plant

burro tail plant

Now that you’ve propagated your Donkey’s Tail and have a crop of new plants, you’ll need to give them what they need. Luckily, they’re easy to care for, and if you pay attention to their basic needs, they will thrive.

Light

Donkey’s Tail loves bright indirect light, but too much direct sunlight will burn its leaves. Too little light, however, will cause the stems to become leggy and the color to fade from the leaves. An unobstructed east- or north-facing window will give it the light it needs.

It will also do well in the soft morning sun in a west- or south-facing window, but the harsh afternoon sun in this exposure will burn its leaves. If this is the only available window, set your plant back from the window or put up a sheer curtain to soften the afternoon sun.

Outdoors, Donkey’s Tail needs to be in the shade where it will still get plenty of indirect light but not direct sunshine, such as under a tree, porch, or patio.

Temperature

Moderate temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees F are best for this plant. It tolerates a temporary cooler environment, but average household temperatures are perfect long-term. It won’t do well in drafts, however, so keep it away from heater or air conditioner vents.

Outdoors, Donkey’s Tail doesn’t do well in very hot or cold temperatures, so bring it in when it gets over 75 or below 65 degrees.

Humidity

Average household humidity is fine for this plant. They are not particular about humidity levels but can develop fungal diseases if the air is too damp without good air circulation.

Soil and Pot

Since it is a succulent plant, Donkey’s Tail needs very well-draining soil. Plant it in a potting mix specially formulated for succulents, or make your own with potting soil amened with coarse sand, coco coir, or pumice to enhance drainage.

The best pot for your plant has at least one drainage hole so water doesn’t build up and rot the roots. Pots come in various materials, such as plastic, ceramic, terracotta (clay), and composite.

Terracotta is best for succulents since it “breathes” and allows moisture to evaporate through its walls. But whatever kind of pot you choose, make sure it has a drainage hole to keep the roots healthy.

Water

Like most other succulents, this houseplant is drought-tolerant and does best with the “soak and dry” watering method, meaning you only water when the soil is dry. Then, you water thoroughly so that the soil is soaked through.

The soil won’t dry out predictably week to week because of light and temperature changes in your house and times of the plant’s active and not-so-active growth during the year. The best thing to do is to test the soil rather than trying to water it on a schedule.

Dig your finger or a chopstick down 3″-4″ into the soil. If it comes out dry, it’s time to water. But if it’s still damp, wait several days to a week and test it again.

When you water, run it through the soil to soak it and let it drain out the hole in the bottom of the pot. Empty any remaining water from the dish under the pot so the roots don’t sit in water. Then let the soil dry out before watering again.

You will need to water your plant more often during the spring and summer, especially if you have it outside during the warm weather. But as temperatures drop and the light is lower in the fall and winter, you will need to water far less.

Fertilizer

Donkey’s Tails grow slowly and are not heavy feeders, so they can be fertilized infrequently. 

The fertilizer and nutrients already in the potting mix are enough for the plants. However, the soil becomes depleted over time as the plant is repeatedly watered, and the roots take up the nutrients.

If you haven’t repotted your plant for a couple of years, you can boost its nutrition with some fertilizer once in the spring. 

An all-purpose liquid fertilizer or crystals you dilute in water or granular succulent fertilizer mixed into the top layer of soil are good choices. Still, it’s good to use only half-strength to prevent fertilizer burn.

An alternative to standard fertilizers is mixing some worm castings or compost into the top layer of soil in the spring. These amendments will give the plant a continuous feed of nutrition every time you water.

Pests

Although Donkey Tail plants tend to resist most pests, aphids and mealybugs can sometimes attack them, causing stippling and discoloration of the leaves. Be careful of hosing the plant to remove the pests since the leaves will fall off easily.

Instead, mist or spray them weekly with Neem oil or a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water until they’re gone.

Disease

The most common disease of Donkey’s Tail is root rot, a fungal infection that comes from overwatering and poor drainage. When the soil becomes saturated without proper drainage, the roots can’t “breathe,” and it becomes a perfect environment for fungal growth.

If the leaf tissues have begun to turn yellow and deteriorate, and the soil has been wet without drying out, your plant may have root rot. Here’s how you can make a diagnosis.

Tip the plant on its side, gently pull out the root ball, and shake the soil off to get a good look at the roots. Healthy roots should be white and firm, but your plant has root rot if they are black, mushy, and foul-smelling.

Cut the infected roots and any damaged leaves off with clean scissors or a knife. Wash the remaining roots and drench them with a commercial fungicide with copper as an ingredient, Neem oil, or even cinnamon, a natural fungicide.

Once you have treated the roots and cut off any damaged leaves, plant it back in fresh soil in a clean pot with a drainage hole, and set it in a warm spot in medium light, out of hot or cold drafts. 

The initial moisture in the potting mix should be enough to give the plant a good start. Then water it after about a week, and then only water when the soil is dry.

Author & Editor | + posts

Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.