How to Care for a Burro’s Tail Plant

Last Updated: October 16, 2023

Burro's Tail Plant

Burro's Tail Plant

Also known as the Donkey’s Tail Plant, these striking succulents can be a little tricky to take care of so it is important you know what type of care they need and what environmental requirements they have.

Native to Southern Mexico, the Burro’s Tail is a type of succulent that has very small plump leaves that grow from short hanging stems. It is an extremely delicate plant and it can break very easily. This makes finding the right place in your home for it is crucial as it can’t be somewhere that leaves it at risk of being knocked and bumped by pets or even just people moving through your home.

The Burro’s Tail is sometimes referred to using its Latin name ‘Sedum Morganianum’ or other common names such as Donkey’s Tail, Donkey Tail and Lamb’s Tail.

How to Care for a Burro’s Tail

Other than being highly breakable, the Donkey’s Tail is very sensitive to overwatering so it’s essential that you water infrequently and monitor the soil moisture before watering.

They also need a high level of bright sunshine to thrive. While they can tolerate direct sunlight if your plant is too close to the window and a hotspot forms, this can dry out the plant.

Below you’ll find our complete Burro’s Tail care guide with all the information you need to help your plant thrive.

Burro’s Tail Overview

Origin: Areas throughout Southern Mexico

Latin Name: Sedum morganianum

Common Name(s): Donkey’s Tail, Donkey Tail, Burro’s Tail and Lamb’s Tail

Plant Family: Crassulaceae

Difficulty Level: Medium to Hard

Appearance: Hanging stems made up of layers of plump teardrop-shaped leaves

Height and Size: 1-4 feet (30-120 centimeters) in length

Growth Rate: Slow

Flowering: Occasionally may grow small pink flowers

Pruning: Only to remove dead or dying leaves

Cleaning: Use a light feather duster to gently clean the stems

Light Requirements: Bright, indirect with some direct exposure

Water Requirements: Infrequent, once a month on average

Best Soil: Coarse, well-draining potting mix

Ideal temperature: 65-75°F (18-24°C)

Fertilizing Routine: Apply a well-balanced fertilizer once or twice each growth season

Ideal Humidity Level: 40-55% humidity

Propagation: Through leaf cuttings

Repotting Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Toxicity: Safe and non-toxic to pets and humans

Risk of Pests: Rare but risk of aphids and mealybugs

Common Problems: Plant losing leaves, discoloration of leaves (brown, white, yellow) and soft leaves

Origin of a Burro’s Tail

Native to Sothern Mexico, the Burro’s Tail can tolerate warm temperatures, bright sunlight and dry soil. The one thing you don’t need to worry about loads is humidity as the normal humidity of your home should suffice.

Burro’s Tail Family

The Burro’s Tail plant is part of the Crassulaceae family (also known as the stonecrop family or the orpine family)  which is made up of a diverse range of succulent plants.

Burro’s Tail Appearance

Unique and striking, the Donkey’s Tail is made up of small teardrop-shaped leaves around short hanging stems. The leaves are pretty light green in colour, with a turquoise tinge.

Burro’s Tail Height and Size

At maturity, a Burro’s Tail will reach anywhere between 1-4 feet (30-120 centimeters) in length. As they are quite breakable, their stems don’t become that long, especially when grown indoors as a potted plant. In their native environment, they can grow slightly longer.

Difficulty Level

Although succulents often have a low maintenance reputation, the Burro’s Tail isn’t the easiest to care for as it does have very specific care requirements. Dry soil, warm temperatures, low humidity and bright sunshine can be difficult to achieve in a lot of homes so not always one for beginner plant parents. Their breakability makes them also a little tricky to keep alive as they are often losing leaves and entire stems sometimes.

Growth Rate of a Burro’s Tai

As with a lot of succulent types, the Burro’s Tail is quite a slow-growing houseplant. It will often take 5-7 years for the stems to reach maturity so a little patience is required.

Flowers on a Donkey’s Tail

Although blooming is rare when grown as a houseplant, the Burro’s Tail can occasionally grow clusters of small pink flowers, often near the ends of the stems. These are quite insignificant and don’t last long before wilting.

Pruning your Burro’s Tail

Burro’s Tail plants don’t need regular pruning but if growth has started to slow, you may need to prune a few of the ends off the stems to stimulate growth hormones. On average, you may have to prune the stems every 2-3 years.

Other than pruning to generate more new growth, you may also need to prune parts of your plant that are dead or dying. If part of a stem has discoloured (turned brown, yellow or white), then these changes are irreversible and it is best to remove them from the plant. Do this very carefully so you don’t cause any other damage to the rest of the plant.

Cleaning your Burro’s Tail

Because the Burro’s Tail is breakable and often loses leaves and chunks of stems if knocked, cleaning them can be risky. However, it is very important that you keep your plant free from a large build up of dust.

Donkey Tail plants love sunshine and even a thin layer of dust can prevent your plant from getting all of the sunlight as the dust acts as a thin blocker. Dust can also clog up the tiny little pores in the leaves so semi-regular cleaning is vital.

To do this, use a very light feather duster to gently wipe over the leaves. Don’t apply much pressure or you risk the stem breaking off.

If your plant is particularly dusty or perhaps sticky, bathing in water is also a good way to clean them without needing to press down with a cloth.

New growth on a Burro's Tail

Burro's Tail new growth

Light Requirements for a Burro’s Tail

As with most succulent types, they love sunlight and can suffer in very low-light areas of your home. Be careful not to expose your Burro’s Tail to too much direct light in summer as this can scorch the plant over time.

At all other times of the year though they will absolutely love direct sunlight like most other succulent types but the summer sun can be a little hot for your plant sometimes.

Water Requirements for a Burro’s Tail

Your Burro’s Tail thrives from having dry soil and too much moisture can very quickly lead to root and plant rot. We recommend watering deeply once a month, rather than light watering more often.

It’s very important that you check the moisture in the soil each time before watering your Donkey Tail plant so that you know if it needs a few more days for the soil to dry out. To do this you can use a moisture meter, the chopstick method or the lifting method.

Best Soil for a Burro’s Tail

As with most other succulent and cactus types, the Burro’s Tail needs a well-draining coarse potting mix to prevent soggy soil. Sand and pumice are essential ingredients as well as perlite which helps not only drainage but aeration of the soil too which is important.

You will often find succulent-specific potting mixes that already have perlite included but you can also buy it separately and add it into any mix yourself.

Ideal temperature for your Burro’s Tail

Donkey’s Tail plants thrive in a warm environment and the ideal temperature range is 65-75°F (18-24°C). Don’t worry too much if temperatures drop a little in winter as this is their dormant period anyway.

The main things you need to be aware of are temperature extremes caused by long-term problems as this can be very damaging to your plant over time. Make sure that there aren’t any drafts coming in through windows and external doors as the cold air can mean your Burro’s Tail begin losing leaves and maybe also developing brown leaves.

But it isn’t just cold extremes that you need to be wary of as hotspots can dry out your plant over time. They are slightly more tolerant of it compared to other non-succulent plant types but hotspots caused by cookers, radiators and heating vents can turn the leaves on your Donkey’s Tail crispy and dry.

If you don’t already have one, a digital thermometer will be your best friend when caring for a Burro’s Tail as you will be able to spot any inconsistencies in temperature and fix the issue before it’s started to damage your plant’s health.

Donkey’s Tail Fertilizer Requirements

Burro’s Tail plants aren’t heavy feeders and only need to be fertilized once or twice per year, in spring and summer.

Although you can still see plenty of new healthy growth without fertilizer if you do choose to feed your Donkey Tail, apply a well-balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer at half strength. The reason that you should dilute the fertilizer more than recommended is to prevent issues such as yellow leaves, your plant losing leaves and stagnant growth that can occur if you over-fertilize.

Make sure that you do not fertilize your Burro’s Tail at all during autumn and winter. This is the dormant period and feeding during this time will do more bad than good.

Ideal Humidity Level for a Burro’s Tail

You don’t need to worry about raising the humidity levels for your Burro’s Tail as the ideal humidity range is between 40-55%. The best thing to do if you are unsure about the humidity level is to get a humidity monitor. A lot of digital thermometers have these included which is great for plant care.

One tip we do have around humidity is to avoid growing your Burro’s Tail in a bathroom or kitchen if there isn’t much ventilation. Those two rooms can be slightly higher in humidity due to steam released when either cooking or showering and this can lead to mushy leaves on your Donkey’s Tail.

Burro's Tail Plant (Right)

Burro's Tail Plant in a white ceramic pot

Propagating your Burro’s Tail

Propagating a Burro’s Tail is simple, partly due to the fact that their leaves are very prone to dropping off. You can propagate each of these individual leaves to create an entirely new Donkey’s Tail plant. This can either be planted back into the pot to make your plant bushier, or used to create a new plant altogether.

Leave the dropped leaves out of water and soil for a few days for them to harden at the bottom. Then insert them into fresh, nutrient-rich soil and resume normal care. We have more details in our Burro’s Tail propagation guide!

Repotting your Burro’s Tail

Your Donkey’s Tail plant really quite enjoys being root bound so you don’t need to worry about repotting it very often. On average, you may only need to repot your Burro’s Tail every 2-3 years minimum.

When the time comes to repot your plant, be extra careful when handling it as the leaves can drop very easily. You should also never repot into a pot that is a lot bigger as this can lead to your plant becoming unstable.

Donkey’s Tail Toxicity to Humans and Pets

Burro’s Tail plants are safe and non-toxic for pets and children when handled or ingested. If ingested in large quantities, however, it can cause stomach irritation, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Treating and Preventing Pests

Pests are rare on a Burro’s Tail, particularly when grown as an indoor plant the whole year around. However, it is still susceptible to pests and you may find that mealybugs or aphids have infested your plant. Signs that your plant is suffering from pests include brown spots on the leaves, dehydrated leaves or white webbing/powder on the leaves.

Below is more information on the two most common pests on a Burro’s Tail:

Mealybugs: They are small, soft-bodied insects that often appear as white, cottony clusters across your Donkey’s Tail. The reason that they are so harmful is that they feed on the plant’s sap and can cause stunted growth and yellowing leaves. To fight the mealybugs, you can remove them manually with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol and use neem oil and an insecticide.

Aphids: They are tiny insects that cluster on new growth and also suck the plant’s sap, dehydrating it slowly. They can also cause distorted growth and yellowing of leaves so watch out for those signs. Neem oil and an insecticide are also the best ways to fight the infestation and we also recommend removing the worst affected stems to cut down the size of the infestation.

Burro’s Tail Common Problems

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