Why is my Burro’s Tail losing leaves? Causes and Solutions

If your Burro's Tail has started to lose some of those leaves, you might be starting to worry that something is wrong. Below you'll find the different factors which might be causing your plant to lose leaves.

Also known as the Donkey’s Tail, the Burro’s Tail is best known for its plump little leaves that form long thick stems that dramatically cascade out of the pot. But if your plant has started losing leaves, you might be starting to worry that something is wrong. There are several reasons why Burro’s Tail plants start losing their leaves and we will go through each of them below. These plants are quite fragile though which makes inspecting them difficult so handle your plant with care to prevent even more leaves from falling off.

A consistent lack of water can cause your Burro’s Tail to start losing leaves

One of the more common factors when it comes to Burro’s Tail plants losing their leaves is consistent underwatering. Although Burro’s Tail plants are succulents which means they can happily go a few weeks without water, if their potting mix gets too dry for too long, they will start to shed their leaves. 

It’s important to ensure that your Burro’s Tail is actually being underwatered before you change anything about your care routine. The worst thing you can do is give your Burro’s Tail more water if it doesn’t need it as this will very quickly cause even more serious issues for your plant beyond the leaves it has been losing. To determine if too little water is the issue, we recommend using a moisture meter or the chopstick method. Burro’s Tail plants are super sensitive to being handled so taking the plant out of the pot should be avoided wherever possible or your plant losing even more leaves.

If you do decide to remove your Burro’s Tail from its pot, then take a close look at the root system. If it has already started to crisp up, then this suggests the issue has been going on for a while. 

Once you have determined that your Burro’s Tail is suffering from a lack of water and this is why it is losing leaves, slowly reintroduce water to your plant rather than drowning it (they can go into shock if there is a sudden change in the environment which will only cause more leaves to fall off your plant). A little bit of water once a day for a week should get your Burro’s Tail back on track and prevent it from losing any more leaves.

In future, to avoid underwatering causing more trouble for your Burro’s Tail, we recommend adjusting your watering schedule. You want to either be watering your Burro’s Tail more frequently or giving your plant more water each time. You also want to ensure you are cutting back on watering during the colder darker months of the year as growth will be more dormant. Using a moisture meter can really help to make sure that the potting mix has had enough time to dry out properly.

Overwatering might be why your Burro’s Tail is losing leaves

As with a lot of things in the houseplant world, proper watering can be one of the biggest issues and it’s not just underwatering that can cause your Burro’s Tail to lose leaves. Too much water is a major issue for succulents and is one of the most common reasons why Burro’s Tail plants start losing their leaves.

You can tell if your Burro’s Tail is being overwatered if their leaves turn very soft and plump as this is literally the leaves filling up with water. If you think your Burro’s Tail might be suffering from root rot, it’s important to check right away and change out the soil if needed. This is the only time where handling your Burro’s Tail is a good idea. 

If the soil is waterlogged, it’s best to replace it straight away rather than wait for it to dry out naturally. Each day that your Burro’s Tail’s roots are sitting in soggy soil, it risks irreversible damage to your plant’s root system. Instead, remove as much of the potting mix as you can from the root system and replace it with fresh dry mix. 

Other than checking the moisture levels in your plant regularly using a moisture meter, another thing you can do to avoid overwatering is to use a self-watering pot or even self-watering globes. They release water to your Burro’s Tail only when it needs it and will help to avoid waterlogged soil and root rot.

You also want to adjust your watering schedule so that you cut back on how much or how frequently you are watering to prevent your Burro’s Tail from losing any more leaves. And make sure to cut back over winter as the soil takes a lot longer to dry out in colder temperatures.

Fragility is a common cause of leaf drop

Although watering issues are a large concern when it comes to Burro’s Tail plants losing leaves, probably the most common reason is simply that the plant is so fragile. Even the smallest bump or knock to the plant can cause several leaves or sometimes even a whole stem to fall off your plant. The best thing to do is put your Burro’s Tail up high or out of high traffic areas in your home to avoid it being knocked about by pets, children or guests. 

As these are super healthy leaves that are falling off when being knocked, we recommend propagating the leaves that fall off to create new plants. There would be nothing worse than throwing away perfectly healthy stems and leaves. Check out our propagation guide for all the info you need to successfully grow new plants from the leaves. 

Make sure to take a close look at the leaves that your Burro’s Tail is losing as they might give an indication of whether or not there is another issue such as over or underwatering that is causing your plant to lose leaves. Yellow or brown patches across the leaves, as well as overly plump and moist leaves, will suggest watering extremes are to blame.

Your Burro’s Tail might just be losing leaves due to natural ageing 

As your Burro’s Tail matures, it may occasionally start losing a few of its oldest leaves but this isn’t anything to be concerned about. It’s simply part of your plant’s natural ageing process and is not because of anything you have done wrong or anything about its environment that isn’t right. 

It will usually be the oldest and smallest leaves that your Burro’s Tail loses and it won’t often lose newer leaves naturally unless your plant is being knocked or bumped.

Another thing you need to be doing as a result of this is to keep an eye on just how many leaves your Burro’s Tail is losing. If this starts to accelerate or become faster than the rate of new growth, then it might be an indicator that something isn’t right. If this is the case, check on the environment and care again to see if one of the above issues is causing the leaves to drop.

Those are the most common reasons why your Burro’s Tail is losing leaves. If they are simply falling off due to being bumped and knocked, then you don’t need to worry at all (just be a little bit more careful around it). However, if watering issues are behind your Burro’s Tail losing leaves, then you really need to fix the issue quickly before your plant loses too many leaves. Make sure to keep a close eye on your plant for several weeks after making any changes to make sure that the issue is improving. You also want to continuously check in on your plant to spot any early warning signs. The sooner you start treating the issue, the better chance you have at getting your plant back on track. 

To learn more about how to care for your plant, as well as the different propagation methods, other common issues and our best general care tips, check out our Burro’s Tail care guide.


Written by Joanna Turner


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