Although it is referred to as a cactus, the burro’s tail cactus (Sedum ‘morganianum’) is actually a succulent and not a cactus. But both require similar growing conditions, like loose gritty soil and plenty of sunlight.
The burro’s tail cactus, also called a donkey’s tail cactus, produces trailing, fleshy stems with plump leaves. In the wild this plant blooms in the late summer producing white, yellow or red blooms, but as a houseplant it rarely blooms.
It is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11 and must be grown inside as a houseplant in other regions. It may be summered outside.
Light and Temperature Requirements
The burro’s tail cactus prefers full sun for 6 to 8 hours a day, but if it is grown outside it requires some shade from the hot afternoon sun. Plant it where it receives several hours of morning sun with shade in the afternoon.
When grown inside as a houseplant the burro’s tail cactus can typically tolerate bright sun from a western or southern window, but it may need to be moved further from the window if it shows signs of too much sun.
Too much sun will cause the leaves to change color from its rich shade of green to a dull green or even gray. It may also develop a waxy, white covering on the leaves to protect it from too much sun. Move the plant to an area that receives less direct sunlight if these signs occur. You can also hang a sheer curtain to filter the light if your window gets too much light.
The burro’s tail cactus prefers temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees and should do fine in normal household temperatures, but it will suffer from cold drafts around windows. It can tolerate temperatures to 40 degrees for short periods.
It does well with normal humidity levels in the home, but will suffer if the area is too humid. Avoid placing burro’s tail cactus in humid areas such as the bathroom.
The burro’s tail cactus is drought tolerant and is able to store water in its fleshy leaves, but it does require regular watering to keep it healthy. The best way to water your burro’s tail cactus is to water it thoroughly and then allow the soil to dry out before watering it again. For inside plants this typically means once a month watering during the summer when the plant is actively growing, while those outside may need watering every 2 weeks. Reduce watering in the winter months with growth slows.
Soil & Fertilizing
The burro’s tail cactus needs gritty, well drained soil to keep the roots healthy. Use a quality cactus potting soil mix or make your own by combining equal parts builder’s sand, perlite and all-purpose potting soil. If you are growing the cactus in the soil outside, add sand to the soil to get the texture this plant prefers.
Although the burro’s tail cactus is not a heavy feeder, it does benefit some fertilizer. Use either a liquid fertilizer designed for cactus and succulents or a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 mixed at 1/4 strength to feed your burro’s tail cactus during the summer. Apply it once a month when you water the plant. It does not need fertilizer during the winter months.
Repotting a burro’s tail cactus can be a challenge as the ‘tails’ can be fragile and can be knocked from the plant easily. As a rule, you should allow your burro’s tail plant to grow in the same pot for as long as it is practical, but if it becomes overgrown and crowded repotting may be in order.
- Allow the soil to dry before attempting to repot the plant.
- Choose a new container that is one to two sizes larger than the current container.
- Fill the new container 3/4 full of moist cactus potting mix.
- Remove the burro’s tail cactus from its existing pot and gently shake the roots to remove as much existing soil as is feasible without dislodging sections of the ‘tails’.
- Position the roots into the soil and spread them out.
- Back-fill around the roots with fresh soil and firm it down lightly with your hands to secure the plant in place.
- Allow the newly potted plant to sit for at least a week before watering it.
Burro’s tail cactus is easy to propagate from the sections of the tails. Here’s how.
- Remove sections of the tail from the mother plant. These often fall off when the plant is moved or touched, so you may already have a ready supply.
- Set the sections aside in a cool, dry place for 3 to 4 days to allow the end to cure and form a callus.
- Fill a new pot with moist cactus potting mix.
- Insert the dried ends of the tail sections into the soil with approximately 1/2 of the section above the soil.
- Keep the soil slightly moist until roots form in a few weeks.
- Resume normal care.
The burro’s tail cactus makes a delightful houseplant with its textured leaves and delightful green tails. Try planting burro’s tail cactus in a hanging basket or add young plants to groupings of other succulents. They can even be added to fairy gardens for a magical touch.