Spindly Growth

Spindly Growth

Want to learn more about Symptoms: Spindly Growth (Etiolation)

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Why does my plant have spindly growth?

If your plant is kept somewhere that is too dark, it will stretch itself out to try and reach any available light source nearby, leaving it looking sparse. This is called etiolation. Additionally, if your plant isn't getting enough light then it won't have sufficient energy to grow healthy foliage, which is why it can start to look leggy.


  • Spindly

  • Leggy growth

  • Sparse foliage

Opuntia etiolated

Common causes

The most common causes are unsuitable lighting conditions, stress, imbalance in the amount of fertilizer and being pot bound.

Etiolation is especially common among cacti and other succulent plants. If they are grown in dark growing conditions or being watered or fertilized too much during their dormant period they will become etiolated.

Vining plants may also appear spindly if they're not given something to climb on. This is easily fixed by providing your vine with a trellis or other suitable surface that it can climb on. It will start to look healthier and fuller in no time!

What to think about

Keep in mind that some plant types may actually become spindly regardless of their health. For instance, plants that die back in the winter can become spindly when they experience a growth spurt in springtime. Succulent plants such as Echeveria will eventually become leggy as this is how they grow naturally. When that occurs, you can go ahead and prune it back.

While spindliness isn't always necessarily a problem, it can affect the appearance of your plant and, if left unchecked, could eventually cause your plant to become top-heavy and at risk of toppling over. The etiolated growth won’t revert so you should consider pruning back and/or propagating your plant.