Los Angeles, CA

My donkey tails have not been doing well for a while now. They sit in front of an east facing window, and I water them approximately once a week, sometimes less. Can someone please advise on how to improve them or what is wrong? Thank you!

Thumbnail by TubOfDough Thumbnail by TubOfDough
Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

What's the pot made of? How long was it, after they went into that pot, that they started to decline? Describe how you're fertilizing (with what? how much? how often? NPK %s?

Your cause of your issue is very likely related to the triangle formed by the combination of your choice of soil, your watering habits, and the level of soluble salts in the soil (solution). It's a very common problem, at this time of year especially, due to several factors that tend to exacerbate the issue.


Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

I agree with Al---good advice...
What i would do is take every green cutting you can and pot them up in fresh soil in a small CLAY pot.
Every little section of a Burros Tail will root. Just scatter them on top and mist in.

I would never try to renew the pot you have it growing in. It does look pretty bad. Start new.

Not being insensitive--but I am a person who does not "mess" with something
that is doing badly. Life is too short....
I always think--"It is only a plant"--and it can easily be replaced with the same, but new plant.


Los Angeles, CA

thank you both for your advice! i will repot the cuttings. why do you recommend a clay pot and what kind of soil should i get? Would a succulent mix work well? but from the photos, do you both think, aside from the soil, it was not getting enough water and light or too much? Thank you!

Los Angeles, CA

OH and to answer your question Al, the pot is made of some thick stone with a small (quarter size) hole in the bottom middle for drainage. maybe they were sitting in too much water because it was not draining well?

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Shucks! Wrote you a long reply--and lost it! Went to Google a picture for you and then "X"-ed out the page.
And--there also went my post on DG. It had a lot of good info in it....

Well--will trey to cover it again--maybe in a shorter version.

I suggested a clay pot because any extra water you may have applied will just dissipate through the pot's walls.
To root any cuttings--please use a Pro Mix which has no soil in it. it is a mix of Peat Moss and Perlite.
If you cannot find "Pro Mix"--go to Home Depot and get a small bag of Seed Starter Mix.
I do think HD now also carries a "Pro Mix" type of soil.

After you take cuttings--let them sit on a paper plate for one day. You want the freshly cut ends to callous over.
You may also want to remove any extra small sections at the bottom end of your cuttings, so there is a small "stem'.
If you pot freshly cut succulents--the cut ends could start to rot as they are raw.

Prepare your new pot and Mix--moisten in the Mix well (NOT too wet) and then plant/scatter your cuttings.
Take any cuttings (I would take them all) and pot them up--and, remember, i also said that each little piece will root,
even if you just lay them on top of the soil.
Do not water again for a couple weeks. Use your judgement--if you see the top of the Mix drying out too much-
mist the top a bit with lukewarm water. Put the pot in a soft light--No direct sun needed now.

You asked about your plant "not getting enough water"--Heck no!!! I think your big pot was definitely water-logged
and, it is likely, that the soil went "sour". This would have killed your plant. Take your cuttings and toss the rest!
Roots NEED Oxygen! Soil has to be airy and not heavy. That is what the Perlite is for.
You said you watered it once a week! Totally--too much! Big pots of succulents can get by with just monthly watering.

Hope this helps you some! Here is the picture I Googled for you of what a healthy Burros tail looks like.


Thumbnail by Gitagal
Los Angeles, CA

Thank you so much Gita! Your advice is so thorough and helpful. One last question: can i grow it indoors in an east-facing window? Because that is where I will be placing the cuttings.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I asked what the pot was made of because it looks like it's hypertufa, and hypertufa needs to cure in the weather or by filling it with or soaking it in a mildly acidic solution before you plant in it - to prevent the pot from affecting the pH of the soil solution. Your plant has the look of one growing in a soil with a high level of dissolved solids or a very high pH - but it might be tat you're keeping the soil too wet. Rotted roots cause drought stress, as does a high level of soluble salts in the soil, even if the soil is appropriately moist.

Clay or hypertufa pots are good choices because they are gas permeable, which means they allow water vapor to pass through pot walls. The benefit therein comes from the fact that if you're using a soil that holds too much water, the excess water disappears faster, due to the permeable walls, so the plant is affected by the excess water in the soil for a shorter time.

So far, my advice has generally paralleled Gitagal's, but I'm going to take a different approach where soils are concerned. I think Promix, and other soils whose primary fractions are peat moss or composted forest products, hold too much water - if your goal is maximizing your plant's potential, and that is even more true when you're discussing plants that are known to not tolerate wet feet well. Instead, it would be much better, sand less expensive to make your own soils from ingredients that are chunkier than peat/compost, etc. Basing your soils on larger particles, like pine bark, grit, screened Turface, perlite ..... offers a much better opportunity for your plants, and a much greater margin for grower error.

If you don't wish to make your own soils, you might be able to get a local greenhouse or nursery op to order one of the heavyweight Fafard mixes for you. Pine bark is well represented in these mixes, and they support much less perched (excess) water than soils based on fine particles.

The first picture is what I grow all my houseplants in. The second picture is the soil I use for all my mixed garden display plantings. Either are very structurally stable and hold little or no excess water. They are extremely easy to grow in too, btw.


Thumbnail by tapla Thumbnail by tapla
Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I forgot to mention ..... If you set aside a few minutes to read the sticky thread at the top of this forum, it may prove to be helpful.


Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)


I know you are "famous" on DG for all your soil mixes and "recipes". I have read them over the years...
I also know that for the average gardener--these are not available--and the ingredients are not found.
And--few of us mix our own soils.
That is why I suggested the "Pro Mix"--as that is all I know that is available to the "average Joe".
I buy mine from a nearby farm-type nursery/grocery store. Just picked up a bag of Phaffard (sp?) Pro Mix.

I know a bit of grit would be good--but other than Chicken Grit--if a Southern States" were available,
nothing like that is available in those of us who mostly shop in the Big Box stores and local Nurseries.

I do not even know where my closest "Southern States" might be?
At best--one could mix in more coarse Perlite and maybe Pine Fines???

I always appreciate your vast knowledge re plant soils and drainage etc...that what makes DG so super!
We all know something special---and gladly share it with others.


Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

When you try to amend a soil, like MG or Promix, it doesn't work. To see why, you need to envision the large particles of bark or perlite in the soil before the small particles of peat or compost are added. Let's say there are 25% large particles. When you add in the 75% peat or composted forest products (small particles) that make up the rest of the soil, you can see in the mind's eye that the larger particles are floating in a sea of fine particles. Nothing is accomplished - the flow-through rate, and most importantly, the height of the perched water table remain unaffected.

Now, in the mind's eye, start to remove some of the small particles. Eventually, you'll come to a condition where all the large particles are touching each other. This is the threshold proportion - the point where drainage and aeration DO become affected by the preponderance of large particles as you continue to remove the fine particles. You'll find that this occurs somewhere between 65-80% larger particles in most soil applications.

I understand that every ingredient suggested for soils isn't always available to everyone, and not everyone will be motivated enough to search them out, but that doesn't change the science behind why soils with predominantly fine ingredients cannot offer the potential offered by soils with better aeration and less water retention - particularly water retained as perched water.

I also understand that presently, few gardeners mix their own soils, but I see that changing quickly as the word spreads through the gardening community. Once growers understand how much difference it makes when you make the effort to grow in soils you don't have to fight, a fair % of them are more than willing to expend the extra effort it takes to provide their plants with greater opportunity to reach their potential, and save some $ along the way. I've yet to have anyone that has tried soils that have far superior drainage and aeration to most bagged mixes based on peat and composted materials, say they prefer the more water-retentive soils and return to them. What I'm used to seeing is growers so excited over their new found success they can't wait to share it with others.

Take good care.


Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Thank you, Al for your explanation.

We are quite an active group on the Mid Atlantic Forum--with many accomplished gardeners.
I only know a couple that are starting to "play" around mixing their own soil.
Your name is familiar to most of us.

Perhaps you could hop on (I'm inviting you!) over and c/p your above dissertation on drainage?
We always have one thread going where people can talk about anything--so nothing is off topic.

If you like--I will even start a new Thread just for you. It would be most appropriate this time of year.

What do you say? Thanks, Gita

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I'm not sure what you would like me to say, but I'd be happy to join you. I have a dear friend in Virginia Beach that is using the gritty mix & the 5:1:1 mix with lots of success, I'm sure she would be happy to contribute as well.

Sorry to go OT on your thread ToD. I'll continue watching it though - and help where I can. Thanks for your patience.


Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)


Please come and join us on the Mid Atlantic.
I have started a new Thread just for you--as I mentioned.
We have an amazingly friendly, generous and knowledgeable bunch of people here.
Feel free to look at some of the other Threads.

Here is YOUR new Thread. Thank you in advance for dropping in when you have time.
It will be much appreciated by many of us.


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