Why Is Graptoveria Opalina Growing Leggy And How To Fix It

The chunky, pastel-coloured leaves in a rosette arrangement make Graptoveria Opalina a popular plant. Not only is it beautiful but also quite easy to grow, if you can keep the mealybugs out and provide enough sun.

Some, however, have an issue with this plant growing leggy / stretchy / tall, where the leaves are bigger and spaced out rather than close together and compact. The whole appearance is distorted. But why does this happen?

Graptoveria Opalina can grow leggy or tall if it is placed in a shaded spot with no or little sun. For Opalina to grow compact and colourful, the plant will need at least 5-6 hours of direct sun exposure every day. Ideally, Opalina should be grown outdoors as it is likely to eventually die inside.

Let’s have a closer look at how to best care for this beautiful succulent and how to fix leggy Opalinas.

Description

Graptoveria Opalina is medium growing hybrid to about 15cms in diameter, though larger variety called ‘Big Opalina’ is also available. The Big Opalina can grow bigger, and the leaves are much more chunky than the regular Opalina.

The water-filled leaves have a dusty coating of farina and can range in colour from whitish blue to pinky or light purple. The brighter colours usually appear in the cooler months or when the plant is stressed.

Opalina has a clumping habit with new offsets growing at the base of the mother rosette.

Flowers appear in spring/summer on a tall stalk and are orange-yellow.

Position & Care

As mentioned above, it is important that Opalina is grown in a sunny position as it will most definitely grow leggy and stretch towards the light, even if grown on a sunny windowsill. Unfortunately, a windowsill or most spots indoors, unless it’s a sun-room or a whole glass wall, will not provide enough sun exposure. We understand that it may be necessary to bring Opalina indoors during periods of frost & snow, but for most of the year, it should be growing outside. Opalina will deal with temperatures to about 1C (33.8F). It will however freeze when temperature drops below freezing point.

This is how Graptoveria Opalina should look- compact with a little bit of colour to the leaves. 

If your Opalina is already over-stretched and leggy, the best course of action, in our opinion, is to cut the top off and re-plant as a cutting and, most importantly, move outdoors in more sun. If you choose to behead, make sure a few leaves are left at the bottom end and that the top rosette bit is big enough. After the top is cut off, it needs to dry for a day in a shaded spot. Then it can be planted in a succulent potting mix and gradually introduced to sun (first couple of weeks only weak morning sun, then add a a few more hours). In the growing season, roots should appear within three weeks. Do not behead in the winter when the plant is dormant. Also, we recommend watering the cuttings once the potting mix is dry. Do not discard of the bottom bit as new pups will appear around the wound. 

During the hottest days of the summer sun can, however, burn the foliage (especially the hot afternoon sun) when temperatures start climbing over 37C (98F). To prevent burns, the Opalina will either need to be moved into a position that will have shade in the afternoon or get a 30% shade cloth cover over. This especially applies to plants in pots as pots can heat up and pretty much cook the roots. Plants in the ground tend to grow better and be more resilient, possibly because the roots can stay relatively cool.

Watering should be done when the potting mix has dried out. Opalina might be susceptible to fungal disease if it exposed to weeks of rain and high humidity, though normal rain patterns should not harm it. Potting mix plays a big role and so if you live in a climate with higher rainfall, make sure your Opalina is planted in a light, breathable and well-draining mix.

Propagation

There are three ways you can propagate Graptoveria Opalina. First and the easiest way is by cuttings. This can be either done by beheading the main rosette or waiting for pups to appear and cutting them off when they are big enough to fend on their own. The whole point of beheading the Opalina is to get more heads growing out of the wound, and this should happen in a month or two. This can be done the same way as described above in ‘Position & Care’ where this method is used to fix leggy growth.

New offsets appear after about a month of 'beheading'

New growth approximately 2 months after 'beheading'

Waiting for the pups is the safest bet. Opalina can take over a year to produce pups, but once it is fairly mature, it should be generous and pop out at least five offsets per year. These offsets need to big enough and have a stalk before they can be cut off from the mother plant. Once cut off they will need to be dried and then planted in succulent potting mix.

The second way to propagate Graptoveria Opalina is by leaf. This is one of the many succulents that will multiply simply by pulling a single leaf off, though it has to be done the right way. A new plant will only emerge if the leaf is pulled off the right way and is completely intact. Broken leaves are useless and will not produce anything.

Leaves should be pulled off from the bottom as they are likely to come off intact & un-broken.

The crossed out leaf is broken and will not produce new plants.

This is how the leaf should look like- intact with no bits left on the stalk.

A leaf baby has emerged after a month. 

The best way is to take the plant out of the pot and start pulling leaves at the bottom. The first leaf of the mark may break, but then it should be quite easy to pull others off clean. After that, the leaves will need to be left out of the sun, but in a bright, dry spot (windowsill, on the verandah, etc.). It’s now a waiting game. When new growth starts emerging and roots form, the leave can be placed in a pot of potting mix. We usually just sit it on top and let the plant do its thing. The leaf will eventually dry off, and the new plant will grow on its own.

A third way is to propagate from seed, though this is very unreliable and even if seeds do germinate it will take a long time for the plants to grow to a decent size specimen. Seeds are also hard to obtain, but if you are patient, you can certainly give this a go. To propagate from seed, sprinkle seeds in a tray of succulent potting mix (the seeds will be tiny), water and put plastic wrap over until the seeds germinate. Do not let the potting mix dry out until the plants are a couple of cms in size. Also only propagate in the growing season. Mid-late spring is best.

Pests

Unfortunately, Graptoveria Opalina is a Mealybug magnet, and it can be quite difficult to keep these pests off. Regular checks will need to be done to detect mealies early, especially after rain as they thrive when humid. If only one or two are detected, they can be squashed with a toothpick. In the case of infestation, 70% isopropyl alcohol solution should kill mealy bugs. Infected plants should also be isolated from other plants as Mealy Bugs can spread quite fast, and they may prove hard to eradicate.

Aphids also like Opalinas, but they are a bit easier to manage. If you spot any Aphids, spray with Pyrethrum based insecticides. 

Slugs, Snails, Caterpillars as well as Grasshoppers can attack these succulents too.

It is not unusual for bigger animals to eat plants like Opalina, and if you have Possums or Deer, they could pretty much raze everything to the ground. We have put our Opalinas in gardens that are close to the house, but also fairly far away from trees as possums tend not to go too far from the safety of a tree. For animals like deer, we believe Deer deterrent sprays are available.

Toxicity

Graptoveria Opalina is listed as non-toxic to humans, cats, dogs and other pets. However, we do not recommend eating them.

Where Can I Get Them

Graptoveria Opaline may not be readily available in garden centres, but specialist succulent nurseries tend to stock them. If you can't find them in brick and mortar shops, online nurseries, Amazon or eBay usually have them.

Our small nursery also sells Opalinas here.

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