We all want healthy plants. Plants with thick stems and bushy green foliage. Big plants, rife with ready-to-harvest produce. But here’s the thing – we don’t want them to be big like a lanky teenager. We want them to be big like an NBA all-star. If your plants grow upwards but never outwards, this newsletter is for you. We’re here to talk about leggy growth, what causes it and how you can turn it around for a bushier, more bountiful harvest. 

First up, what even is plant stretching? 

Stretching is a gardening term used to describe sudden and undesirable upward plant growth. Stretching can be genetic, but more often than not is caused by environmental factors, namely, insufficient light. 

At best, a stretched plant will become spindly, wobbly and frail with limited fruit production. At worst, stretching may damage a plant so much that no fruit is produced. 

We already mentioned that plant stretching is caused by environmental stressors, but let’s dig a little deeper.

What it comes down to is evolution (i.e. your plants are really, really clever). 

They don’t have eyes, but your plants can still perceive the light around them. 

What’s more, plants can perceive both the direction and distance of light because, in nature, your plants would have to compete for this resource (the sun). If a neighbouring plant grows so big that light is blocked, it can quickly ‘stretch’ upwards to break through its canopy. 

This is why if you place a plant in a dark room and add an artificial light source to its left, it will stretch to the left. Likewise, If you put that same light above the plant, it will grow upwards. 

If you place a light source too high above your plant, it will stretch to reach it. When it’s doing this, it’s focused only on survival; if it can’t access light and photosynthesise, it will die. 

That means your plant stops focusing on pest and disease resistance. It stops focusing on thick, lush foliage. It stops focusing on fruit and flower production. 

And you end up with feeble-looking plants that bend and snap if you look at them the wrong way. 

So, what do you do to fix it? 

Well, you can probably guess what we’re going to say next. You need to increase the amount of light your plants receive. 

If you’re growing indoors, this means moving your light source closer to your plant’s canopy. 

Unfortunately, outdoor growers can’t move the sun, so you’ll need a plan B. 

There are a few options here: 

If another plant is blocking the sun from the plants below, you could prune that plant back, opening up the canopy and letting more light through. 

If your plant is situated out of the sun, you’ll need to move it. This could be as simple as moving a pot to a new location or as complicated as transplanting a crop with a fully developed root system. 

If this is you, remember to mitigate transplant shock by rehoming your plant on a temperate day, watering it well, and applying a high-quality nutrient like Ag-Grow Grow.

We hope this newsletter has helped you understand what causes your plants to stretch and how to reverse any damage caused. Thanks again for tuning into our newsletter, and until next time, happy growing!