Fearing that your succulent is nearing on its last leg? Rather than over or under-watering There can be one or more reasons for Leaves Falling Off or turning soft of your Succulents.
So you might ask, why are my succulents dying? If you think you have “bad luck” with Growing healthy succulents, the solution may be simple. Here are six most common reasons your succulents keep dying and how exactly can you revive a dying succulent plant?
Succulents are pretty low maintenance that’s why more and more people are inclined to take care of them.
However, they are also just living things and no matter how easy it is to take care of them, they won’t survive in subpar conditions for too long.
Taking care for your beloved plants is like taking care of a baby. As a parent, you should be mindful of some visible signs of distress that your baby exhibits.
When something is not right, it shows on their overall appearance, especially the leaves turning soft or falling off.
Before I start on the reasons, how do you know that your plant is indeed dying and not just having a rough patch? Look out for these visible signs:
Drying up or dried up, brown leaves on the upper parts of your plant.
Most of the time, it means that your plant is a little dehydrated. However, be mindful that sometimes plants all go through this natural stage of drying up so they can produce new leaves.
succulent leaves turning soft
This might indicate unseen rot that is spreading to your succulent’s healthy tissue. If you know that your succulent’s natural texture is not that soft, then this might be a sign that they’re in distress.
Drooping or sagging leaves
The internal moisture of your plant can be really low than normal. Tiny wrinkles may appear which means that your plant’s internal tissue volume is reducing.
You have to be really alarmed when you spot black leaves or black spots in your succulents. It can only mean that they are starting to rot from their roots and up to the leaves. If the plant is completely black, there might be no more hope for them to live.
Succulents Are Turning Yellow
Notice some yellowing leaves on your succulent? Better lay off the water for a few days if you don’t want them to rot. Check the soil too.
Same as the black leaves, this means that the rot is starting to work its way up to your plant. Don’t let it get to the entire succulent completely!
Translucent and soft leaves are another sign that your plant can be over-watered.
Why Are Leaves Falling Off My Succulents?
You succulent doesn’t need to have all these signs at the same time to know that they’re dying. Most of the time, it really depends on the root cause of their declining state.
For instance, black leaves appear when your plant is over-watered. On the other hand, brown or yellow leaves can be a sign that your plant needs water.
In addition to this, dying and drying out leaves is sometimes normal in a succulent’s life cycle. It means that if you ever notice one day that their leaves are drying out, don’t go to panic mode right away.
Remember that as your plant grows, sometimes it’s perfectly natural for them to shed dried leaves so they can form new, healthy ones. Most of the time, these dried leaves can be found at the bottom of your plant.
6 Reasons Your Succulents are Dying and How to revive them
Over-watering: You are giving your succulents way too much water than necessary
Believe it or not, over-watering is one of the most common causes of succulent deaths.
The thing about succulents is that they don’t really need much water to survive. This is why some beginners choose succulents as their first plant, there’s no need to fuss too much about watering them.
But since you’re just starting, you might feel the need to water them incessantly, not knowing that giving too much can be more detrimental for your succulent.
I had once made a mistake of over-watering my Echeveria Elegans Blue. The leaves turned really soft and mushy and I didn’t pay it no mind. I only made a move when it started turning black.
Unfortunately, it was too late to revive it since the rot has already made its way up the plant.
But you might wondering How do you know if you over-watered your succulent? well! It’s easy to spot an over-watered plant.
First, if you notice that your succulent’s stems and leaves are puff, translucent and mushy, there are too much water or moisture in their water storage cells. Yellowing leaves is a sign of an over-watered succulent too.
How do you save an Over-watered succulent?
Well, prevention is always the best solution. Before you water your succulent again, make sure that the soil is completely dry.
If not, then it means that you can skip watering and wait for a few days since your plant doesn’t need it yet.
If ever you notice some signs that your plant is over-watered, specifically black rotting spots. Cut off the rotting stem, leaves, or tissue using a sharp knife that is dipped in alcohol. This will leave you a treated plant.
Before replanting the treated plant, you must follow these steps first.
Let it dry out first for 3-5 days in an area where there is a good air circulation and bright light.
Since you’re dealing with an over-watered plant, it is completely necessary for them to heal in an area where there is enough light and air circulation to expel any excess moisture.
Let the treated plant to heal during these days. Once your succulent is healed, you can now propagate or transplant them in another soil. This new plant is now rot-free.
Under-watering: You succulents don’t get enough water
Given the first reason above, you’re now scared to over-water your succulent so you result in restricting their water intake.
But why are my plants now dry and crispy, you might ask?
It’s simply because they’re now dehydrated or under-watered.
Growing succulents need a bit frequent of watering especially the outdoor ones during hotter days.
However, it still depends on the type of succulent that you have. There are certain succulent varieties that need more frequent watering compared to others so be sure to check the specific watering requirement of your succulent first.
If your succulent is under-watered, they start to look droopy, dry, soft, and flat. Their leaves deflate because they have used up the water and moisture stored inside of them.
how to revive a under-watered succulent plant?
Compared to over-watered succulents, it’s fairly easy to revive an under-watered one. Give them a good soak for a few minutes.
You can also water them more frequently to bring back the plumpness of the leaves.
You can also try water therapy for extreme cases of under-watering. Completely remove the soil from the roots of your plant and then submerge JUST THE ROOT in water for 24-72hrs. The organic matter from the soil can cause the plant to rot so make sure that the root has no bits of soil in it when you start the water therapy.
When you're sure that they are back to full health, you can resume the recommended watering frequency for your plant.
Take note of the habitat that they're naturally in as well as their dormancy period to know their optimal watering needs.
You succulent is planted on the wrong soil
This reason is closely related to over-watering your succulent. When your succulent is planted on the wrong soil, water stays in it that will eventually lead to rot.
Usually, rich soil retains water, now combine it with too much water then your plant will never survive for sure.
use Well draining soil for succulent container gardens
If you’ve noticed that the soil where you planted your succulent in stays moist for too long, then you have to replant them in a new pot and soil. Succulents can live in any soil as long as it is a well-draining soil.
The best soil for your plants should retain just enough water for your succulents to absorb but at the same time, dries out the water instantly so it won’t rot the roots.
In addition to this, your succulent gets water from the air moisture around them so watering them directly isn’t necessary.
Cactus mix is a great choice for your succulents and they are always available at some stores if you don’t want to make a mix of your own.
Generally, soil with large particles measuring about 1/4″ or 6mm are good since these soils drain really well.
They don’t get enough (or maybe too much) warmth, sun, or light
Most succulents love heat, light, and warmth. If they don’t get the light that they need, your succulent may start to look spindly.
Once you have noticed that your plant is straining and stretching towards any light source plus there’s considerably wider space between the leaves, it’s a big indication that they need some sun-lovin’. If they don’t get enough light, your succulent will be a lot weaker.
Alternatively, your succulents can suffer from sunburn too! You might find splotches of brown and white in addition to their wilting appearance.
This might lead you to another question.....
how much light do succulents need?
It really depends whether you have an outdoor or an outdoor succulent. You must also know whether your plant prefers full sun, shade, or lower light.
Generally speaking, succulents thrive in hot and arid areas. However, it’s safe not to assume that ALL succulents can live in this case. Remember to check the Hardiness Zone Map for this.
Outdoor succulents which usually have bright colors are happy with four to six hours of bright sunlight. Be wary of too much intense and direct heat since they can end up having sunburn and permanent scarring.
On the other hand, indoor succulents need light too although not as much as the outdoor ones. It is best to place them in areas near the window where they can absorb light the entire day.
If you have a newly transplanted or propagated plant, as well as a baby succulent, do not put them under direct sunlight since they are still a bit weak and underdeveloped. It is best to wait for them to mature.
What happens if they don’t get enough light?
As I’ve mentioned above, succulents tend to elongate and chase for a light source when they don’t get enough light that they need. They start to turn weak and leggy while they stretch out.
To give you an idea of some indoor and outdoor succulents and their light needs, I’ve listed a few below.
Full Sun Outdoor Succulents
- Hens and chicks
- Paddle plant or Kalanchoe luciae
- Ghost plant or Graptopetalum paraguayense
- Blue chalkstick or Senecio serpens
Shade Outdoor Succulents
- Fox tail agave or Agave attentuata
- Night blooming cereus or Epiphyllum
- String of pearls or Curio rowleyanus
- Jade plant or Crassula ovata
- Fairy crassula or Crassula multicava
- Mistletoe cactus or Rhipsalis
Direct Sun (Indoor Succulents)
- Pincushion cactus or Mammillaria
- Spider cactus or Gymnocalycium denudatum)
- Burro’s tail or Sedum morganianum
- Ponytail palm or Beaucarnea recurvata
- Bunny ears cactus or Opuntia microdasys
- Tiger jaws Faucaria tigrina
Filtered Sun/ Indirect Sun (Indoor Succulents)
- Zebra plant or Haworthia attenuata
- Christmas cactus or Schlumbergera buckleyi
- Bear Paws or Cotyledon Tomentosa
- Cylindrical Snake Plant or Sansevieria cylindrica
- Snake Plant or Sansevieria trifasciata
- Gollum Jade or Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’
Place your plant in a location where there is more sun exposure. Don’t position them on areas where they are too much covered, especially the cooling vents when your succulent is indoors. Outdoor succulents don’t have much problem with this.
If moving from indoors to outdoors, slowly let your plant adjust. Succulents don't like sudden and drastic changes; they may suffer from sun damage if you don't let them acclimate first.
You can also use a grow light for your indoor succulents if it's kind of impossible to subject them in sunlight.
Like their watering needs, you should also research about the optimal lighting condition for your succulent. Too much or too little of anything can’t be good.
Your succulents are compacted and crammed together in a small pot
It can be quite pleasing to the eyes when you see bundled succulents together in a small pot. However, this situation can’t be ideal for them since they need an adequate root zone.
There are even some varieties of succulents that can fill the pot with their thick roots.
If your succulents don’t have enough root zone and are compacted together, their growth will be stunted.
In fact, they might not even grow at all! These babies don’t like to be smothered at all and if you let them in this arrangement for too long, your plants will die on you.
Let your succulents breathe and naturally fill out. Don’t let them cram together in a small pot.
If your aesthetic is calling for small pots, just transplant your other succulents among a couple of small pot just so they aren’t stuffed together.
Allow your succulents to have at least two to three inches of space between them. This will ensure that they can grow to their full potential.
Your primary concern about this should be on your succulents’ roots.
The pot or container where your succulent is planted has a poor drainage system or is too deep
Most succulent owners try to avoid rot. Why? Because most of the time when your plant begins to rot, there's no going back.
Even if you have a perfect watering schedule, it won't matter much if they are planted in pots with a poor drainage system.
The water will just stay in the pot; too much water plus the organic matter from the soil is the perfect recipe for a disaster.
I know you can be quite inclined to buy those decorative pots and containers for your plants but you shouldn’t just rely on the pot’s appearance.
On the other hand, if your pot is too deep, the roots of your succulent won’t have enough time to absorb the water that you’re giving them.
Instead, the water will just stay at the bottom of the bottom or just completely drain out.
Choosing the Right Pot for your Succulents
Choose pots with better drainage to prevent your plants from rotting. If ever you want to put them in unusual vessels, make sure that you make enough holes on it.
I always say that terracotta clay pots are the best pots for my succulents. Terracotta pots are unglazed, they are kind of heavy too.
However, they have the best insulation compared to the other pots that I've had because they are very permeable.
Water and air pass through the pot with ease. Since water dries quite faster in terracottas, you might need to water your succulent more regularly especially in warmer temperatures.
You should also choose pots that are proportional to your succulent’s size. An ideal estimate is about 5-10% larger than the surface size of your plant.
Insects and pests loved your succulents too much
Unfortunately, succulents can be pest-magnets. If you see some raised spots and white cottony coverings all over your succulent, it can only mean that there are pesky mealy bugs around.
There are also scales, another type of insect that loves to feast on the sap of your succulents. One sign that there could be scales around is if you see small and brown bumps on the leaves. Scales can make your succulents more vulnerable to diseases.
Plant lice, greenflies, or aphids love to suck on the flowers and leaves of a plant. While they do, they leave some kinds of honeydew on the plant. This substance can promote the development of black sooty mold.
There are also spider mites. These little red guys also love to get all the sweet sap from your succulents. It will then turn the plant lighter and lighter until it ends up really silvery.
No doubt that they will eventually destroy your babies.
Finally, the fungus gnats which are like mosquitos that are in love with moisture.
They will treat your plant as a breeding ground if your succulents are always moist.
How to get rid of COMMON PESTS on succulents
Of course, pest infestations can be prevented by having good plant hygiene. Only use clean water when watering your plants and also make sure to remove the rotting and dead leaves. Do not let stagnant water all over your plant.
But what if your plant is already infested?
For mealybugs, you need to clean the soil and rinse these bugs away. Spritz soapy water or rubbing alcohol on the leaves then let the plant dry out for a couple of days. To be sure, you can also re-pot your plant.
If your succulent is infested with scales, manually remove them then continue rubbing diluted alcohol of soap water on the area using a cotton swab.
If the infestation is not that severe, you can also use neem oil. Diluting a tablespoon of neem oil in eight cups of water can do the trick. Just remember to use it at night to avoid burning your plant.
For the aphids, enough water pressure can keep them away plus the usual spritz of soapy water. Diluted neem oil or soapy water with vegetable oil is a great remedy too!
Spider mites can be removed the same way as the mealy bugs. As an additional technique, you can directly spritz rubbing alcohol on the plant.
Last but not the least, I personally love to use cinnamon powder whenever I deal with fungus gnats. It’s an all-natural anti-fungal remedy for your gnats problem. I just spread the cinnamon over my potting mix then I’m ready to go.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.