Fearing that your succulent is nearing 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? And better yet, how to revive a dying succulent plant?
If you think you have “bad luck” with growing healthy succulents, the solution may be simple.
Succulents are pretty low maintenance. That’s why more and more people are inclined to take care of them.
Related post: How To Care For Succulents: A Beginner’s Guide
However, they are also just living things, and no matter how easy it is to take care of them, they won’t survive in sub-par conditions for too long.
Taking care of 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.
Table of Contents
- 1 Common Signs To Look For in a Dying Succulent
- 2 7 Reasons Why Your Succulents are Dying & How to Revive Them
- 2.1 1. Over-Watering: You Are Giving your Succulents Way Too Much Water Than Necessary
- 2.2 2. Under-Watering: Your Succulents Don’t Get Enough Water
- 2.3 3. Your Succulent is Planted on the Wrong Soil
- 2.4 4. They Don’t Get Enough (or Maybe Too Much) Warmth, Sun, or Light
- 2.5 5. Your Succulents are Compacted and Crammed Together in a Small Pot
- 2.6 6. Succulent is Planted In Pot That has Poor or No-Drainage
- 2.7 7. Insects and Pests
- 3 Why Are Leaves Falling Off My Succulents?
- 4 References
Common Signs To Look For in a Dying Succulent
How do you know that your plant is indeed dying and not just having a rough patch?
Below are the most common indications of a sick and dying succulent plant.
dry or 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 to 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 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 entirely black, unfortunately, there might not be anything else you can do.
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.
7 Reasons Why Your Succulents are Dying & How to Revive Them
1. Over-Watering: You Are Giving your Succulents Way Too Much Water Than Necessary
Put, don’t overwater your succulents – they will die.
Believe it or not, over-watering is one of the most most common reasons for dying succulents.
The thing about succulents is that they don’t need much water to survive. The overwatered succulent will get rot from the bottom. Slowly it will spread over, and finally, it will die.
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 the mistake of over-watering my Echeveria Elegans Blue. The leaves turned 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 had already made its way up the plant.
But you might be 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 stems and leaves are puff, translucent and mushy, there is too much water or moisture in their water storage cells. Yellowing leaves are 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 succulents 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 dipped in alcohol. This will leave you a treated plant.
Before replanting the treated plant, you must follow these steps first.
If your succulent is overwatered, let it dry out first for 3-5 days and place it in an area with good air circulation and bright light.
Since you’re dealing with an over-watered plant, they need to heal in an area with enough light and air circulation to expel any excess moisture.
2. Under-Watering: Your Succulents Don’t Get Enough Water
Given the first reason above, you’re now scared to over-water your succulents, 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 of frequent watering, especially the outdoor ones during hotter days.
However, it still depends on the type of succulent that you have. Certain succulent varieties need more frequent watering than 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 pretty easy to revive an under-watered one. Please 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 your plant’s roots and then submerge JUST THE ROOT in water for 24-72 hrs.
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.
Please take note of the habitat that they’re naturally in and their dormancy period to know their optimal watering needs.
3. Your Succulent is Planted on the Wrong Soil
This reason is closely related to over-watering your succulents. When your succulent is planted on the wrong soil, the water that stays in it 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 succulents 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 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, your succulent gets water from the air moisture around them so watering them directly isn’t necessary.
Cactus mix is an excellent 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 is good since these soils drain well.
4. 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 significant 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 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 outdoor ones. It is best to place them in areas near the window to 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.
I’ve listed a few below to give you an idea of some indoor and outdoor succulents and their light needs.
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
- String of bananas plant or Curio radicans
- 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 to sunlight.
Like their watering needs, you should also research the optimal lighting condition for your succulent. Too much or too little of anything can’t be good.
5. Your Succulents are Compacted and Crammed Together in a Small Pot
It can be pretty 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.
Their growth will be stunted if your succulents don’t have enough root zone and are compacted together.
Related post: How Fast do Succulents and Cactus Plants Grow?
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 calls for small pots, transplant your other succulents among a couple of small pots 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.
6. Succulent is Planted In Pot That has Poor or No-Drainage
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 stay in the pot; too much water plus the organic matter from the soil is the perfect recipe for disaster.
I know you can be pretty 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 you’re giving them.
Instead, the water will stay at the bottom of the bottom or just 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 them.
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 porous.
Water and air pass through the pot with ease. Since water dries faster in terracottas, you might need to regularly water your succulents, especially in warmer temperatures.
It would be best if you also chose pots that are proportional to your succulent’s size. An ideal estimate is about 5-10% larger than the surface size of your plant.
7. Insects and Pests
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 seeing 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 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 constantly 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 infected?
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 or 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.
Enough water pressure can keep them away from the aphids, plus the usual spritz of soapy water. Diluted neem oil or soapy water with vegetable oil is an excellent 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 least, I love to use cinnamon powder whenever I deal with fungus gnats. It’s an all-natural anti-fungal remedy for your gnat problem. I just spread the cinnamon over my potting mix then I’m ready to go.
Why Are Leaves Falling Off My Succulents?
You succulents don’t need to have all these signs at the same time to know that they’re dying. Most of the time, it 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, dying and drying out leaves is sometimes expected in a succulent’s life cycle.
It means that if you ever notice Leaves Falling Off your Succulents, 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.
- Hart, C. (2017). Growing Succulents: Beyond the Basics. Illinois Extension, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
- Parakul, N. (2020). 6 Tips for Caring for Succulents. University of California – Davis, UCDavis Magazine Aggie Life, Agriculture.
- Pokorny, K. (2020). Carefree succulents continue to grow in popularity. Oregon State University Extension Service Newsroom.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She continued her gardening education by working on organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to share gardening tips and tactics. She’s happy to talk about succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs – or just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden.