How To Save An Overwatered Succulent

If you’ve ever owned a succulent plant, you know how low-maintenance they are.

However, overwatering is one of the most common causes that kills the toughest of succulents.

When succulents are overwatered, their roots become waterlogged and they can no longer absorb nutrients from the soil.

As a result, the succulent rots and dies. If you suspect your succulent is overwatered, there are several ways to tell.

The leaves will be wilted, the stem will be soft and mushy, and the roots will turn black and slimy.

In this article, we’ll look at the causes of an overwatered succulent, how to spot an overwatered or rotting succulent, and how to save and avoid overwatering in the first place.

What Does an Overwatered Succulent Look Like?

An overwatered succulent will feel soggy, soft, squishy, and have mushy leaves.

You’ll start noticing the succulent stem and the succulent leaves becoming a little translucent or lighter as compared to a healthy succulent plant.

This happens because the excess of water in the succulent leaves bursts the walls of water storage cells and runs through the whole leaf.

This will occur in particular in the plant’s upper leaves.

You might also notice that the leaves start dropping with the slightest touch.

This happens because the excess of water in the succulent leaves bursts the walls of water storage cells and runs through the whole leaf.

As time goes by, the plant starts to rot, root rot sets in, and you start to notice fallen leaves.

If your succulent has any of these symptoms, then it’s safe to say you have an overwatered succulent plant.

Overwatered Aloe Vera Plant
Overwatered Aloe Vera Plant With Yellowing Leaves

Is My Overwatered Succulent Rotting?

When a succulent rots, it develops a soft and mushy texture.

The leaves and stems will be covered in black spots, and the entire plant will most likely smell bad.

How To Save An Overwatered Succulent | UrbanOrganicYield.com
Overwatered Lithop Succulent Plants

The center of the succulent will be hollow if it is rotting from the inside out.

So, it’s safe to say that rotting is the most obvious sign of an overwatered succulent.

In an overwatered plant, you will notice three parts of your succulent that will begin to rot.

  1. Leaves Falling Or Yellowing Leaves
  2. Stem Rotting
  3. Root Rot

Falling Or Yellowing Leaves

Infection and rotting occur when you notice succulent leaves falling or the leaves turn yellow.

This is because the succulent is not getting the nutrients it needs from the soil because the succulent leaves have absorbed too much moisture and have become infected.

Excess water can also cause a fungal infection, which causes the leaves to rot and fall off the succulents.

Overwatered Succulent with wilting leaves
Brown and Yellowing Succulent Leaves

Stem Rotting

Succulent stem rot is caused by fungi or bacteria that thrive in moist environments.

These infections can quickly kill succulent plants if left unattended.

Some examples of fungus and bacteria that cause rot in succulents are Rhizoctonia, Fusarium, Pythium fungus, and Erwinia carotovora bacteria.

The rot will typically begin at the base of the stem and progress upward, eventually killing the entire plant.

It is necessary to remove the succulent stem from the pot in order to observe where the rot has progressed.

If the succulent stem is rotting from the inside out, black or brown spots will appear on the outside of the succulent stem.

Additionally, the color of the stem will slowly change to a yellowish black, which is very noticeable when compared to a healthy plant.

Root Rot

Root rot is by far the most severe type of rotting that can occur in any type of succulents other plants.

Root rot has the potential to kill the entire plant because the rot essentially prevents the plant from absorbing nutrients and water.

As a result, the plant becomes shriveled and eventually dies.

Root rot can be difficult to detect and diagnose because the lack of nutrients and water will cause the plant to shrivel up, which many mistakenly think is due to underwatering.

However, the opposite is true: overwatering succulents is the cause of the root rot.

Similar to stem rot, the causes of the rotting roots are due to fungus and bacteria that are present in oversaturated soil.

The only way to find out if the roots are rotting is to lift the plant and root ball out of the succulent planter.

Be gentle and make sure you have a tray to collect the excess soil.

Root Rot in Overwatered Succulent
Check for Root Rot

What are the Causes of an Overwatered Succulent?

Several factors can cause succulents to be overwatered, including poor water drainage, the use of wrong potting soil, and watering too many times during the week.

Some other causes of overwatering are when the pot is too small for the plant the roots are unable to receive adequate space to absorb nutrients and water.

Another possibility is that the soil is not well-draining and excess soil moisture is not allowed to drain properly from the pot.

Lastly, a simple reason for overwatered succulents is that the plant is in a pot with no drainage hole.

In this instance, excess water has nowhere to go but settle at the bottom of the planter.

When plants are overwatered, the roots become waterlogged and are unable to absorb enough nutrients and oxygen.

Other symptoms include falling and yellowing leaves and in severe cases, stem and root rot.

How To Save An Overwatered Succulent

To save an overwatered succulent, you first need to diagnose what the cause is.

Don’t be alarmed if you have an overwatered plant – it isn’t a dead succulent yet.

Even if the succulent has begun to decay and root rot has set in, you can still save it.

To determine whether your succulent is overwatered or not, you must first determine the source of the overwatering.

This may require you to dig up your plant to see if the stem and roots are rotting.

Succulents are very hardy plants, so don’t be afraid to pull them out of their pots.

Remember to pull your plant out gently.

If you still don’t see any signs of overwatering, such as a change in leaf color or rotting or falling leaves, but you’re certain it’s overwatered, remove it from the container for a day or two to see if that solves the problem.

If, on the other hand, your succulent plants appear sick and you notice squishy and soft-to-the-touch leaves, you can save them by using the methods listed below.

Fixing an Overwatered Succulent That Has Falling Or Yellowing Leaves

To fix an overwatered succulent that has falling or yellowing leaves you must first remove the infected leaves immediately.

You’ll also need to check to see if the stem or root is infected or not before proceeding.

If the rot is severe and your succulent is losing leaves, remove the unhealthy ones and allow the plant to dry out until the calluses are formed on the stems and leaves.

They should begin to grow roots in about a week or so. 

How To Fix an Overwatered Succulent That Has Stem Rot

To fix an overwatered succulent that has stem rot, determine if the rot is mild or severe. If the stem rot is not severe, you can dig the plant up and remove it from the soil.

You might notice that the stem is a little squishy and discolored.

Typically, removing the infected parts will suffice.

If the succulent stem rot is severe enough that it is rotting the succulent stem from the inside or core, you will need to cut away the completely rotten areas completely.

You’ll need to leave it for a few days (or more) to allow the cut callus to heal.

Plant the succulent in a pot with fresh succulent soil or cactus mix once it’s finished. You can also add a small amount of rooting hormone to help stimulate root growth.

Within a few weeks, you’ll see new growth of small, hard leaves that show that the succulent is getting better.

How To Fix Root Rot In An Overwatered Succulent

Once you have removed your succulent plant from the container, the first thing that you need to do is to shake the excess soil from the roots.

Discard the soil as it may be infected with fungi. Also, wash the container thoroughly or get yourself a new pot.

Afterward, rinse the roots carefully and shake off any excess water.

Examine the roots, if root rot in your succulent plant is severe and has already damaged most parts of the roots.

Next, carefully cut off any rotted roots – they’ll be brown or black in color.

Now place your succulent plant on a screen or a strainer for about two days to let the roots dry completely. 

Meanwhile, prepare the container for your succulent with fresh soil (or succulent mix).

In order to ensure more safety, you can also treat it with a copper fungicide as well.

How to Prevent Overwatering Your Succulent?

Overwatering a succulent is a common mistake made by those who are new to growing succulents, but there are a few simple ways to keep succulents from becoming overwatered. 

The best way to avoid overwatering is to learn about your succulent’s specific needs and water accordingly.

There are so many types of succulents that some need special care over others.

However, generally speaking, all succulents prefer to be watered when the soil feels dry to the touch.

In addition, ensure that the pot has adequate drainage, so make sure the soil is well-draining and that your pot has a drainage hole. 

Read below for more general tips on how to prevent overwatered succulents.

Water Succulent Plants on a Schedule

Take a few precautionary measures to avoid overwatering the succulent plants.

This means that the best way to water your succulents wisely is to make a schedule to avoid frequent watering and stick to it.

Consider it a red flag if, after repotting, you still see dead leaves, particularly on the plant’s upper leaves. This time, the culprit could be too much water.

Keep in mind that your watering schedule will be affected by the climate in your area.

Furthermore, your schedule should change with the seasons, as you will need to water your plant more frequently in the summer than in the winter. 

Repotting Overwatered Succulent
Repotting Your Succulent Plant

Avoid Giving Your Succulent Too Much Water

The amount of water you give your succulent matters.

Keep in mind that most succulents can survive without water for a few days to weeks.

In areas with higher humidity, the plants will require less water, and in contrast, in drier environments, you’ll add more water.

The best way to determine whether a plant requires water or not is to inspect the soil before watering.

Aside from that, the soil you use for replanting can also cause issues.

We recommend cutting back on watering succulents.

If you notice diseases that have symptoms like rotting, black spots, or leaves becoming translucent, soggy, mushy, or turning yellow, these problems will be exacerbated by more water.

Use Fresh Well-Draining Soil

One way to prevent overwatering your succulent is to use well-draining succulent soil.

By using well-draining soil, you can make sure that your succulent gets the water it needs without having to worry about your soil getting waterlogged.

Waterlogged, and even just wet, soil creates a good environment for bacteria and fungus to grow and it attracts succulent pests that infest the plant.

Fungus and bacteria will feed on the stem and roots of the plant causing rot.

If you don’t have well-draining soil, consider replacing your soil with a succulent mix or mixing in some cactus mix or coarse sand to create a new succulent soil mix.

A good DIY mixture for your succulent plants is one that is:

  • One-part soil amendment such as pumice, perlite, peat moss, or coco coir
  • Two parts coarse sand, and
  • Three parts potting mix

However, if you just want to buy some succulent soil, we always rely on is this succulent soil. We like it because our succulents seem to thrive in it.

Organic Potting Soil, Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix, Professional Grower Mix Soil, Fast...
  • Imported from Canada, contains 100% organic ingredients, light-weight soil,...
  • The soil contains 75% natural substrate and 25% perlite, Our formula can...
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Avoid Overwatered Succulents by Using a Pot With Drainage

A succulent planter or succulent pot with drainage holes will help prevent overwatered succulents by clearing out any excess water in the soil preventing the succulent from becoming waterlogged.

However, it is important to note that a pot with drainage holes only works if the soil is well-draining.

A succulent pot with drainage holes also allows for proper air circulation around the succulent, which aids in the prevention of fungal diseases in the succulent.

Drainage is also important because it helps keep the soil aerated, which is good for the roots of succulents.

If you’re looking for a pot with drainage holes, you should get one that also waters itself. This self-watering container is what we use for our indoor plants. It’s been great because we never have to worry about overwatering-the plant uptakes the water when needed.

Unique 10" Self-Watering, Aerating, High Drainage Plant Pot with Deep Saucer (10 Inch,...
  • SELF-WATERING, 2-WEEKS+ DEEP RESERVOIR: No more troublesome wicks that clog...
  • SELF-AERATING, HIGH DRAINAGE, MINIMIZE ROOT ROT: No need to keep poking...
  • WATER FROM THE BOTTOM + NO MORE OVERFLOW: Each planter comes with a clip-on...

Propagating an Overwatered Succulent: The Last Resort

Propagating an overwatered succulent is your final option if you have an overwatered succulent.

Propagating a succulent in essence is growing new plants from the healthy parts (or cuttings) from your sick plant.

Obviously, rotted portions of the plant cannot be used for reproduction purposes-use portions that have not rotted.

However, if the plant has already rotted down to the meristem tissue, you will most certainly notice the rotting and discoloration.

The meristem tissue is in charge of the new growth of roots and leaves in an organism.

If the leaves, which are located above the stem rot of the plant, appear healthy, you can certainly use leaf or stem cuttings to propagate a new plant.

Cut a few stems or leaf cuttings and allow them to heal for a few days.

They will form a callus. Once callused, keep them moist and in a warm area with sun.

Depending on the type of succulent, you should expect to see roots forming in a few weeks.

Once you do, replant newly rooted succulent cutting in fresh succulent soil. You now are the proud parents of new baby plants! 

If you’re looking for a pair of shears to cut your leaf and stem cuttings, we highly suggest these pruning shears. They are never dull and are easy on the hands.

VIVOSUN 6.5 Inch Gardening Scissors Hand Pruner Pruning Shear with Straight Stainless...
  • Reduce Hand Strain: These micro tip snips are built spring-loaded so that...
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Other Tips When You Have Overwatered Succulents

If you suspect that your succulent has been overwatered, there are a few common things you can do to assist it in recovering.

Simple things like reducing the amount of water you provide and waiting until the soil is completely dry before watering again.

You can also try relocating the succulent to a more arid environment.

Finally, if all else fails, you can try propagating the succulent into a new plant.

Below are some other tips and factors to consider when you have an overwatered succulent.

Avoid Under-Watering

Underwatering can sometimes exhibit the same symptoms as overwatering.

That’s because many succulent plants are equally sensitive to underwatering as well.

There are some species of succulents that need more watering as compared to others, so it’s important to learn about the type of succulent plants you have.

There is a rule of thumb that if the upper leaves are beginning to appear dry with wrinkles or wilt, it most likely means that you need to water them.

You also may notice that leaves start to shed because the plant is trying to conserve moisture.

To help your succulents recover, try adding a little water to the dry soil.

If it doesn’t respond well, then check to see if the problem is overwatering.

Keep Overwatered Succulents Away From Direct Sunlight

Placing an overwatered succulent in direct sunlight to dry out is not a good idea—in fact, it is more detrimental.

Overwatered succulents are trying their best to expel excess moisture from their leaves, stems, and roots.

By exposing the plant to direct sunlight, the process of getting rid of extra water is slowed down.

The majority of succulents thrive in indirect or partial sunlight.

So, instead of direct sun, placing the plant in a dry location that is exposed to bright indirect sunlight will help it recover more quickly.

Furthermore, avoid putting your sick succulents in a damp or humid environment.

FAQ

Can Overwatered succulents be saved?

Yes. Overwatered succulents can be saved and recovered with adequate care and management, but there are some exceptions. It is also possible to salvage certain sections of a plant that have been destroyed by rot.

How do you bring an Overwatered succulent back to life?

To revive an overwatered succulent and bring it back to life, recreate the conditions of its natural environment by using well-draining gritty soil, providing the appropriate amount of light for your succulent, and watering only when the soil becomes dry. To help save the succulent, take cuttings from healthy parts of the plant and use them for propagation.

How often should indoor succulents be watered So I Don’t Overwater?

Most indoor succulent plants will most likely need to be watered once a week at the very least. They require sufficient time between waterings to allow the water to be stored in their leaves. Watering indoor succulent plants can be made easier if you follow a set schedule or wait till the top portion of the soil is dry. Using a watering can with a small pour spout to water your plants will help you control the water flow.

Realted Articles on Caring for Succulents

Conclusions

Follow these simple and practical steps to determine if you have an overwatered succulent plant and to help save your rotting and dying succulent before things get out of control.

Hopefully, this blog post has given you some insight on how to deal with overwatered succulents properly.

Finally, we hope that by keeping all of these details in mind, you will be able to grow healthier and more beautiful succulents.

Finally, if there are signs of overwatering, take action right away – even if you are unsure. 

References

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  • Tianna DuPont, S. (2012). Potting Media and Plant Propagation. Pennsylvania State University Extension, College of Agricultural Sciences. URL: https://extension.psu.edu/potting-media-and-plant-propagation
  • Hart, C. (2017). Growing Succulents: Beyond the Basics. University of Illinois Extension, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Horticulture). URL: https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/know-how-know-more/2017-12-15-growing-succulents-beyond-basics
  • Ayala, H. (2019). Soft Spot for Succulents. Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. URL: https://plantclinic.tamu.edu/2019/01/25/soft-spot-for-succulents/
  • About/mentions: succulent plant, houseplant care, root rot

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