Succulent plants are one of the most popular types of indoor plants because of the low amount of maintenance they require. Their foliage is thick and fleshy so that they can easily retain water.
But, even though they are notoriously easy to maintain, there are still some issues that can arise. One of the common problems faced by indoor gardeners is yellow leaves on their succulent plants.
So, why is your succulents turning yellow?
The most common reason for succulent plant leaves turning yellow is overwatering. This is because succulents, due to their desert origins, don’t need as much water as other plants. Under-watering and lack of sunlight are the other common reasons for yellow leaves.
Keep reading to understand how to determine why your succulent leaves are turning yellow and what you can do about it.
6 Reasons Why succulent leaves turning yellow
Succulents are plants that originally came from desert climates. They are used to warm temperatures, lots of sunlight, and don’t need as much water as other plants.
When they don’t get what they need, they may produce yellow leaves to alert a gardener of their ineffective care and to conserve energy. There are numerous reasons why your succulent plant might have yellow leaves.
Here are some of the most common causes of yellowing leaves on succulents.
Overwatering: most common cause of yellowing leaves on a succulent plant
Overwatering your succulent plants is the most common problem that directly causes succulents leaves to turn yellow. It shows that your plant is stressed out. If random leaves start to turn yellow, touch them to see if they are soggy or mushy. If so, it is likely that you have been watering it too much.
The first sign of overwatering is leaves falling off after even the slightest bump. Then, the leaves and the stem may start to get little black spots – at which point, it may be hard to save your overwatered succulent.
How To Fix
If over watering is your problem try to determine if there is any possible way to salvage the succulent. If there are no signs of root sot (black spots on the lower stem), wait a few days to see if the water absorbs and wait for the soil to completely dry out before watering again.
If there are no signs of root rot, try transplanting the succulent in a new pot with better drainage holes. Also, consider putting some gravel or pebbles at the bottom of the new pot to further the over retention of water.
If there are black spots around the stem.
- Remove the plant from the pot, and remove it from the soil as carefully as possible.
- Next, cut off the part of the succulent with the black stem rot and let the rest dry out naturally (but away from direct sunlight).
- Discard the infected soil and when the succulent has dried out, repot it with a new well-draining soil mixture.
- Water the newly planted succulent one week after repotting. Remember though to only water enough to moisten the soil.
Under-watering Can Make Succulents Leaves Yellow
While under-watering is less common than overwatering it is still a problem from some succulents, like Portulacaria alfa or Senecio haworthii.
When leaves turn yellow, they may also look a bit dried out and brittle. These are both signs of under-watering.
The moment you start to see your succulent leaves turn yellow and start to wrinkle up, give them a bit of a drink. A regular watering schedule will help your succulents stay happy and healthy.
How to fix
If underwatering is your problem, and it hasn’t progressed that far, just give it a good drink and step up your watering schedule a bit.
It is recommended that you water succulents once a week and give it a good soak each time. Remember to put your plants in a pot with drainage holes so that you don’t end up over watering the succulent.
Not enough sun Can Result In succulents Leaves Turning Yellow
Another reason that the leaves of your succulents may start to turn yellow is because they are not getting enough sunlight.
You might notice that along with this yellowing of the leaves, the succulent may start to grow tall and lanky.
Even though succulents regularly grow quite slowly, if they don’t get enough sunlight, they will start to reach for the light source.
This may result in them looking like they are bending towards the light and growing tall and thin instead of full and lush.
If you suspect that your succulent is not getting enough sunlight, move the plant to an area of your home with more. They need at least 3 hours of direct sunlight each day.
The worst nightmare of an indoor gardener: mealybugs. These bugs like to feed on the new growth of succulents which can cause a significant amount of stress for the plant.
This stress may cause some of the leaves to turn yellow because the plant will try to conserve its energy.
You will usually find these little suckers in the nooks and crannies of your succulent plants in a web-like substance. They will spread to your entire plant if not dealt with quickly.
How to fix
Starting with bugs, this problem needs to be dealt with extremely quickly or the entire plant may become completely infested.
You can use an insecticide (either store bought or homemade) according to their respective instructions.
Planting in the wrong soil and/or pot
This problem may be a bit harder to notice but it is incredibly important to remember. If the signs of over- or under-watering, lack of sunlight, or bug infestation is not present, your soil or pot may be the problem.
Succulents need well-draining soil. They also need a pot with a draining hole or at least some gravel or pebbles at the bottom so that the roots don’t rot.
How to fix
If most of the plant is not salvageable do not fret. Succulents are notoriously good propagators.
cut of the part of the plant that is still healthy and place it slightly in well-draining soil.
One week later, give it a little water and watch it grow into a completely new plant!
Leaves naturally die
Finally, leaves naturally die. As plants grow, they need to shed some leaves. It can often require too much energy to sustain all the leaves on one body.
When your plant stops providing nutrients to some leaves, they turn yellow and eventually fall off. This is a natural part of the lifecycle and is nothing to worry about.
If your succulent has yellow leaves around the bottom of the plant, it is likely that it is trying to shed some leaves. This is especially common if your plant is in the process of flowering.
The succulent will want to reserve its energy for the flower and get rid of some of the unnecessary leaves. You can help it along by pulling off some of the overly brown and dried out yellow leaves.
How to figure out why your succulent leaves are turning yellow
Watch the leaves
The first step in figuring out what is making your succulent leaves turn yellow is by looking at the leaves directly.
If you notice little white bugs, you have an infestation that needs to be dealt with. If your leaves are mushy and soft, you are overwatering.
If leaves are wrinkly and dried out slightly, you may need to water some more. If the succulent is tall and lengthy, perhaps you should consider moving your plant to a place with more sunlight.
Perform the finger test
If your succulent leaves are yellow and none of the other signs are obvious, check the soil. Press your finger into your succulent soil to see if it is wet.
If it is dry and the leaves are yellow, give it a bit more water than normal and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
If the soil is wet, wait for it to dry out before watering again. If it stays wet for a while (several days), you may be overwatering and your roots may have rotted.
Keep in mind that yellow leaves at the base of the succulent plant is completely normal and it may just be the plant dropping some of the leaves.
In this case, you can just leave it or you can pick off the leaves that are overly dried out and yellow.
How to prevent succulent plant leaves from turning yellow
To prevent succulent plant leaves from turning yellow it is important to remember what succulent needs. It survives on little water, well-draining soil, and lots of sunlight.
When you acquire a succulent, ensure that you have the right pot, the right soil and the right conditions to help it thrive. Water the plant once a week, just enough to moisten the dirt (try not to get water on the foliage as this can encourage disease), and make sure that the water is able to drain from the soil.
Check your succulent regularly for signs of problems or stress and remember to experiment when necessary (i.e. more water, less water, more sun, etc.).
Succulents are easy to maintain and therefore, are easier than others to revive.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She supplemented her education by working on various organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics. Growing and raising just about anything gets her very excited. She is especially passionate about sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms, homesteads, urban farming and indoor gardening.
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