What Is Wrong With My Succulent? Common Succulent Problems

Have you got succulent problems? Succulents are fantastic plants. They are loved by many plant enthusiasts for their beauty and easy maintenance.

This being said, while succulents can withstand harsh conditions in the wild, they still need some care to thrive in your home.

Succulent plants do suffer from some common problems, such as yellow leaves, rotting stems and dark spots. If your succulent shows signs that it’s unhealthy, you’ll want to find a solution quickly.

In this practical guide, we take a closer look at common succulent problems and what you can do to help your plants thrive again.

What Is Wrong With My Succulent? Common Problems And The Best Solutions

Succulent Problems And Their Solutions

Although succulents are resilient to extreme conditions, they still face some common plant issues.

Here are the most common problems of succulents and how you can fix them.

Leaves Falling Off Succulent Plant

Leaves falling off a plant doesn’t always have to be an issue, especially when your plant is perennial (ie a plant that lives for more than one year).

However, leaves dropping off your succulent can also hint at watering problems.

If you water your plant too much, it can result in the leaves becoming soft, which eventually leads them to fall off.

Succulent plants that get too much water have mushy leaves and a puffy stem as the plant swells up with water.

There are a number of easy remedies that ensure your succulent plant is healthy and leaves aren’t falling off.

Don’t Water Too Much

Overwatering is the biggest cause of leaves falling off your plant. You need to should refrain from watering your succulent so often.

Make sure that you check the soil before watering your plant. If the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry, your plant probably needs watering again. You should also look at the leaves of the plant for more clues as to whether your plant is thirsty or not.

Handy Tips: How To Water Succulents Indoors – A Complete Guide

Use A Well-Draining Potting Mix

In addition, you should also ensure you use a good potting mix that drains well. This means the water won’t sit in the soil potentially leading to root rot.

The ideal potting mix for succulents is a combination of standard soil, perlite and sand.

You can easily make this mix yourself. Just use one part sand, one part perlite and one part potting soil. Also, try to use a pot with drainage holes.

Before you repot your plant, make sure that you allow it to dry out for a couple of days in the air. This allows the water to fully evaporate from around the plant’s roots.

Handy Tips: What Is The Best Type Of Soil For Succulents and Cacti In Pots?

Move Your Succulent To A Shady Spot

Some succulent plants also drop their leaves with extreme heat. Although heat is a natural environment for these plants, too much heat can cause a stress reaction in your plant.

Plus, the plant requires more water when exposed to the sun.

Move your succulent away from direct sunlight into a shadier spot.

Just make sure you adjust your watering techniques accordingly, as a plant in a shaded location needs less watering.

Yellow Leaves On Succulent

There are a couple of different causes of yellow leaves in succulent plants; watering and nutrient issues.

If you water your plants too often or too little, the leaves don’t receive the right amount of water they need to thrive.

If you water your succulent regularly and the leaves are yellow and soft, this is a sign that the plant is overwatered.

On the other hand, if the leaves are yellow but feel dry, your plant needs more water.

Handy Tips: How To Tell When Your Succulent Has Become Over Or Under Watered

Another cause of yellow leaves in succulents could be a lack of nutrients.

Every plant absorbs nutrients from the soil. If your plant sits in a potting mix that’s old there may be insufficient nutrients for the plant to absorb left in the soil.

Plus, nutrients always get flushed out of the soil with frequent watering. You may need to fertilize your succulent or repot the plant.

Watch Your Watering Frequency

Watering is a common problem with many plant species, including resilient plants like succulents.

If your succulent’s leaves turn yellow, then you may be overwatering the plant. Allow the soil to dry completely before you water it again.

If you think that your plant is underwatered, then water your succulent more thoroughly.

The majority of succulents prefer watering by soaking. This means you water the soil (not the leaves) until excess water comes through the pot’s drainage holes. Allow the excess water to drain completely and empty the tray beneath the pot to ensure the pot isn’t sitting in water. Allow the soil to dry completely before watering again.

Repot Your Succulent

Succulents need a variety of nutrients to grow healthy leaves and stems. Make sure you use a well-draining potting mix and consider repotting your plant every two years.

Between repotting, you should also apply succulent fertilizer designed specifically for succulents and cacti.

Succulents don’t much fertilizer, so make sure you follow the instructions on the fertilizer label to avoid overdoing it and causing root burn.

Succulent With Withered Or Shriveled-Up Leaves

The most common cause of withered leaves in succulents is underwatering. Underwatered succulents often display shriveled leaves, especially at the tips of the lower leaves.

If your succulent leaves feel dry, your plant probably needs more water, especially if you have been watering it less frequently.

Water Your Plant More

Although succulent plants handle harsh conditions very well, they still need a good amount of water to survive and thrive.

What Is Wrong With My Succulent? Common Problems And The Best Solutions

Make sure you water your plants regularly and increase the watering frequency when it’s warm.

Dead Leaves On Succulent

If the leaves of your succulent aren’t just shriveled but dead and dry, this may not be a reason to worry.

As the plant grows, its leaves continually die, and new leaves grow. Old leaves usually die from the bottom of the plant, and new leaves grow from the top.

Remove Dead Leaves

If your succulent is simply growing and renewing its leaf coverage, you can just pull off any old leaves or allow them to fall off naturally.

It’s a good idea to remove any leaves from the soil to ensure they don’t attract bugs or insects.

Succulent Has Plant Stems And Branches Stretching Out

If you notice your plant’s stem stretching out, this is a sign of etiolation. Etiolation is a natural response from plants when they don’t receive enough light.

Their branches, stems, and sometimes leaves stretch towards the nearest light source so that they can get access to more light.

If your plant suffers from a lack of light, you may notice the space between leaves getting wider and the plant’s stem stretching out.

Move Your Plant Into A Sunnier Spot

If you believe that your succulent suffers from etiolation, then there is a simple and easy fix: just place your plant in a brighter location.

It’s important that you don’t move your succulent straight from the shade into direct sunlight because this could cause sun damage and stress to your plant.

The best way to avoid sudden light changes is by slowly increasing the intensity and amount of light your succulent receives.

For example, you can move your plant into a brighter spot on the windowsill for just a few hours a day and see how it reacts.

Alternatively, you can also use an indoor grow light that provides more light to your plant without the need to move it around.

Succulent With Stunted Growth

The most common reason for stunted growth in succulents is a lack of light.

If your houseplants or outdoor succulents don’t receive enough sunlight, they simply don’t have the energy to grow strong and healthy stems or leaves.

You may also notice that the plant’s stems are stretching out, making it look thinner.

Another common reason for stunted growth in plants is a lack of nutrients. If your succulent doesn’t get all the nutrients it needs, it cannot grow enough leaves and a solid stem.

Move Your Succulent Into A Brighter Spot

Stunted growth in succulents is easily rectified by moving your plant into a brighter location. Try to get your plant gradually used to more sunlight to avoid shock and UV light damage.

If you don’t have anywhere sunny enough, you can also use a grow light system to give your succulent more light.

Fertilize Your Succulent

While succulents don’t have big fertilizer requirements, most benefit from occasional feeding, especially during the growing season.

Make sure you use a succulent-specific fertilizer.

Repot Your Succulent Plant

A good potting mix is an excellent source of nutrients for succulent plants. However, these nutrients wash out of the soil over time, and your plant is left with poor-quality soil.

If your plant appears to be suffering from low nutrients, consider repotting your succulent into fresh, well-draining potting soil.

You can also add some fertilizer to the soil to allow the plant to absorb nutrients directly through its roots. Be careful to use a succulent-specific fertilizer and follow the instructions provided. Fertilizer that is too strong for succulents can damage the plant’s roots.

Succulent Has Dark Spots Or Brown Leaves

Like humans, succulent plants can suffer sunburn, making their leaves go brown.

You may also notice dark spots on your succulent’s leaves, which is also a sign of sun damage.

If a plant is exposed to harsh sunlight, the extreme heat and UV light can damage the sensitive plant surface.

This commonly happens with plants that aren’t fully acclimated to full sun.

However, even succulents that are used to their sunny locations may experience sunburn during drought or an intense heatwave.

Relocate Your Succulent To A Shady Location

The easiest way to prevent dark spots or brown leaves on your succulent is to simply move it to a location with more shade.

Acclimatize Your Plant To The Sun

To avoid regular sunburn to your succulent plants, it is a good idea to acclimatize newly propagated plants and baby plants to the sun slowly.

Don’t place sensitive baby succulents in direct sunlight. Instead, move them into a partially sunny spot for a few hours a day and watch how the plants react.

Bug and Pest Infestation

While insect infestations are less common in succulents, you might still discover tiny bugs crawling on your plant.

Spray Your Plant With Rubbing Alcohol

If you notice little crawling creatures sitting on your succulent plant, you can spray the stem and leaves with 75% rubbing alcohol.

This helps against spider mites, mealybugs and aphids, the most common plant bugs.

Misshapen Leaves

Each succulent has leaves with a distinctive shape. If you notice that your plant’s leaves are misshapen, this is likely caused by watering problems.

You may be giving your water either too much water or too little. If your succulent doesn’t get enough water, you can also see the leaves dry up and shrivel.

On the other hand, with too much water, your plant goes soft and soggy.

Lack of nutrients is another cause of misshapen leaves.

Watch Your Watering Habits

Make sure that you don’t overwater or underwater your succulent plant to avoid misshapen leaves.

Examine the top of the soil and the lower leaves each time before you start watering.

Fertilize Your Succulent

If you are sure that you water your plant correctly, then it’s likely that the misshapen leaves of your succulent are caused by a lack of fertilizer.

Repot in fresh soil or fertilize to solve the issue.

If applying fertilizer to your plant, ensure you check the label for the correct instructions as fertilizer often needs to be diluted to make it suitable for succulents.

Alternatively, repot your plant in fresh potting mix. This is definitely worth trying if your succulent hasn’t been repotted in the last two years.

How To Save Your Succulent

If you’ve tried the suggestions above to adjust your watering, repotting or fertilizing but your plant is still looking less than healthy, there are still things you can try.

It can happen to even the most enthusiastic gardener. You may think you killed your succulent, but there may yet be hope.

Depending on the severity of the damage, you might be able to save your succulent plant.

Check The Plant Carefully

Make sure that you examine the entire plant from top to bottom, all the way through to the roots.

If you find that your succulent has lost all its leaves, but the roots are still looking good, your plant may have a chance to survive.

However, if you discover rotted roots that are brown or black, there is sadly little hope for your succulent.

Take Cuttings

If your plant is suffering from root rot, check the other parts of the plant.

While there is no hope for the roots, you may be able to take some cuttings from the leaves of your succulent and create new plants.

Check the leaves – you need them to feel firm and not mushy. This is a positive sign that your succulent leaves are still healthy.

Place the cuttings into a well-watered and well-draining potting mix, and wait for them to grow roots. Discard the rotted mother plant.

Succulents are very resilient, so even if you think you may have killed a plant, it can bounce back when you provide the right conditions.

Should You Remove Damaged Succulent Leaves?

Yes, it is best to remove any old, shriveled or dead leaves from your succulent plant. This improves the air circulation for the plant and helps the top of the soil from becoming too moist.

Removing dead leaves that have fallen on to the soil will prevent bug infestations, mildew or mold growth.

How Do You Know Your Succulent Has Root Rot?

Rotted roots are one of the most common plant problems and is usually caused by overwatering.

The only way to find out whether your succulent suffers from root rot is by unpotting it and checking the roots for black or brown spots.

Can Succulents Repair Themselves?

No, a damaged succulent that has been wounded by being knocked, broken or otherwise physically damaged, cannot repair itself. Once a succulent is physically damaged, it doesn’t heal itself.

While the wound may harden, a succulent’s stem or branch doesn’t grow back. In fact, heavy trauma can even cause rotting or other problems in succulents.

However, the plant can grow new branches and new leaves, and depending on the severity of the plant’s damage, most succulents can return to a healthy existence as long as they have the right growing conditions.

Final Thoughts

Succulents may be strong plants, but they are not invincible. Every succulent plant can suffer if it is not given the right conditions to thrive.

Luckily, there are some easy solutions to common succulent problems and with time, you will get to learn the watering, light and nutrient requirements of your individual plants.


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