Have you ever noticed your succulent dropping leaves or the stem turning black? In this episode, you’ll learn what to do if your succulent has a black stem, and the steps you can take to save it.

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This episode is brought to you by Graptosedum ‘California Sunset.’ This a reddish colored rosette succulent with very thick leaves and also grows well via leaf propagation.

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First timer of potting succulents. While checking the soil yesterday, all the leaves fell off one of the stems and I noticed it turned black today. Only at the top, not the base. I should add that I live in Florida, the plants don’t get direct sunlight but they’re outside on a partial sunny patio. I have had them for about a month and only watered them once. Thanks for the advice!

How to save a succulent with a black stem


I’m excited to help you solve this problem! First, this is a Graptosedum ‘California Sunset.’  I know I have a lot of favorite succulents, but ‘California Sunset’ really is one of my favorites! I just love its shape and color – it’s awesome!

Now, in your photo, the center stem of your Graptosedum ‘California Sunset.’ is completely black and mushy. A stem like this indicates your succulent is rotting.

Rotting is caused from the succulent absorbing too much water. There’s a couple different things that could be causing your succulent to rot, but first I want to talk about how to get it healthy again.

To start, you’ll want to cut off the top of the succulent, below where any blackening is. If there’s blackening through the stem, keep cutting off until the stem looks completely healthy.

You’ll notice there’s a little baby succulent at the base of the stem. Hopefully, the succulent will be healthy through the center, and as you keep caring for this plant, that baby succulent will continue to grow.

There’s a few other succulents also in this pot. The one behind your ‘California Sunset’ is definitely over-watered or rotting as well. You can see the stem has collapsed and is bending over.

I actually looks like some of the other succulents in the pot could be healthy. I’m not noticing any early warning signs that they’re getting too much water, however, the soil that you’re using looks really dense. It doesn’t look like it’s draining very well.

Because these are all the same variety of succulent in the same pot, but clearly some are healthy and some are not, I’m inclined to think that the succulents are also root-bound.

This means that the roots are growing really densely and close together in the bottom of the pot, which can actually cause water to get trapped and prevent it from evaporating.

This would cause succulents (especially in the center) to rot, while it might take others a little bit longer.

My recommendation would be to take this whole arrangement and un-pot it. I can’t tell if your pot has a drainage hole or not, but if it doesn’t, I would definitely recommend planting your arrangement in a pot with a drainage hole until you get the hang of watering these.

A pot without a drainage hole will build up water in the bottom of the pot and cause the succulents to rot more quickly, even if it looks like the soil is dry. The top section that you can see may be dry, but down at the bottom there’s likely a pool of water.

I’d recommend pulling all of the succulents out, loosening up the roots so that they’re not root-bound, and even breaking some of the roots off. Then I would repot all of these in a pot with a drainage hole, and in really well-draining soil.

I actually have a tutorial for planting succulents, which you can follow along with here. Once you have everything potted again, make sure you leave it for a couple of days without water. Then make sure to soak the soil completely, and let it dry out completely before you water again.

Learn why you should water your succulents this way, and directions on exactly how to do it in episode 6.

Now, as I indicated in the beginning of the episode,  Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’ has very thick leaves. It also has a thick stem. For this reason, this particular plant can go a long time without any water.

You indicated that you only watered it once, and you’ve had it a month, but because the soil seems to be so dense, I’m guessing the soil is staying wet too long and is causing problems for the succulent.

It’s also possible that it was over-watered before you received it, and it’s just taking a little bit longer for those symptoms to show up.

For this plant, I would recommend waiting until the leaves look a little bit dull and limp before you water it again. If you’re watering once a week right now, that’s probably going to be too much, and I would cut back to every couple of weeks.

Again, it just depends on the area you live, what type of soil you’re using, and, with this particular plant, it can go longer than most other succulents without any water.

Your succulent will tell you what it needs. I actually have a free eBook you can download to help you determine when your succulent needs water. It shows you the early symptoms that your plant is running into problems, whether it’s too much or too little water.

Download your free ebook here!

This guide will be a really great resource as you get started growing succulents, and are figuring out how much and how often to water.

Further Reading: