Help! My succulent is dying!

If you’re concerned your succulent is dying due to over or under watering, you’re in the right place! Find out how to tell in this post!

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I frequently get emails from concerned succulent lovers about their dying succulents. Sometimes there isn’t actually anything wrong and other times the plant has been over watered or under watered. This is something that seems to be very difficult to determine. I want to share with you some of the clues I look for to determine how to save my plants.

This post is so helpful for diagnosing why your succulent is dying!
Crassula falcata

Succulents

First, I want to tell you that dying leaves don’t always mean your succulent is dying or you are doing something wrong. In fact, as with all plants, succulent leaves don’t live forever. As the plant grows it creates new leaves and the older ones die. So, if your succulent has dry, crispy leaves at the bottom of the plant and only at the bottom, you don’t need to worry. This is normal!

If the leaves start to get unsightly or bother you, gently pull them away from the base of the plant and throw them away. Here I pulled the plant out of the pot to better show you what this looks like. Again, dry shriveled leaves like this at the bottom of the succulent are normal. When you remove the leaves, keep your plant potted so you don’t disturb the roots. Only pull off the leaves that come off easily or are totally dead.

It's normal for the lower leaves on succulents to die - Find out when to be concerned about your plants
Echeveria imbricata

Overwatering

Now, if the upper leaves (the new growth) on your succulent aren’t looking so great, you’ll want to take notice and determine what might be causing the change. Improper watering seems to be one of the biggest causes of succulents dying. Soil can also cause problems for succulents. If the leaves are starting to look yellow and  transparent, and feel soggy or mushy to the touch, it’s likely you’ve over watered. Below is an example of a succulent that has been over watered.

Succulents that have been overwatered will start to get yellow mushy leaves and black spots
Echeveria secunda

 

An early sign of over watering is the leaves fall off with just a slight bump. If you see soft black spots on the leaves or stem, the over watering is getting severe and it will be more difficult to save your succulent. With the Donkey’s Tail succulent below, the plant in the middle completely rotted. You can see the stem of the plants in the bottom left are starting to rot as well.

An example of an over watered and rotting succulent
Sedum morganianum

Echeverias seem to be one of the most sensitive plants when it comes to over watering. Even a couple days with too much water can start these beautiful rosettes on a fast track to rot. It’s generally best to err on the side of under watering succulents if you’re unsure.

 

How to save an overwatered succulent

To save your over watered plant, start by cutting back on your watering or see if you need to switch to a better soil mixture. If you see black spots on the stem you’ll need to behead your plant and propagate the top. Make sure you cut off any black spots and then give it plenty of time to dry out before replanting (3-5 days). Notice how with the cuttings below I cut off any part of the stem that was soggy or blackened.

Find out how to save a succulent that has been damaged from over watering
Sedum morganianum

You can also keep the bottom section. Don’t water it until the soil (all the way to the bottom of the pot) is completely dry. While it’s not likely that the original plant will survive, it’s worth waiting to see! If you’re lucky, drying out will allow the plant to recover from the over watering and it may put off new growth.

Underwatering

While over watering succulents tends to be the most common problem, there are also succulents that are sensitive to under watering. I’ve found that Portulacaria afra and Senecio haworthii like to be watered more frequently than most.

If you start to notice the upper leaves are starting to wrinkle and get dry and crispy. It’s probably time to give your succulents more water. This Mesembryanthemum lehmanni was never watered. I planted it in this cute concrete planter but it didn’t have a drainage hole. So, I didn’t water when I first planted it and then forgot about it. Most succulents will perk up pretty quickly if they are just starting to wrinkle. However, if they have almost completely shriveled up they likely won’t recover.

Find out how to tell if your succulent needs more water
Mesembryanthemum lehmanni

With a little more frequent watering, this succulent will look good as new in a week or two.

For the most part, it’s much easier to revive an under watered succulent than over watered. However, it’s also best if you can figure out how to give your succulents the proper amount of water. If you haven’t already, be sure to read through my post about how to water succulents or check out my watering ebook.

Hopefully knowing these signs and symptoms of watering problems will help you save your succulent before it’s too late. Remember that dry lower leaves are normal on succulents, but if your new growth and upper leaves start to look different then you’ll want to pay closer attention to your watering schedule and examine the plant to see what may be the problem.

 

 

395 Responses to Help! My succulent is dying!

  1. Hi,
    I’ve had a gollum jade for a few months now and have had no problems with it before, but recently it seems I may have overwatered it a little. Two or three of the stems have become wrinkly and almost soft to the touch. The ends eventually shrivel up and get hard and brown. The wrinkly ones look a tad yellowish too. It may be because I watered it twice over a span of three days before I had to leave for a week. What should I do? Do I need to take off the dried parts?

  2. Hey, I screwed up, big time. I have an Echeveria and forgot about it. It had a few days of very bright sun and it just completely dried out. All leaves fell off except for one at the top. I got it from my sister and I really want to save it but I don’t know where to start. The stem’s upper part is completely dried out and wrinkeled. Should I cut that off or shouldn’t I touch the stem at all?

    • The spots will stay there until that leaf falls off or is removed. These spots can be caused by rotting or sunburns.

  3. Could you help me with my succulents please! I really want to save them but i can can’t anything on it. They don’t seem to be drying from the bottom or the top. They are not translucent either. They seem to be drying from the middle of the leaves. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. I leave them by the window and water them once a week. Is that too often?

    • A good thing to be aware of when watering is to check the bottom of the pot to see if all of the soil is dried up. If it is still wet then you will need to wait longer for the soil to become completely dry.

  4. my plants all leaves our fallen off its very old, it looked good a few days ago I REPLANTED LEAVES.NO.PLANTS LET JUST LEAVES IN ANOTHER POT,WILL THEY MAKE IT

  5. I have a portulacaria afra in a south facing window that I water maybe weekly. It started off growing very well (about 1.5 in of growth over the last month), but now it has dropped half of its leaves that are still green. Not enough water? Too much light? It is in a 2.5 in diameter pot and grew from 3.5 in to 5 in tall. Thanks.

    • Usually when the leaves are falling off easily and frequently it means that your succulents is getting too much water.

  6. Hello! I have a zebra plant succulent and the very tips of its leaves are starting to go a little bit brown and dry. Also, at some point, my succulent was starting to grow out a flower but the stem of it dried out. Is my succulent underwatered or is that normal??

  7. Hello! I just bought a little Austrocephalocereus Estevesii cactus today. It came in a group of three and I planted them together but while I was potting them they all wanted to fall over! I made sure to dress the top of the soil with rocks and that has helped them stay upright, but is this a sign of something inherently sick in the cactus? It’s still very small (all three of them fit in a 4″ pot with about a half inch to spare) and I’m thinking maybe it just has to grow a little to establish itself? Thank you for any tips you can give me!

    • That is normal when first potting. After a couple weeks the plants should start growing roots, which will help them hold upright and stay grounded.

  8. Hi,first I’m newbie and i think my plants are dying :(, i really need ur help now, but, in fact, my English is not good enough to describe my sittuation. Can you give me your email and let’s me send my plant’s photos to find out my problem and save them. I’m really looking forward to ur replay

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Wondering who I am?

Let me introduce myself... My name is Cassidy Tuttle and I’m a professional photographer turned succulent addict. These are my two sweet children and wonderful husband in the photo with me!

My adventure with succulents started with three small plants on the window sill of my basement apartment. Within a year I had propagated them and purchased more, totaling over 100 plants!

It’s been a fun adventure since then as I’ve drowned, burned, frozen, and starved my collection of succulents. This site is where I teach you how to avoid all those mistakes I made or help you recover from them.

While I’ve killed plenty of succulents in the last few years, I’ve also kept hundreds alive and thriving, and I know you can do the same!

Did I mention I wrote the book on succulents?

It’s true! I’m the author of Idiot’s Guides: Succulents which is designed to help those of us who love succulents (but are limited to growing on our window sills and porches) keep our succulents looking great.

You can purchase my book through my Amazon affiliate link here or pick it up at your local Barnes and Noble.

If printed books aren’t your thing, I’ve also written several ebooks about succulents on various topics including indoor growing, watering and propagating. You can check those out on this page.

My goal is to help you not just keep your succulents alive, but help them thrive no matter where you live.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff!

I’m impressed you’ve made it this far down. You should probably be rewarded for that…

How about some bite sized succulent tips delivered daily to your inbox?

I’m sure you’ll love my 30 Days of Quick Succulent Tips email series. Each day I’ll send you a 2-3 sentence tip about growing succulents along with a photo and link to learn more.

Sound good?

 

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