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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.