It’s Ok To Let Your Succulents Die – Here’s Why

It seems that plant lovers around the world have a hard time accepting when their plants die. There is a lot of guilt around struggling succulents, less-than-perfect leaves, and seemingly sub-par plant care.

"If it's possible to keep it alive, I must do everything possible for it. If I don't, I'm a terrible person."

You might not have said (or thought) those exact words, but I hear versions of this all the time from plant parents who are going through a rough time with one (or more) of their plants.

This can actually be quite detrimental and cause people to avoid growing plants at all.

Gardening should be fun and relaxing. But if we're constantly stressed out and worried about our plants, is it really beneficial for us to have them?

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Plants die in the "wild" all the time. Two of the exact same plant, with the exact same care, in the exact same climate don't grow at the same rate, and won't necessarily both survive.

Naturally then, we must assume the same will happen in our own gardens. It happened for me with these Moon Cactus:

The difference between plants dying in the wild and plants dying in our own garden is us. We are available to help care for the plant, and therefore, we make an assumption that we can and must keep everything alive.

Really quick, be sure to grab my FREE watering cheat sheet so you can learn how to tell if your succulents are getting too much water (and how to save them if needed).

Many people enjoy "rescuing" plants from a nursery or big box store and nursing them back to health. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to bring something back from the brink of death.

For others, a struggling plant in their garden can feel like torture. They spent hours researching how to bring it back to full health.

By no means am I suggesting that either of these things is a problem.

The problem lies with our internal conversation.

You are not a terrible person for letting a plant die. You are not a bad plant parent if you can't figure out how to revive a succulent that had a problem. You are not wasteful for throwing a plant away that "could be saved."

Let's shift gears for a minute...

Every year for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and a wide variety of other special occasions, people purchase cut flowers to give to their loved ones.

They spend "good money" on those flowers and what happens after a few days?

They die.

Were those flowers a waste? Should you have tried harder to keep them alive? Are you a terrible person for buying them?

No! The majority of the world would say that is a perfectly normal thing to do.

We don't expect cut flowers to last forever.

We don't feel buying cut flowers for ourselves or a loved one is a waste of money.

We don't blame ourselves for those flowers dying.

Succulents and other rooted plants we purchase don't need to be any different.

In fact, you might even say that they are a better value for your money because they last a lot longer with less effort.

They bring you joy for longer than cut flowers IF you choose to think about them that way.

Maria Failla and I had a great discussion about this on her podcast, Growing Joy with Maria, that's definitely worth a listen if you struggle with dying succulents.

One of the things I mentioned in the podcast is that plants are supposed to help us have fun and feel happy, they nourish us mentally and physically.

Food is the same way.

It's not unusual to spend $15-20 on a meal without thinking twice. How long does that meal nourish you? How long do you enjoy it?

I would argue that spending $5-10 buying a colorful succulent will provide you with just as much, if not more, nourishment than your meal.

Adobe Stock Xiaoliangge colorful succulents close arrangement echeveria sedum crassulaPin
Colorful Echeveria and Crassula succulents

However, if you stress and worry about that succulent for hours on end, worrying if you're doing the right thing for it, you may end up doing more harm than good to yourself and the plant.

Of course, I'm all for learning about how to care for succulents to make it easier, improve your chances of success, and have more fun.

But be willing to give yourself some grace. Recognize that not every plant is going to thrive under your care. You're going to lose some plants along the way.

Like me, you might kill some of the succulents you like the most! There are a handful of succulents I love having in my garden that don't seem to thrive in my care (Portulacaria afra variegata, Sedum 'Little Missy', Echeveria 'Black Prince', and more).

I still buy them anyway!

After all, how can you improve if you don't keep trying? How will you know which succulents do well for you if you don't branch out and try something new?

Your garden is supposed to bring you joy! If it's not doing that, you can absolutely get rid of anything that is causing you stress, and don't let anyone give you grief about it. Or if they do, give the plants to them!

If you'd like to join a community of Succulent Lovers who totally understand the challenge of keeping succulents alive, are willing to experiment and let some of their plants die, and enjoy constantly learning about these beautiful plants, I'd love to invite you to join the Succulent Lovers Club.