Why is my succulent dying? Common succulent problems & how to fix them

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Is my succulent dying?

Succulents are known for being resilient and easy to care for, but this doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally succumb to a variety of health defects. Below is a list to help you diagnose 5 of the most common problems encountered by succulents, and the quickest, easiest ways of fixing them to help you revive your dying succulent plant.

1. Brown spots on succulents

Brown spots on succulent leaves are usually caused by pests such as scale insects. The spots can often be lumpy, and make your succulent look overall like it is in need of some love!

The fix: Remove or isolate the affected plant to prevent spreading of scale insects. Spray leaves with diluted isopropyl alcohol, scrape the stems with a plastic knife, wash the leaves in mild detergent and then re-pot your succulent.

Brown spots on succulent leaves.

2. Succulent leaves turning yellow

If the leaves of your succulent start turning yellow or transparent, or feel soggy/mushy, the most likely cause of the problem is over-watering. Over-watering is often the most common cause of succulent death. Succulents do not like sitting in soil with wet roots for long periods, and do not cope well with excessive water. Many people are unsure how often to water succulents, so doing a little more research into this point can save this trouble down the line. Check out our previous post on How To Water Succulents for more tips.

The fix: Firstly, start by cutting back on watering! Gently pull off any soft yellowing leaves and replant the succulents in a better, dryer soil mix to ensure optimal moisture levels. Also make sure that your succulent is in a well draining pot. Once you’ve adjusted the watering habits, generally you will see your succulent recover within a few weeks.

3. Leaves dropping off, wrinkling or becoming crispy

The exact opposite of the previous problem stems from under-watered succulents. While they can survive the desert environment, succulents do actually require regular, adequate water. If your succulent leaves seem wrinkled or crispy, chances are that they need more water. An under-watered succulent can result in leaves dying or falling off. Dropping leaves are the earliest sign of under-watering, so it’s important to act quickly. Bringing a succulent back from the verge can be difficult once the leaves are showing signs, but it’s worth a try!

The fix: If the leaves aren’t completely shrivelled, it’s probable that you can bring the plant back! Start with just a small amount of water, one time, and progress from there as your succulent responds.

Echeveria leaves turning crispy

Succulent leaves shrivelling from underwatering

4. Elongated, stretched leaves

Succulents tend to grow in the direction of greatest sun exposure. Whilst extensive exposure to direct sun can cause issues like sunburnt leaves, succulents do require an adequate amount of sunlight. When succulents are kept in complete darkness, their leaves will stretch and elongate (also known as etiolation), and rosettes may even begin to curve downward.

The fix: Ensure your succulent gets some light! If your succulent is suffering from etiolation, gradually start introducing your succulent to more sunlight taking care not to immediately leave it in direct sun for too long as it may suffer from sunburn. Rotating your potted succulents regularly every few weeks will help even out the amount of sun exposure and also prevent them from growing lopsided.

Before: When echeveria was first purchased.

After: echeveria was not able to receive enough sunlight and leaves started to stretch out 🙁

5. “Cottony” rosettes or distorted growth at leaf axils

Succulents are beautiful plants, and even more so when their rosettes are in full bloom. Unfortunately, mealybugs can cause fluffy looking blooms to emerge at the centre of rosettes.

The fix: Remove or isolate affected plants to prevent the bugs from spreading. As with scale insects, the succulent should then be sprayed with isopropyl alcohol, washed with mild detergent, and re-potted in new soil.

These are just some of the common issues which impact succulents – have you encountered any more? Are there any other tips you would give to succulent enthusiasts?

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