6 Signs of Succulent Sickness (& Solutions!)

by Lynn KirkMar 4, 2022

succulent sickness


“Easy. Hardy. Forgiving.” These descriptors hint at reasons for succulents’ growing popularity (as does their quirkiness and charm!). But like any other plants, succulents can forfeit their good health in short time — especially in the hands of a new-and-still-learning plant parent. So it’s important to recognize the 6 tell-tale signs of succulent sickness (& solutions!).

SIGN OF SUCCULENT SICKNESS #1: Yellowing. The color yellow means CAUTION! on the road . . . and sometimes in the greenhouse. When a succulent’s leaves change from natural greens to yellows, it’s a warning that overwatering might have occurred.

  • REASON: Succulents have natural water-storage capabilities in their leaves, stems, and tissues, but they can hold only so much water before they suffer.
  • SOLUTION: Patience is key, as is an improved watering protocol. Some leaves will probably drop off, but the main plant might be saved if allowed to thoroughly dry out. Before watering again, stick a finger into the soil about one inch to verify total dryness.

SIGN OF SUCCULENT SICKNESS #2: Mushiness. A change in the firmness of a plant’s leaves and stems is another overwatering clue. Too much water for too long causes the plant to succumb to softness and even squishiness. The leaves tend to drop at the slightest touch, and sometimes black or brown spots start appearing on them, as well as the trunk. These indicate that rotting might have started.

  • REASON: Mushiness, rot, and fungal disease go hand in hand.
  • SOLUTION: If the succulent appears to be sitting in water, let the roots thoroughly dry out. Also, it might be best to repot the plant. Make sure the new container has drainage holes and always use specially formulated succulent soil that encourages proper drainage. (Log on www.SucculentMarket.com and have it delivered to your doorstep!).

SIGN OF SUCCULENT SICKNESS #3: Wilting. Conversely, a shriveling succulent often alerts gardeners to another problem: underwatering. Along with droopiness, leaves at the bottom of the plant start to wrinkle and flatten. When they look like they’ve lost their plumpness and the soil feels mega dry, the plant probably needs H20 to maintain its life-sustaining processes.

  • REASON: A succulent naturally holds water, but its supply does eventually dwindle. That’s when watering provides a second chance.
  • SOLUTION: Water lightly and remove fallen leaves. Also set up a friendly reminder to regularly check the soil.

SIGN OF SUCCULENT SICKNESS #4: Leaning. A wayward slant typically indicates that a succulent is not getting enough sunlight. It bends to the light, yearning for more of what it needs. The plant might also get leggy, with its elongated stems producing smaller leaves.

  • REASON: Most succulents crave lots of light based on their origins. You can’t take a cactus from desert places and expect it to live happily ever after in dark spaces.
  • SOLUTION: Move the plant to a sunnier location or add a grow light. However, don’t place it in harsh sunlight all at once. Just like humans, plants do better with gradual change. If leggy stems are unsightly, snip or break them off to promote normal regrowth.

SIGN OF SUCCULENT SICKNESS #5: Dulling. Leaves fading from vibrancy to dullness is another sign of ailing health. When a succulent appears bleached, it is probably getting more sunlight than it needs.

  • REASON: Plants can get sunburned, too. Too much of anything is not a good thing.
  • SOLUTION: Reassess the plant’s location. Move it if it is suffering from harsh sun, especially that of late afternoon. Better yet, place it in an area with bright filtered light.

SIGN OF SUCCULENT SICKNESS #6: White coating. Many succulents have a natural whitish-gray coating that serves as a natural barrier from the scorching sun. However, if the whiteness appears on the underside of the leaves, it might be powdery mildew: a fungus that merits attention because it can reduce photosynthesis and nutrients. If an ever closer inspection reveals white, fuzzy movement along the top and bottom of leaves, the plant might be hosting mealybugs . . . and that's definitely not a good thing.

  • REASON: Some fungal diseases are easy to treat, but others are resistant and cause harm. Mealybugs can be even worse because they proliferate in no time.
  • SOLUTIONS: Launch a google search to identify the type of fungus before arbitrarily spraying with a fungicide since different fungi respond in different ways. As for the mealybugs, the opposite applies: don’t delay! Spray the succulent with a diluted alcohol mixture or Neem oil and continue consistently until the battle is won (or not). With both fungi and pests, be sure to isolate the plant, sanitize all tools, and avoid reuse of the affected soil.

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“Easy, hardy, and forgiving” may not seem to apply after reading these 6 signs of succulent sickness (& solutions!). Yet, there is hope. Get to know your plants by visiting with them daily. Learn from your mistakes. Research other remedies, and jot down notes in a gardening journal for future reference.

THE FINAL SOLUTION: Turn to SucculentMarket.com when it’s time to replace or add new plants to your collection. With Succulent Market’s three generations of growing experience, you’ll start off with healthy plants that are backed by knowledge and packed with expertise.