Why Do Succulents Turn Red?

by Succulent MarketOct 27, 2020

why do succulents turn red


Succulents turn red due to extreme environmental conditions. These include:

  • The plant being exposed to full sun
  • When the temperature gets really hot or really cold
  • The succulent not getting much water
  • The succulent not getting much food
  • Poor soil and a lack of fertilizer

Succulents that experience at least one of these conditions are under stress. As such, a succulent’s stress response is to exhibit the color change.

What Is Succulent Stress?

When you start to think about a succulent’s natural environment, it starts to make sense that they thrive under stress. 

The majority of succulents originate from dry, desert conditions, while others come from mountainous regions, rainforests, and even across the coast. These areas are usually considered uninhabitable by other plants.

Therefore, succulents can adapt and even grow at their best under these conditions. So, when they start to feel stress, it’s like they’re back in their natural habitat.

Succulents are not harmed by these conditions. In fact, they are destined to live in them.

Why Do Succulents Change Color Under Stress?

Succulents don’t only turn red when they’re stressed. They can turn all shades of orange, yellow, blue, purple and even black. 

This is because succulents contain natural pigments that are also contained in fruit. Such pigments are called carotenoids and anthocyanins, which are responsible for plants changing color. 

Some plants will always stay green, no matter the conditions or environments they are exposed to. It comes down to the plant’s natural pigmentation.

Interestingly, these pigments are full of antioxidants too, which are important in our diet to keep us healthy. This tells us that they’re also important to plants and help to protect them from their environment. In essence, the pigments act as a defense mechanism against extreme heat and a lack of water.

However, while stress can bring out the beautiful color of a succulent, there are other types of stress that actually indicate that your plant is not feeling too good.

Good Stress vs Bad Stress

A healthy stressed plant maintains its original shape and features. On the other hand, an unhealthy stressed plant appears disfigured and unwell.

Understanding your type of plant will help you determine if your plant is feeling healthy or not. Some succulents turn red naturally when they’re exposed to a lot of sunlight. As discussed, it copes with the heat by using its red pigments.

However, a succulent showing red marks can also indicate that it’s been infested with insects. Take a close look at the leaves to see if the coloring is due to natural causes or something else. For example, if the plant is suffering from an infestation, the leaves will look misshapen. 

This is clearly a sign of bad stress as the plant is being harmed. You must take quick action to prevent the plant from reaching a point of no return.

Some plants turn a gorgeous yellow-orange after they’ve been exposed to a very dry environment or they’re constantly in full sun. This is the succulent’s natural response to coping with its current conditions, so there’s no need to take any action at this time.

However, plants can also turn a yellow-orange color if they’re watered too often or the soil is too wet. Not only will the leaves look yellow, but they will also be soft to the touch and quite mushy. This is another sign of bad stress and requires a solution quickly. 

Signs Of Bad Stress

There are no symptoms of good stress, but there are certainly some accompanying signs that indicate your succulent is in a spot of trouble,

For example, the Echeveria ‘black prince’ and Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’ (Black Rose) change their colors to a beautiful dark purple and black, respectively, when they’re subject to good stress. But place these plants in the shade and give them a lot of water and they will turn green.

Now, if you notice the leaves falling off your succulent, or they start to turn black from the bottom up, then this is a sign of bad stress. It indicates that the plant is rotting and has started at the root. Take immediate action or you will lose the plant.