How to Guides

Published on October 22nd, 2018 | by ozlem

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[How to] Save Dying Succulent

I remember the first time I lost a succulent. One of my succulents got ill and it was dying slowly. I could not help with it, just because I did not know what was the problem, plus what was the solution.

Succulents usually suffer from over-watering. If you notice that the leaves of your succulent turn yellow, transparent and smushy, this is a sign of it. The thing to do is simple: wait and see what is going to happen after stopping the irrigation for a while. If it is not the case, the problem of your dying succulent also might be something different like under-watering, sunburn, pesticides, so on… In this article you will find how to detect the illness and what to do about it.

I felt terrible back then when I had nothing to do while my plant was dying. So I must share everything I have learned through years on how to save a dying succulent.

Dead Bottom Leaves of a Succulent

It is a big confusion, are the dead leaves at the bottom of a succulent normal or not… Let’s make it clear, a few of dried out bottom leaves are totally normal for the succulents. They are part of a life cycle of the plant. It happens often, according to the type of every plant.

Some old and mature leaves from the lower part of the stem dries in order to leave space for the newly growing leaves. What matters in this situation is if the young leaves coming out are firm and rigid. You should have new growth stems where the dried out ones used to be.

In that circumstance, your succulent does not need a special care or a treatment. Just pick up the dead leaves gently without disturbing the other living leaves. A tweezer is very useful if the top leaves are too wide and preventing you to reach the bottom stem.

The dead leaves started to increase their number and all the leaves are shriveling, or the leaves turned yellow and translucent. That is when you should be worried.

Signs of Overwatering

Overwatering is the most common mistake that is done with succulent care. An early signal of an overwatered succulent is the leaves that are falling out with a bump. After a while, the leaves take a yellow-beige kind of a color and feels unpleasant, mushy when touched.

You do not have to be a psyche for understanding when and how much water does your succulent require. I wrote a full guide about succulent watering. Please check it out if you feel insecure about watering.

Giving a soak of water first and letting the soil to dry for a long time afterward is a good way of proper irrigation. By this way between two waterings, you should wait until the soil is completely dry from top to bottom.

Also, a good drainage is the lifesaver. In many cases, overwatering is caused by a poorly draining soil or a pot without the drainage holes, despite the succulent is given water with the right frequency.

Healing the Overwatered Succulent

If you can set a good watering schedule for your succulents, you will not have to deal with a dying plant in a good chance.

Cut the Water

An overwatered succulent probably will come back to its healthy state, when you cut the water for a while and give some space before the next irrigation. That is obvious. If lucky, the plant will grow brand new leaves in the places of dead leaves.

Switch to a Better Soil

Changing the soil of your plant also could help the recovery process. Maybe the soil was not so favorable for the succulent and kept it moistured. Plant your succulent into a specially mixed succulent soil to avoid this.

Take a Cutting

But sometimes it seems like it is too late for saving the overwatered succulent. The root and the stem have a difficulty of recovering once they are rotten because of the excess water.

You can try to cut out the healthy tip of your succulent. Leave it to dry on a surface for a couple of days, maybe a week. And then place the cutting in a succulent soil.

It takes one or two months for a perfectly fine new succulent to grow out of a cutting. See the details of propagation via cutting from the previous article that I prepared for you.

Be Careful About Exceptions

Some types of succulents need a very rare watering, while some others like a little more often watering better. Just like this, some specific types are more sensitive to overwatering.

For example, Echeverias are very common succulents which are very tender about excess irrigation when compared to other species. It is really hard to tolerate too much water for them and two or three days is what it takes for killing an Echeveria.

Signs of Under-watering

The succulents do better when they are watered very rarely. It does not mean that they can survive without it. They need water to store inside their body for using a long time bit by bit.

Under-watering can cause a huge stress on the succulents, like it does for any plant. 

Wrinkled leaves are the most visible sign of under-watering. If gone too far,  leaves crease and dry out, ending up dropping off dead.

Another sign of too little watering is that the leaves can not create bright and vivid color. They seem matt instead. You can tell a lot about a plant by looking at its leaves.

Healing Under-Watered Succulents

It is so much easier for the succulents to recover under-watering than over-watering. They were created for surviving through the drought overall.

Your succulent will die of little watering only if you completely forget watering it and do not understand it is suffering a dryness.

Once you give a shriveled succulent a good amount of water, it will pull itself together in a very short time and continue to look amazing again!

I guess you already know that, but I have to tell again because I just can not help myself. If you are uncertain on whether your succulent needs a watering or not, wait a while more. They are resistant to dryness, sometimes a week or two.

Some Like to be Watered More Frequent

Senecio Haworthii is a well-known example of the succulents which require more watering than the others. This species is quite sensitive to be left without water. Try to give water to it just in time if you own one of them.

Senecio Haworthii (Wooly Senecio)

Are Your Succulents Cold?

Succulents love heat. They are used to live in hot climates originally. So they need the warmth of the sun and a stable room temperature.

If you have succulents that are having trouble of staying healthy, this might caused by an inproper warmth. They usually like around 15 or 20 degrees Celcius.

Don’t be concerned if you live in a place where the climate is harsh. You can keep your succulents alive throughout the winter with a little extra effort. Get the tips from my previous guide about winter care of succulents.

Full, Direct Sunlight

It is crucial that the succulents have adequate lightening. Many types of succulents need partial or direct sunlight everyday. Otherwise, they will wither quickly and possibly they can’t keep staying alive.

In addition, you should be introducing any change in lighting condition slowly and gradually to your succulent. For instance, if you take an outdoor succulent in a less lightened indoor space, it will hardly adapt to its new place.

Bacteria, Bugs and Fungal Infections

Bacterial wilt is a disease spread by insects, that cause rotting and collapsing of the plant. As known, there is no treatment for such alcohol at succulents, but you can take precautions by protecting your succulent with 
insecticides.

Mealybugs are another widespread bug causing the succulent lose its health. They can be threatened easily with some rubbing alcohol applied by spraying on the plant and the soil.

Fungal infections usually appear as tiny white cotton balls on the surface of the soil and also under the leaves. They are called powdery mildew. Although the plant is able to live with it, sometimes the problem spreads too wide. Clean the fungus over the succulent and apply a fungicide as a preventive step.

As a summary of everything I have just mentioned, a dying succulent can be suffering from many various diseases. Let’s check respectively according to how common they are:

  • Are you over-watering your succulent?
  • Or are you under-watering it instead.
  • Is it over or under heated?
  • Is your succulent exposed to a sudden temperature change?
  • Is it having enough sunlight?
  • Are there any bugs, bacteria or fungi troubling the succulent?

Keep an eye on them!

Make sure that you try your best when it comes to watering of a succulent. Water stress is the most frequently seen reason for dying succulents. Although there are ways to heal the plant from a dryness or too much water, the best is not letting that happen anytime.

Always check if your succulents have any sign of an illness before it becomes too late to recover from.

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