The Dangers of an Underwatered Succulent

Dangers of an Underwatered Succulent

It is quite hard to starve a succulent of water. Hard, but not impossible. As long as your succulent is not getting everything it needs to thrive, it will start to show in several ways. You may notice your plant look a little ‘pathetic’ and ‘sad’ as if it is calling out to you for some care. Immediately you notice something out of the ordinary, you need to do a quick assessment as to what could be going wrong.

Succulents are desert plants, used to growing in harsh conditions where not much water is available or minimal. Unlike other house plants, you are not likely to be hovering over your succulent with a watering can on a daily basis. Once you have started keeping succulents, you will find that you water them once every few weeks. This would be in the warmer months. In winter, or when it is cold, you may go several months without watering your succulents. Be sure to also check out “When You Should Water Your Succulents” for a full guide on when and how to water your succulent.

Dangers of an Underwatered Succulent
Underwatered Succulent Dangers @my_succulent_life


The best advice on watering succulents is to keep an eye on the soil. Once the top one inch of the soil is fully dried out, it is time for a little and not much water. If you do not have a clear schedule in place, you could easily forget to water your plants. The result of this – underwatered succulents.

In the worst-case scenario, an underwatered succulent could die. Before it gets to this point, it will pass through various stages. Here is what to watch out for to identify the dangers of an underwatered succulent.

The Shrivel and the Wrinkle on the Leaves

Succulents are succulents because they are excellent at storing water within themselves. It is the retained water within the cells that gives the leaves of these plants the thick, juicy, and healthy look. When these plants do not get enough water, the leaves begin to shrivel up and get wrinkled. The leaves do this due to a drop in the internal water pressure in the leaves and stems, as they begin to feed on their reserves to get water.

However, there is a disclaimer when it comes to shriveling. It really depends on which of the leaves have shriveled up. If it is the leaves that are close to the bottom, it may be an indication that they are old rather than the plant is underwatered. Here, the rest of the leaves will appear to be in perfect health. If you notice the older leaves shriveling up, simply removing them is the solution. Check out other potential dangers in your succulent garden in “What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?“.

Dangers of an Underwatered Succulent
The Stems & Leaves @lifetimesucculents

The Fold or the Curve

Succulents come in all shapes and sizes. There are those whose leaves are not fleshy, instead, they are long and slim. For example, the leaves of an Aloe Vera. In this case, when the plant is underwatered, the leaves will curve into themselves or will fold up. This reduces the surface area of the leaf, meaning that less water will be lost from the plant.

Other plants like Echeverias also appear to ‘close’ when they are underwatered. The appearance they have is more curved than opened out at this stage. This means that the rosettes leave become more tightly packed to retain moisture.

Take a look also at “How to Tell If Your Cactus is Dying” if you have a cactus at home.

Dying Roots

You can normally revive a succulent plant that is underwatered by offering it water over a period of one to two weeks. However, this will only happen if the roots of the plant are alive. If you have not watered your succulent plants for so long that the soil appears to be cracked and hard, and the leaves are all close to death, the roots may be affected as well. Dying roots are unable to feed the plant as it needs which will cause it to die. Once you have dying roots, there is normally no turning back to get the plant to good health.

Aerial Roots

Underwatered succulent plants may need more support to help them remain upright. This is when you may notice aerial roots forming. These are roots that will form above the soil line. They do this so that they can try and get some water molecules from the air to feed the plant since there is not enough in the soil. When a plant needs physical support, these roots ensure that succulent plants that may have a leaning stem is protected from bending too far or breaking off as it bends towards the ground.


Dangers of an Underwatered Succulent
Note the Formation of Aerial Roots @kyan.s_gardens

Different To the Touch

An underwatered succulent will feel different to the touch. This plant will have leaves that are much softer than they are supposed to be. When the leaves are at their optimum hydration, they tend to be quite firm. The same applies to the leaves which will typically start drying at the base of the plant. When taking their natural course from life to death, the leaves at the base of the succulentplants will discolor and shrivel. However, when underwater, they will have distinct thinness and will also feel crisp and dry to the touch.

No Flowers

If you have been keeping succulents for some time, you will know their flowering patterns. If it seems like your succulent is not flowering, the reason may simply be that your plant does not have enough water. When the plant has inadequate water, it focuses on survival more than the beauty of flowering.

Take a look at “Succulents With Yellow Flowers“, “Succulents with Orange Flowers“, or “5 Succulents with Red Flowers” for a variety of succulents with beautiful flowers on top.

Dangers of an Underwatered Succulent
Start Focusing on Existence @euamoosuculentas

The moment you notice that your succulent is underwatered, water it and observe over a couple of weeks. It should come back to life, and look like normal within this time.

Remember, drainage is key. Not having any drainage on your pot or planter will result in water retention. This may further accentuate underwatering, as plant owner believes the succulent has enough water even when there may be none available.

The most complex part of caring for a succulent is watering, making sure there is just enough at the right time. Killing a succulent by underwatering is a tough undertaking, as, for the most part, a little water will revive your plant and go a long way.

Thank you for reading with us today! Let us know in the comments below your techniques to watering your succulents. Also, be sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook for more inspiration in the world of succulents.

Before you go, we want to share something exciting with you. Succulent City has developed a line of 12 ebooks (see here), ranging on topics like Indoor & Outdoor Succulents to Essential Tools. With our ebooks, you’ll be a succulent guru in no time, have fun!

Happy planting!

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