Why Is My Succulent Dying? How To Save A Dying Succulent

how to save a dying succulent

It happens to all succulent gardeners at one point or another—one of your plants looks sickly. You don’t know exactly what’s wrong with it, but you know something’s up. Succulents aren’t supposed to have brown, mushy leaves, or white fuzzy spots all over them, that’s for sure! Read this article to learn how to start saving your dying succulents!

If you have a succulent, that’s seen better days. Do not despair. Keep reading to learn how to start saving your dying succulents!

5 Tips on Saving Dying Succulents
Succulents love rain @bostonlandscapedesign

1. Saving an Overwatered or Underwatered Succulent

Save an overwatered succulent 

Your succulent leaves may look yellow or transparent and soggy. Your succulent is in the beginning stages of dying from overwatering. Brown or black leaves that look rotting indicate a more advanced case. So you have to start saving your dying succulents! 

The best way to save a succulent dying from overwatering is to take it out of its container and let its roots and soggy leaves dry. 

Keep in mind that not all succulents that are overwatered can be saved. So this method may not work if your succulent is too far gone. But it’s worth a try! 

First, take your succulent out of its container. Shake as much wet soil out of the roots as possible. That makes your plant dry out faster. Then lay your plant somewhere that gets bright but indirect sunlight for about a week.

After you’ve replanted your succulent, wait to water it for a week. And make sure that you read this article on proper watering practices so this doesn’t happen again! 

5 Tips on Saving Dying Succulents
Healthy Succulents @hues.of.serendipity

Save an underwatered succulent 

Good news! Underwatered succulents are a lot easier to save than overwatered ones. Succulent plants are made to survive for long periods without water, so even if your plant’s leaves look dry, flat, and crinkly, you’ll probably be able to save them. 

Water your succulent with a watering can deeply as soon as you notice any dry, crinkly leaves. It would help if you kept going until the water ran out of the drainage holes to ensure your succulent gets a good enough soak. 

Make sure that the soil dries out before you water your succulent again, even though your plant lacks water. You don’t want to overwater the soil, giving it the opposite problem! 

After one or two deep soaks, your plant should start looking plump and healthy again. But if watering it the usual way doesn’t work, it’s time to bring out the giant water guns and try water therapy!

For more guides to an underwatered succulent, check out “Dangers of an Underwatered Succulent“.

5 Tips on Saving Dying Succulents
semi-dry cactus @crasasunicas

2. Water Therapy for Underwatered Succulents 

Water therapy can quickly replenish the water supply of extremely underwatered succulents, but it’s the last resort. 

To perform water therapy on your succulent, grab a container and fill it with water. Gently shake all of the soil out of your succulent’s roots. You can even run your plant’s roots underwater to ensure that all of the soil is removed.

This step is essential! If you don’t get all the soil out, your succulent roots can rot. This is because the bacteria that grows in wet soil is the cause of root rot, not the excess water itself. By removing all the soil from your plant’s roots, you’ll be able to safely put them in water to rehydrate them without causing any damage to your plant! 

You should also ensure that your succulent roots are the only thing sitting in the water. Putting the leaves in the water can damage them, so position your succulent carefully. 

You should bathe your plant baby for about 24 to 72 hours. When you take your plant out of the water, handle it with extra care. The roots are especially vulnerable to damage and bruising after they get out of the bath. 

We recommend leaving the roots to dry out for a few days before replanting. This lowers the chances that the roots will break or get damaged during replanting. For more info on root rot, check out “What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?”. Be sure also to check out “How Often To Water Cactus” for more tips on watering succulents.

5 Tips on Saving Dying Succulents
Succulents hanging @evasamone

3. How to Save Sunburned Succulents 

Even though succulents love the sun, they can get too much of it, especially if you keep them outdoors during the summer! Putting your succulents in the full, blazing sun for more than a few hours a day can sunburn them, which can be dangerous for their health. 

Succulents can’t use sunburned tissue for photosynthesis, so if most of your succulent leaves get sunburned and scarred, your plant may be unable to make enough nutrients to sustain itself. 

Some varieties can handle more sunshine than others. Aloe and agave, for example, are used to full desert sunshine, but more sensitive, tender plants like echeveria will burn in the same conditions. Some succulents can even burn if you keep them on your windowsill in bright, direct sunlight during the summertime, but this is rarer. 

If you notice patches of discoloration on your succulent leaves in colors like beige, brown, or black, your succulent is probably suffering from sunburn. In an advanced case, the leaves will even look dry, crispy, and collapsed—a far cry from their usual plump, healthy appearance. It’s time to start saving your dying succulents!

If there’s only pale discoloration on some of the leaves, you can usually save your succulent by giving it more shade immediately. You can use shade cloth, bring your plant inside, or put it under an awning. 

Advanced signs of sunburn

If your succulent is showing more advanced signs of sunburn, like discoloration on most of its leaves in darker colors like brown or black, you may be unable to save it. Bummer, right? Succulents in this condition may benefit from water therapy (mentioned above), so it’s worth giving it a shot!

To prevent this from happening again, research what level of sunlight your particular succulent needs. Not all of them can handle full, blazing sun, so install some shade cloth over your more sensitive succulents or move them indoors so they can thrive! Are you growing your succulent indoors? Check out “Best Grow Lights Reviewed by Succulent Lovers” for tips on buying an indoor light source.

5 Tips on Saving Dying Succulents
Succulent pot in the sun @the_brian_holt

4. How to Save Frostbitten Succulents 

Succulents can also become frostbitten if you leave them outside in below-freezing temperatures. Some species, like sempervivum, are cold hardy and can survive in temperatures down to negative twenty degrees, but other succulents will get damaged if the temperatures dip under forty! Weird, right? 

So that’s why it’s essential to research your succulent and make sure it can handle the temperatures in your region before you plant it outside. But if you keep your succulents outside during a cold snap and they get damaged, what can you do to save them? 

If your succulent leaves have turned brown and mushy from being outside in cold weather, you can try to save them by removing the damaged leaves or trimming them with a pair of pruning shears. This will only work if the damage is mainly concentrated on a few leaves or the tips of the leaves. 

If your whole plant looks mushy, brown, and collapsed, you’ll probably have to remove it from your garden. 

To prevent this from happening again, plant only cold-hardy succulents in your garden and use frost cloth to keep them a little warmer in the winter. And remember to bring any container plants that can’t handle cold weather indoors whenever there’s a cold snap! 

Be sure to also look at “How to Care for Succulents in the Winter” for more tips on taking care of your succulent during the cold season.

5 Tips on Saving Dying Succulents
Echiveria, sedum, cacti, string of pearls, kalanchoe, aeonium, crassula, air plants. @pandcnursery

5. How to Save an Infested Succulent 

Even if you keep your plants indoors, there’s a chance that your succulents will get infested with pests. Bringing an infested plant back from the garden center is enough to spread an infestation throughout your succulent collection. Yikes!

You can prevent pests from getting on your beloved succulents by thoroughly inspecting any plants you bring into your home. But what do you do if your plants are already infested and looking like they’ve seen better days?

First, you’ll have to identify which type of pest is plaguing your succulent because they all require slightly different treatments to remove. 

5 Tips on Saving Dying Succulents
Echeveria Imbricata @succulenthug

One of the easiest ways to pull these pests off your plants is with your fingernails or tweezers if you don’t like touching bugs. Scrape them with your fingernail or pluck them off with your tweezers as gently as possible. You might create a little scar tissue on your plant, but if you’re gentle and the damage is minimal, your plant will be just fine!

You can also blast the scale insects off your plant with a garden hose. Just ensure the spray setting you use isn’t too strong, or it might damage your plant! 

Once you’ve gotten all the scale off your plant, we recommend treating it with a systemic insecticide to keep the bugs from returning. This makes your plant poisonous to the scale, so as soon as they start sucking the juices from your plant, they’ll die. Take that, bugs!

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5 Tips on Saving Dying Succulents
Frog planter with succulent @potted.arts

Final Words

There you have it! Those are the five main tips for saving dying succulents. Let us know in the comments below how else we can help your succulent from dying. Share this article with your friends if you found it helpful!

Calling all succulents lovers— rookie or veteran! Succulent City has developed a line of 12 ebooks (see here), ranging on topics from indoor & outdoor succulents, essential tools, the best soil to use, and more! Check out “The Most Common Issues Amongst Succulent Growers” for an in-hand look at adequately taking care of your growing succulents.

Happy planting!

ABOUT ME

Richard Miller

Salute everyone. It's Richard, the author of this Succulent & Xeriscaping blog. I am a traveler and a nature lover looking for a connection with the wild green. In my journey, I found a love for succulents and xeriscaping. What attracts me is the long-lasting & unique beauty of every plant I have the chance to see with my own eyes. Welcome to my little blog and let's enjoy a good time together!

Contact me: richard.succulentcity@gmail.com

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