One of the main things we love about succulents is their beautiful, varied colors. They come in green, red, dark purple, blue, pink—pretty much every color imaginable. But sometimes, the leaves of a succulent that you thought was one color can start changing color on you. Maybe your green succulent is beginning to turn red, or your beautiful, bright purple succulent is starting to fade and become pale. Succulent leaves can also turn all sorts of other colors, including yellow, brown, and even black. What does it all mean, and what can you do to stop the leaves of your beloved succulents from changing color? That’s what we’re going to talk about today, so keep reading!
What Do Yellow or Transparent Leaves Mean?
Because overwatering can kill your succulent as it progresses, you need to act quickly as soon as you notice signs of overwatering like yellow, soggy leaves. The first thing you should do is take your succulent out of its container and leave it to dry out for a few days. When you repot it, make sure to put it in a succulent soil with good drainage. Your succulent probably got waterlogged because it was sitting in soil that didn’t drain well!
You’ll also have to get your succulent on a better watering schedule. Unlike other houseplants, succulents only need water once every week or two. Check out this article we wrote on when to water succulents to learn how to water your plants properly and avoid this problem in the future!
What Do Brown Leaves Mean?
When succulent leaves turn brown, the problem can be kind of hard to diagnose. This is because brown leaves can be caused by three vastly different problems—lack of water, too much water, and sun damage. Frustrating, right?
That’s why you’ll need to look for other signs to determine which problem is plaguing your succulent.
Signs Your Succulent is Underwatered
Underwatering is a prevalent problem with succulents. Because succulents have a reputation for needing very little water, a lot of people water their succulents too infrequently. Succulents are usually plump and healthy, but underwatered succulents look crinkly and deflated. The leaves may look dry, flat, and shriveled up. When you touch them, they may even feel noticeably dry and crispy.
If you notice any of these signs of underwatering in your beloved succulent baby, you need to water it stat! Water your succulent until water starts coming out of the drainage holes of the pot. That may seem like a lot of water, especially if you’ve been routinely underwatering your succulent. But succulents like a good, thorough soak about once every week or two. Plus, your succulent is extra thirsty, so it’ll appreciate this water even more!
Over the next week, check your soil to see if it’s dry. You should wait to water your succulent again until the soil is completely dry. After you’ve watered your succulent two or three times, it should start perking up and looking better. But if your plant doesn’t look any healthier, you may have to try water therapy. Water therapy involves putting your succulent’s roots in water to rehydrate them quickly. Water therapy is a last resort, and it doesn’t always work. But you may be able to save your severely underwatered succulents by doing it.
If you want to learn more, be sure to check out “What to Do When You Underwater Succulents?“.
Signs Your Succulent is Overwatered
Unlike underwatered succulents, overwatered succulents look mushy and soggy. The leaves of an overwatered succulent start changing to yellow or transparent as we mentioned above, and then turn a deeper brown or black color as the problem becomes more severe. Eventually, your succulent will become so black and rotten that you can’t save it. Your plant can even start to attract gnats and pests at this stage because of how moist and rotten it is. That’s why you should throw your succulent away once it becomes obvious you can’t save it, as hard as that is to do. You wouldn’t want it to attract pests that could damage your other succulents!
Be sure to also check out “5 Dangers Of Overwatering A Cactus” for all dangers on overwatering a succulent.
Signs Your Succulent is Sun-Damaged
Succulents can also turn brown if they’re given too much sunlight. If you notice brown patches of discoloration on your succulent, that means your plant is getting too much sunlight and is developing a pretty bad sunburn. Just like our skin, succulent leaves can burn when they’re exposed to too much bright, direct light. In the early stages of sun damage, succulent leaves develop white patches of discoloration. As the sunburn progresses, those patches turn a deeper brown color. If you see brown spots on your succulent and you usually keep it in a bright, sunny location, move it into the shade right away! Those brown patches mean that your succulent has an advanced case of sunburn that could potentially be fatal.
Sunburn can be fatal because succulents can’t carry out photosynthesis with any of their sun-damaged tissue. If your plant’s sunburn is extensive, it might not make it. That’s why you should look out for the early signs of sunburn-like white patches of discoloration and adjust the amount of light you give your succulents accordingly. If you keep your succulents outdoors during the summer, you should also use things like shade cloth to keep them cool and prevent sunburn. Better safe than sorry!
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What Do Red or Blue Leaves Mean?
If your succulent’s leaves turn red, orange, blue, or purple, your plant is a little stressed! Succulents produce anthocyanin and carotenoid pigments in response to environmental stressors like intense sunlight and heat. These pigments protect them from getting damaged by the sun’s strong UV rays and turn them into some pretty beautiful colors, too! Anthocyanin turns succulents blue or purple, while carotenoid turns plants red, orange, or yellow.
This stress response may sound a little worrying, but it’s not! A little bit of stress can be healthy for your succulent, with the bonus of bringing out some beautiful colors in its leaves. Still, you want to ensure you don’t push things too far. Succulents can become too stressed and start to develop health problems. If you notice any signs of sunburn-like white or brown patches of discoloration on your succulent’s leaves, move them into the shade immediately!
Don’t miss out on “Why Are My Succulent Leaves Falling Off?” for our guide to leaves falling off your succulent.
What Do Pale Leaves Mean?
If your succulent leaves are looking pale and washed out, that’s a sign that your plant isn’t getting enough sunlight. Succulents not getting enough light may also get unusually tall and leggy or grow sideways toward the nearest light source. If you notice any of these signs in your succulent, put them in an area of your home that gets more light, or if it’s not too cold, put them outside for a while so they can soak up some sun. If your succulent’s color doesn’t start returning, and it still seems to be growing tall or sideways, you may need to invest in a grow light.
Check out this article we wrote on the best grow lights, as reviewed by succulent lovers, if you need some help picking one out!
What Do White Fuzzy Spots Mean?
If your succulent has white, fuzzy spots, you probably have a mealybug infestation on your hands. Because mealybugs are small, white, and fuzzy, they’re often mistaken for mold or fungus. But now that you’ve read this article, you know better, and you’ll start treating this deadly type of infestation right away.
The best way to eliminate a mealybug infestation is to quarantine the affected plants and spray them with isopropyl alcohol, which surprisingly won’t hurt your plant. But we’ve also covered a lot of other methods you can use to get rid of an infestation in this article, so check it out!
We hope this article has helped you determine why your succulent leaves are changing color. But if you still have questions, drop them in the comments section below or post them in the Succulent City Plant Lounge. There’s a vast group of plant lovers in that group who have tons of knowledge, so they’ll be able to answer your question!
If you’d like this read, you’ll love our total in-depth ebooks! With so many succulent lovers asking for more, we listened and can’t wait to share it here! With our very detailed ebooks, you’ll get more information than these short articles. Some ebooks are 30+ pages, perfect for a weekend read.
Richard | Editor-in-chief at Succulent City
Hey everyone! I’m Richard. Welcome to my blog, which is all about succulents, cacti, and a bit about air plants. Ten years back, in 2013, I began my journey with succulents. It started as a simple hobby, crafting and selling charming succulent-themed pins and decorations. But as time passed, my fascination with these remarkable plants grew, and I gained extensive knowledge about them. Therefore, Succulent City is the blog as you see it is now. Enjoy your visit and happly planting!