What Is Succulent Root Rot & How Do You Fix It?

succulent root rot

Root rot is where plants rot or decay, causing them to die if not treated. What causes root rot in succulents, you might ask? Well, the most common cause of root rot is overwatering, as it is often forgotten that succulents have immense water-storing capacity. Root rot could also be because of poor soil drainage (water is not being drained in the soil as fast as it should be). This article will discuss the cause of succulent root rot with how to identify and treat root rot.

“Why Is My Succulent Rotting?” – A Regularly Asked Question

#1. Overwatering Your Succulents

The first to mention, also the most common cause for killing your succulent from the inside, is overwatering. If you just started planting succulents, this is probably the first mistake. There are three main signs to figure out if your succulent is being overwatered:

  • Translucent or relatively light in color.
  • Soft, mushy, and squishy.
  • Falling off because of the added weight.

More on that: Overwatered Succulent Remedies: Everything You Need To Know.

#2. The Cold Bites

The cold always bites. Yes, as much as succulents are hardy with a tolerance for extreme conditions, not all can bear the combination of frost and low temperatures.

Leave them outside during the cold months, and rotting is what they’ll do. Remember their original habitats? They are descendants from the desert, with the warm sun rotating around.

However, it’s not impossible to raise a succulent during winter. But caring for succulents during winter will be different. A few tips to mention are bringing your succulents inside to keep them warm, getting a grow light for additional/ flexible light source options, reducing watering, etc. For an in-depth read, here is the post: How To Take Care Of Succulents In The Winter.

Follow Succulent City on Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram for more informative & interesting content about succulents & cacti πŸ™‚ Join the discussions at our Facebook Group, “Succulent City Plant Lounge.” Happy planting, and live the moment!

#3. Get The Succulent Soil Mix Wrong

The succulent will be endangered, no matter how little you water your plant, if you don’t get the ratio right during the potting stage. The ratio I want to talk about here reflects the drainage ability of the soil. The more water your soil mix retains, the more risks you put your succulent in. This issue can lead to the first mentioned cause, which is to overwater your succulents. The right succulent soil mix needs to be well-draining but still provide enough nutrients and aeration for the succulent.

Root Rot Signs To Identify In Your Succulent

1) Checking the Roots

Remove your succulent from the pot, shake off the soil, and check the roots’ color. Healthy roots should either be white or yellow. If the roots are either dark brown or black and feel slimy and wet when you touch them, that is a root rot sign, or the plant has already been suffering it, depending on how early you find the situation. It will also seem to break off as you pull it from the soil.

Want to know how early you are to find this? Be keen on the root rot smell. A rotting smell can vary from mild to foul. If the smell is foul, it most likely means the rotting has spread too far, and it may be too late to save everything from your little succulent baby. Yes, I mean, you can save the part where the rot hasn’t spread.

How to know if your succulent is in danger and solutions: Why Is My Succulent Dying? How To Save A Dying Succulent.

Signs of root rot in succulents
Signs of root rot in succulents. Infographic by Succulent City.

2) Checking the Stems

If, unfortunately, you’re noticing root rot at the stem (and leaves), the rot is at its advanced stages. Dark brown to black spots appear around the stem area. The affected parts become swollen. The idea that it’s easy to take care of your succulents is accurate, but that doesn’t mean you should entirely neglect their signs. Remember, root rot happens gradually.

3) Checking The Leaves

This is the sign for succulent plants that grow in density, which is quite accessible to check their stem/ root regularly. But remember that if the signs are visible on the leaves, the rot might have gone far enough to return. First, you will notice the plant comes off as unhealthy with droopy leaves. Some start turning yellow and pale. When they become mushy, game over! Nothing can be done to fix the damage once the leaves become mushy, as they can no longer support themselves.

However, if succulent leaves turn yellow or other color, they might send you other messages. Maybe it’s just a short-term nutrition deficiency or a slight underwatering situation. For example, it’s more likely to be an overwatering situation that causes root rot when the lower leaves turn yellow. If the leaves turn yellow from top to toe, it could be a severe nutrition deficiency. Your plant needs some “vitamin” (fertilizer in this case).

Follow Succulent City on Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram for more informative & interesting content about succulents & cacti πŸ™‚ Join the discussions at our Facebook Group, “Succulent City Plant Lounge.” Happy planting, and live the moment!

How To Save A Succulent With Root Rot

Can a Rotting Succulent Be Saved?

That depends on the extent of the rot. If just a few roots had started to catch on, simply cutting them off would salvage the plant. But if the rotting is present in a more significant part of the root ball and the stem, it’s farewell for your succulent – well, to some extent.

#1. Letting Your Soil Dry Out Naturally & Clean The Pot

If you know you overwatered your succulent, unpot it and leave it to dry for a day or two. Keep the root ball and the soil both intact. This means the root rot hasn’t progressed. You simply sense it coming, so unpotting the succulent and letting the soil dry a bit are good enough. Putting it in a place with good air circulation and plenty of sun is recommended.

Once the plant and the soil in the pot have dried up, re-plant you’re succulent. Water it sparingly, just enough to make the soil damp, and after that, do not water for the next 2 weeks. This will allow for complete healing. When you’re ready to re-pot your succulent, check this guide: Repotting Succulents The Right Way (An Easy Guide).

#2. Trimming the Infected Part

Any rotting part is cut off, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear. Only explicitly healthy parts should be considered. The cutting tool should be clean (possibly sterilized) and sharp. Let the plant dry out naturally, but keep the plant out of direct light.

If you have planted many succulents in one pot, you must repot the non-infected plants separately to avoid the spread of rot. You may even have to trim them up if they have been growing together for a while. Cut parts should dry out before being inserted into any medium. See our complete guide on how to trim/prune succulents!

#3. Propagating the Healthy Part

If the rot is advanced and you still want to save your succulents, the only other option would be to propagate the healthy part so it can grow new roots. Take a new pot and put it in the new soil mixture. Cut off the healthy part and place it on top of the soil. Push a little bit of the stem into the soil. Do not water until after one week. After one week, you can water, but sparingly to avoid overwatering. So, should you water the succulent right after repotting root rot? No, just let it sit there for a week.

>> For a detailed guide on propagating succulents, read here!

Note: there is a slimmer chance of you saving your succulents if the stem is too mushy that the plant cannot support itself. If the plant has caved in and is smelly, the rot is too far gone, and nothing much can be done.

How to Prevent Root Rot in Succulents

It will be useless for you to eliminate rotting parts, propagate a new succulent plant, and still end up with the same problem. So, after separating the good from the bad, your care routine should incorporate the following to keep rotting at bay.

#1. An Ideal Potting Mix

Your regular potting soil is excellent. But not with a succulent. That’s if you want a healthy, beaming succulent plant. Long periods of wet soil won’t assure you of this. You can grab a commercial cactus/succulent mix or make your own from your backyard.

You can tweak the drainage capabilities of that regular potting soil by adding sand and pumice/perlite. Don’t line the base of your pot with rocks, gravel, or ceramic pieces. This will retain water rather than help to drain. However, you can mix the three throughout your soil to improve drainage flows in your pot.

#2. Ideal Watering Frequency

If you’ve been too heavy-handed with watering, it’s time to go easy. Remember: too much water is the leading cause of rotting in a succulent plant.

So, how easy should you go so as not to kill your succulent?

Let the top part of the mix be your guide. This top part should dry out completely between watering sessions, ideally 1-2 inches down the mix.

Keep in mind the growing seasons too. Periods of growth need water (not too much of it), while in dormancy, the amount reduces considerably. That means keeping up with a consistent watering routine can still be detrimental. So, use the above guidelines during summer and spring, and cut back during winter.

Follow Succulent City on Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram for more informative & interesting content about succulents & cacti πŸ™‚ Join the discussions at our Facebook Group, “Succulent City Plant Lounge.” Happy planting, and live the moment!

#3. Use a Clay Pot

Well, if you can help it. Clay is much better aerated, which significantly boosts the drying rate of the potting mix. This gives the succulent roots great breathing space, considerably reducing rotting chances.

Get your clay pots here. They’d also be great to try DIY painting activities with!

For any other pot type, ensure the drainage holes at the bottom are large enough to let off the water as efficiently as possible.

#4. Obey the Succulent Hardiness Value

Very vital if you’re growing your succulents outdoors. All factors adhered to, rotting is still imminent if you keep a succulent in the cold when it should be inside.

So, know your zone by logging on to the USDA plant hardiness zone Map and typing in the name of your area. Know the zone your plant is suited for. Can it brace the cold and the accompanying frost? If not, bring it inside as soon as winter kicks in.

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Healthy succulents.

Follow Succulent City on Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram for more informative & interesting content about succulents & cacti πŸ™‚ Join the discussions at our Facebook Group, “Succulent City Plant Lounge.” Happy planting, and live the moment!

Final Words

That’s all I have to say about succulent root rot. We’ve all struggled with it in our succulent care journey. But hopefully, with this guide, you’ll be able to help yourself and other succulent newbies!

Thanks for reading. Happy planting!

Succulent City chief editor


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!

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