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.

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
8 Varieties of succulents and cacti! @bodrum_kaktus

Why Is My Succulent Rotting?

#1. The Cold Winter Season

The first one is the winter cold. 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. Caring for succulents during winter will be different. Avoid this scenario, bring your succulents inside to keep them warm, and get yourself a grow light.

why is my succulent rotting
brittle baby @inas_eden

Make sure to follow Succulent City on Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram for more informative & interesting content about succulents & cacti 🙂 Happy planting, and live the moment, my friend!

#2. Overwatering Your Succulents

The second one is overwatering—the most common. If you just started planting succulents, you’re probably already doing it. For the caring soul you are, watering is high on your list regarding your plants. You do it with all but must be mindful when watering your succulents. There are three main signs that we have conducted to help you 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

why is my succulent rotting
stop overwatering @leafyroomies

#3. The Wrong Succulent Soil Mix

And finally, your regular potting soil. It doesn’t matter how little you water your plant if you didn’t get this aspect right during the potting stage. The water will still be around for periods that aren’t ideal for a succulent.

The right succulent soil mix needs to be well-draining. Your succulent stores the water it needs within its leaves, so any access water in its soil will only harm your succulent.

How to Identify Root Rot in Your Succulents

1) Checking the Roots

Succulents are tolerant of multiple uprootings, so you shouldn’t be worried. Be sure to be gentle when doing so, though.

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 root rot. It will also likely break off as you pull it from the soil.

Remember to be keen on the 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 your little succulent baby.

But that’s what we’re here for— to help you avoid that!

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Succulents in the garden.

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

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Top view of a beautiful succulent garden.

If the rotting has kicked off from the roots, the plant comes off as unhealthy with droopy leaves. During this stage, the leaves start turning yellow and pale; if not attended to quickly, they become mushy and eventually die out. Nothing can be done to fix the damage once the leaves become mushy, as they can no longer support themselves.

Here’s an important note – it’s overwatering/root rot if only the lower leaves are turning yellow. If the whole plant turns yellow, it may be a nutrition deficiency.

Make sure to follow Succulent City on Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram for more informative & interesting content about succulents & cacti 🙂 Happy planting, and live the moment, my friend!

How To Save A Succulent With Root Rot

#1. 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.

Not to worry, though. Thanks to the easy propagation of succulents, you can still end up with a new plant of the same kind. To do this, only pick out the parts not affected by the rot and set them up in a well-draining soil mix.

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

If you know that you overwatered your succulent and suspect any rotting, unpot it and leave it to dry for a day or two. Keep the root ball and the soil both intact. 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 article How to Repot Your Succulent— the Right Way!

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Succulent plants out in the sun.

Pour out the soil mixture and clean your pot with anti-bacterial soap and water to ensure no fungus remnants are left. Get another if you don’t trust your idea of thoroughness. Add new soil to the pot and do not cover up the cut area, allowing it to breathe as it self-heals. You can add more soil to cover the base once a new tissue develops.

#3. 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 will have to 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 be left to dry out before being inserted into any medium. If you wish to find out more, here is our complete guide on how to trim/prune succulents!

#4. 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. You can either propagate from the stem or leaves.

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. When a root is developing, it does absorb so much water.

>> 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.

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

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.

why is my succulent rotting
succulent lover’s dream patio @minigardens_minsk_brest

#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.

Make sure to follow Succulent City on Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram for more informative & interesting content about succulents & cacti 🙂 Happy planting, and live the moment, my friend!

#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.

why is my succulent rotting
grow baby, grow @succulentheaven21

#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?
High-quality green succulents.

Final Words

Did you learn anything new today about root rot? We’ve all struggled with it at some point in our succulent- lives— especially early on in our journey. But hopefully, with this guide, you’ll be able to help yourself and other succulent newbies!

Do you have a root rot or succulent story? Please share your experiences on our Instagram, or in our exclusive Facebook group today! We are also about to kickstart our Succulent City Youtube channel. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on the new videos.

By the way, we wanted to mention that Amazon Audible sponsors this post! They offer our Succulent City community an exclusive offer of 2 FREE Ebooks when signing up for a free trial! You can sign up for a free trial here! What could be more relaxing than listening to your favorite book while tending to your succulents?

Did you enjoy learning about root rot and how to fix it? If so, you’ll enjoy our ebook about Essential Tools for Planting the Best Succulents. This ebook will give you more detailed answers to help your succulents grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works best to grow your succulents.

Thanks for reading. Happy planting!


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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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